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".

This episode is the last of Killer Innovations as a radio show. Not an easy decision, but as part of our drive for innovation, we believe this is the best decision. We will discuss the show's history, my book and radio show deal, and what Killer Innovations will look like moving forward. 

Making the Switch

Throughout the show, we have talked about how important it is to re-evaluate and try new things. This is a challenge that many organizations come across as they have processes in place that often keep them narrow-minded. Our decision to leave the Biz Talk Radio format will open up opportunities for us to be more flexible, creative, and innovative. With this change coming out, I know the listeners have a ton of questions. To answer some questions, we will still be a weekly show but will be shorter and have no interruptions. We will also be using a podcast-only format.

Killer Innovation's History

Let's jump into the history of the podcast. The podcast was launched in March of 2005, and we are now in season 16. Killer Innovations is the longest continuously produced podcast in history. We were podcasting before iTunes was even a thing. We have averaged around 45-50 episodes per year. The motivation behind the podcast came from a conversation I had with my mentor Bob Davis, who I have mentioned many times in previous shows. In the conversation, I was asking Bob how I could pay him back for all the help he had given me throughout the years. Bob laughed and told me that I couldn't pay him back, rather, I could only pay it forward. At the beginning of the show, podcasting tools and technology were not nonexistent so I had to hand-code for each show. Following the launch of the podcast in 2005, my book deal came about. I was approached by my agent Mark who was from New York. One of Mark's staff was a listener of the podcast and mentioned it to him. I had a meeting with Mark that went well, and he has been my agent ever since. The book proposal was distributed in the fall of 2010 and had about nine interested publishers. I signed a book deal at the end of 2010 and finished writing the book in June of 2011, and the book was released in February of 2012. The content of the book basically came from the podcast. Doing this book deal was anything but easy and required a lot of lift. As far as the radio show goes, I got approached by Biz Talk Radio in 2015 at a tradeshow where I was speaking. They said they liked the podcast and my book, and we ended up launching the show in July of 2016.  

My Book/Radio Show Deal

I want to give you guys insights on how to structure media deals as I have had a very successful nationally syndicated radio show and book deal. Like I said earlier, there were nine publishers interested in the book. After meeting with the publishers, there was an auction to see who the winning publisher would be. Hyperion ended up winning and I committed to doing 75,000 words in eight months, which was a big hurdle. I was lucky to get a big advancement after the book was published in 2011. Publishers get paid back first in book deals, and after you get your advance, the publisher gets all the money until their costs are paid back. After this, the author starts collecting royalties. In my deal, the publisher took control of the audiobook and had a professional voice actor relay it. As far as the radio show goes, Biz Talk radio is a syndicator of the radio, so I had to do everything through them. They distributed the show all across the country as part of their service. As far as constraints, we had to comply with the FCC rules such as political messages, profanity, age appropriateness, etc. We also had to comply with a time constraint slot as there were commercial breaks. This is where the four segments of the show came from. There was a weekly fee we had to pay to the syndicator to distribute the show. As part of the syndication deal, we got several ad spots which we gave away to charity. Zoom funds part of the show production and has done so for six years. This is what allowed us to give away our ad spots to charities.

Lessons Learned

Let me share some lessons I learned in creating my media platform. Firstly, do what you love. I have been doing the podcast for fifteen years, and If I didn't love doing it, we wouldn't have lasted this long. Secondly, don't do it for the numbers. I can't tell you how many times I've been contacted by people who are discouraged about how many listeners they have for their podcasts. If you are being driven by the numbers, you won't stick with it, because the numbers are hard to get. While this show has been around a long time, some people aren't as interested in our content as they are in other people's and that is ok. If you focus on your new subscriber numbers, you will drive yourself crazy. Thirdly, be open to new possibilities and let your followers aid you in finding what works best. Also, you need to know when to walk away from something like we are doing now. 

Direct download: How_I_Turned_my_Podcast_into_a_Book_and_Radio_Show.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s topic is an extension of a show I did a few weeks ago about my innovation self-confidence. Entrepreneurship is a huge part of innovation at any level. On today’s show, we will discuss entrepreneurship and the learning experiences and steps that made me a successful innovator throughout my career. 


Entrepreneurship consists of having an idea, being assertive, having a strategy, etc. I quickly realized from my Deltek experiences that I was not ready to jump right into entrepreneurship. After working at Deltek, I went to a company called Individual Software where I was hired again by my previous boss from Deltek, Bob Davis. The company was small and had only been around for a few years, and my experiences there taught me how to work inside of a startup. At Individual Software, I worked on designing and building products through coding. At this job, everybody was a salesman, everybody was the shipping department, everyone was customer service, etc. As an entrepreneur, you have to do literally everything, and there is not time to just sit back and work on ideas. Individual Software did a great job of teaching me some basic skills of entrepreneurship and how it really plays out.

Early Lessons Learned

Before getting the first big IPO win that I could build my career off of, I was involved in a ton of startups. I realized early on that I was going to have to go to multiple different jobs to learn different parts of entrepreneurship. At Individual Software, my boss Joel was a former executive at a big company in Silicon Valley. He believed that the training technology around the PC was going to be the next big thing. I went there to be part of a team in a small organization and I realized yet again that you have to do everything as an entrepreneur. The next position I took was with an organization called Corporate Resource Associates. CRA was started by two people I worked with at Deltek, Bob Davis, my mentor, and Roxie Westfall. Here I wasn’t involved in getting the startup running, but I came in once it was initially established. At CRA, I had my first engagement with HP as we were developing RISC (Reduced instruction set computing) processors. This job taught me how to communicate and help people understand complex items as we were training HP and others to use RISC. The most important thing I learned at CRA was assertiveness/standing up for yourself. Here, I was still young and didn’t have any gray hair, so people sometimes thought I didn’t know much. I also learned about strategy, as the business was newly started, and we were trying to grow it and make it functional. 

Entrepreneurship Takeoff

At CRA we worked with HP, Intel, and Apple, as well as other smaller companies. CRA was focused on a combination of training and actual development work. Here, I realized that I was good at taking complex things and making them simple. The software I worked on was all about putting a face onto technology that was uncomfortable to many people at that time. I liked taking concepts and ideas and turning them into commercially successful ideas. This is where my entrepreneurship bug started to take off. After my time at CRA, I went off and started my own company called Millenium RAND (Research and Development), whose mission was to help innovators who had ideas but needed help making them real. This entailed going in with clients who had a raw idea but didn’t have the people, skillsets, and confidence to make something out of it. This is where I started to build my reputation as I did everything from debugging hardware boards, writing embedded apps, writing user interfaces, etc. I had a couple of subcontractors and a couple of employees and ended up creating many products. One product called Thumbscan won the product of the year award at COMDEX. After creating this product, I was hired on by an entity funded by venture capitalists and ended up creating another product of the year award the following year. 


At this point I had been involved in going to a startup, watching a startup get launched, launching my own company, and joining an entity funded by venture capitalists. Eventually, Thumbscan got sold off, and the founders of the product recruited me to work on another idea around supercomputers. This company was called Teraplex, which was a supercomputer company based on a new process called MISC, or minimal instruction set computer. The company was initially funded by the state of Illinois and some angel investors, and I came in as the president of the company. It was here that I first learned how to deal with angel investors and was able to secure additional funding for the company. Teraplex was quite successful and I was also able to secure some technology licensing agreements. Looking back at it all, I found that my skillset was taking an idea and turning it into an innovative product, and that is what I built my career off of.

Direct download: How_I_Learned_to_Be_an_Entrepreneur.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

The topic this is week is one that I have touched on over the years in various ways. People reach out to me all the time asking about this.  Coaching, as well as mentoring, often get placed in the same category. In reality, they are different. We will discuss the differences between innovation coaching and mentoring and will run through some application scenarios.

Coaching vs. Mentoring

When it comes to the topic of coaching and mentoring, many people often find themselves confused. They don’t understand that innovation coaching and innovation mentoring are not the same. Coaching is the most common activity when it comes to innovation.

In general, coaching and mentoring are two of the top five most popular jobs out there. Innovation coaching is kind of like a sports coach. In baseball, there is a pitching coach who trains pitchers to improve in their craft. Pitching coaching is just like innovation coaching, as it seeks to help one improve in a specific area based on an assessment. It tends to be limited in duration. Also, it only works best with measurable and tangible improvement opportunities.

A good innovation coach will offer clear direction for improvement based on an assessment of one’s needs. Coaching can be on the individual level, team level, or for an entire organization. An innovation coach should be able to assess and tell you what area you need to improve. They should lay out a plan for improving and being more successful in a specific area. 


Mentoring is a less specific and tangible area that looks at the big picture, such as your career. An innovation mentor is a trusted advisor that crosses personal and professional lines and might be with you for many years. They help craft broader goals along with the skills and experiences to achieve them. When looking for an innovation mentor, choose someone you can learn from. You want one that has achieved innovation success in their career.

Usually focused on the individual, I have done long-term mentoring for innovation teams as well. Mentoring sessions are less formal than coaching sessions and are on an as-needed basis. Fees for mentoring most likely come from the individual. A successful mentoring role should last many years and stay constant no matter if the organization you’re in changes.

There may be no fees required in rare cases if you become close to the mentor. Don’t expect mentoring to be free just because some mentors might typically do it out of the kindness of the heart. Remember, mentoring relationships require time and transparency to be successful. A mentor can’t do their job if you are not honest with them, and vice versa. 

Examples of Differences

One of the best ways to show the differences between an innovation coach or mentor is to run through some scenarios.

First scenario: Your team is struggling to create a pitch for an idea to secure funding from your organization. You need to figure out the best way to structure your pitch to secure the funding. Is innovation coaching or mentoring the best way to aid you in your pursuit?  In this situation, you could hire an innovation coach because it is a specific issue you are trying to resolve. You want to find a coach that has an excellent track record of helping teams craft pitches. Be sure to pay the coach for the work they are doing, rather than saying you’ll pay them upon success.

Second scenario: Your CEO has asked you to develop innovation leaders within your existing staff. Would this be innovation coaching or mentoring? With a longer-term goal that is not tangible, so in this case, it would be innovation mentoring in a team setting.

Third scenario: Your team is running up against internal and external innovation anti-bodies (naysayers), and you need help in crafting a strategy to win the organization’s support. In this situation, you need help with a specific issue within your organization, so this is an innovation coaching opportunity. You need a strategy coach to help deal with the anti-bodies and win your organization’s support.

Fourth scenario: You have decided to improve your innovation abilities and skills to be more successful. This scenario is a textbook case of innovation mentoring. Here you need help in establishing your long-range career to have a successful career in innovation. 


Today, we talked about the differences between innovation coaching and innovation mentoring. As we discussed, there is a difference between coaching and mentoring. Coaching is about solving particular issues such as communication skills, deliverables, executive presence, etc. Mentoring comes with long-term career advice.

My first mentor was my boss at Deltek, Bob Davis. Bob hired me and put me into the first management role of my career. He knew I could be a great software engineer, but as my mentor, he told me I had broader skills than that. I had to put in a lot of extra work to develop myself under Bob’s mentorship. He put me on a career rotation, placing me in finance, marketing, advertising, sales, and IT, which helped me grow. Bob helped me think through my long-term goals and what opportunities I should look out for.

Today, I do innovation coaching and mentoring and have done small companies up to Fortune 10 companies. I’ve coached and mentored CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs, some lasting up to seven years long. 

Check out the Disruptive Ideation Workshop that acts as a long-term investment for you or your team’s success. 


Direct download: Innovation_Coaching_and_Innovation_Mentoring__What_is_the_difference.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

People are always asking me how I made it to the point I’m at today in my career. While I can’t cover the full extent of my career, I want to share some valuable learning experiences. On today’s show, we will discuss how I built my innovation self-confidence and what I learned early on in my career that shaped the future of my career. 


Self-Confidence and Soft Skills

Looking back on my career, I realize it is all about building self-confidence. I am very thankful for those early leaders and organizations that invested heavily into me. Despite being sort of a “know-it-all”, they didn’t put me down, but taught me how to be a leader and encouraged me to pursue my passions. Wherever you are in your career, there are elements existing that build up self-confidence. The first area revolves around team spirit and knowing how to build a team. Your self-confidence isn’t about showing people up or being the smartest person in the room. It’s about being a part of a team, knowing how to build a team, and knowing how to lead a team. In the innovation game, there is no such thing as the lone innovator. Early in my career, I fed off  my name being mentioned in the press. As I progressed in my career, I learned just how important the team is over the individual. The second self-confidence building element is based on being confident you can achieve and build things from what you have learned. The third area is confidence in your communication skills and knowing how to communicate effectively. Another key area of self-confidence is being able to empathize with people. The last one is assertiveness, which should be based on standing up for your ideas. 


My Experience at Anchor Industries

Like I said earlier, I want to walk you guys through some of my own experiences. My wife and I met when we were young and got married in our sophomore year of college. The summer after our wedding, my wife helped me get an internship at Anchor Industries, one of the largest producers of canvas products. My wife knew the family that owned the company and had mentioned that I was looking for an internship. My initial job at Anchor was to go through and reverse-engineer the blueprints of their products as they were outdated. I started off doing drafting but also learned how to do time studies. One of the things Anchor built was pool covers. At this point in the 1980s, they would get a blueprint of the pool cover and hand draw the pool on the factory floor. Then they would lay out edges, lay the fabric, stitch or weld it, and add other things to it. This was a slow process and I felt like I could do something better. I went back after my internship and designed an automatic pool cover layout plan for a project class I had at school. This had a huge impact on Anchor's ability to make pool covers and I ended up working for anchor and building out this program for a year. Because of my self-confidence in trying new things, I was able to impact Anchor Industries and build a lasting relationship with the company. To this day, Anchor Industries is still one of the biggest producers of pool covers. 


My Experience with Deltek Microsystems

After working with Anchor Industries, I worked with Deltek Microsystems, a subsidiary of Deltek. The company focused on the early stages of PCs and sought to create training materials for new PC users. I ended up there due to my success at Anchor. At Deltek, I learned a lot about teamwork as it was a new company. I was hired on as a manager of the company and this was my first-time experiencing leadership. Deltek pushed me to give talks and speeches and built my communication skills up. I also experienced failures at Deltek that taught me a lot. I learned assertiveness in this position, as I had to express my opinions and ideas to those around me. This was new to me as it was only my second real job. My boss at Deltek Microsystems, Bob Davis, my first mentor, taught me how to be a manager, to take risks, and get back up after failure. He also taught me to be self-aware and learn my strengths and weaknesses. Bob taught that if I wanted to be a good leader, I had to be experienced in running the business, not just doing the software. I sat in just about every leadership seat at Deltek from Finance and Marketing to IT. 



The building of my innovation self-confidence was based on my early career experiences. Each experience contributed to all the soft skills I needed to become the leader I am today. When looking at team spirit, both Anchor and Deltek had a huge impact on my understanding. It is important to provide feedback to others and contribute your expertise to the team’s ideas. Both companies impacted my self-confidence by giving me the chance to go out and try things. Deltek helped me approve my communication skills in a way that I could adapt my language to my audience. In the case of empathy, I learned to empathize with customers as well as employees. Deltek taught me to be assertive in pushing and selling your ideas. All these soft skills learned at Anchor Industries and Deltek were vital in future success with my innovation self-confidence.

Direct download: How_I_Built_My_Innovation_Self-Confidence.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This show might come off as controversial to those who are innovation consultants. However, these are my personal views on the subject. Consultants can have a significant effect on an organization for better or worse. We will discuss innovation consultants and why I believe 80% of them are not worth the money. 

Innovation Consultants

A consultant has some expertise and is getting paid for sharing it with a client. I started my career early on doing consulting for a company called CSC. I was working heavily in the wireless and mobile arena. In my case, I had very deep expertise in the mobile space before being a consultant.

Most people hire consultants because they lack expertise in specific areas, and this effort is becoming ever so popular in the innovation space. I get calls all the time from people asking for recommendations on consultants. Based on what I have observed, 80% of innovation consultants are not worth the money. Why am I saying that? You don't become a driving instructor after reading a book on how to drive cars. Instead, you drive the car and then teach others how to do it. There are loads of innovation consultants out there that have never actually done it.

Today, I'm going to share the four questions you should ask innovation consultants before hiring them. Firstly, "is this innovation consultant a proven innovator?" Like innovation, you can't teach people how to drive if you haven't done it before. You need to ask if the consultant has led innovation for organizations known for innovation success. Have they been a CIO, led innovation teams that have delivered, or are they credited for creating successful innovations in the marketplace? Does the industry recognize them for innovation leadership? If they don't check these boxes, they try to teach how to drive without ever doing it themselves. 

Previous Clients

Question number two is, "Who else have they been hired by?" Assuming they have the expertise and have successfully done innovation, you need to look at who has hired them. If they are endorsed by those who are known for their innovation efforts, they will have more credibility. If a company is known for its innovation efforts still felt the need to hire this person, that is a good sign. If they have zero experience working with a company with an innovation reputation, that is not necessarily negative but is something to look at.

Another thing to look at is whether they completed any projects for their clients and have been brought back by their clients multiple times. This precedent shows that the consultant does excellent work and is getting the company success. The last thing to look at is whether you can call up the clients they mentioned in their proposals or pitches. If the consultant hides the company name from you but mentions their work, I count it as a negative mark.

Despite all that I have said, don't hire someone solely because they have done work for a well-known company. Dig deeper and validate whether they did the work and were successful or are lying about it. It amazes me how many organizations fail to do reference checks for employees and consultants. If you choose the wrong innovation consultant, your credibility goes down, and you can turn your organization off to innovation. 

Evaluating a Consultant's Success

The third question to ask is, "What about this innovation consultant attracts their following?" It is essential to evaluate why a successful consultant is successful with its clients. Firstly, look at the number of clients they have worked for/use their process or framework and whether they can prove it. An example of this is the FIRE framework, where about 2,000-2,500 organizations use it. Secondly, evaluate whether or not they are willing to share the details of their approach. I am a big believer in paying it forward and giving it away. With that being said, I don't use this to make a living while most consultants do.

Your organization is unique, and you need to know that a consultant's approach will work for you and your organizational needs. If you bring in a consultant that is not a match, you will run into some big problems. 

Final Question and Wrap Up

Question four is, "Can you adapt and adopt the approach from the innovation consultant?" You would not believe how hard this is to do. When hiring an innovation consultant bringing an approach to the table, it is crucial to know where they stand. Do you get granted the rights to use their method within your organization or offer a training class? Are they willing to adapt it to your organization's culture, approach, and language? An example of this is how Kroger implements the FIRE framework while using their own Kroger language. 

I started today's show off on the premise that 80% of innovation consultants are not worth the money. Let's recap the four questions you should ask an innovation consultant before hiring them: 

  • Is this innovation consultant a proven innovator?
  • Who has hired them?
  • What about their innovation consulting attracts a following?
  • Can I adapt and adopt the innovation consultant's approach to my organization?


If you are looking for an innovation consultant and aren't so sure about it, drop me an email or hop over to The Innovators Community for feedback from other innovators and myself. 

If you are interested in the FIRE framework for your organization, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.

Direct download: Why_80_Percent_of_Innovation_Coaches_are_Not_Worth_The_Money.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Innovations can happen in any industry and a variety of different ways. Today we are going to take a deeper dive into part of the FIRE framework known as ideation. We will focus on combining individual ideation and team ideation. On today’s show, we will discuss Walt Disney’s “Plus it” approach and how it changed the customer entertainment experience.  

“Plus It”

Walt Disney used a concept known as “plus it” to improve his company’s ideation. He would tell his Imagineers (people who design the Disney experience) to “plus it” as a way to motivate them to take their work to another level. He challenged them to see what was possible and then encouraged them to take it a few steps further. “Plus it” is a technique to iterate on ideas without using any harsh criticism. It's about finding what is good about an idea and tweaking it to make it even better. The question is, how do you do it? The first step you need to do is to conduct brainstorming activities and set up a quota of ideas to iterate. You need to come at the problem from different angles. Good ideas will get people excited so keep an eye out for reactions. Remember, evaluation happens after, not during this process. After brainstorming, grab some sticky notes and crank out unique ideas. This is when individual ideation comes in to play. Do this for about twenty minutes and come up with a minimum of twenty ideas. 

Team Ideation

The next step is to post and group ideas. Each person on the team posts and shares their ideas to the rest of the group by posting their sticky note on a board. This is done through a short and quick process. During this time, one idea may trigger another’s idea. If this happens, write down the new idea and post it. If two people have similar ideas, post those ideas next to each other. The next step is to do team ideation or “plus it”. One at a time, everyone chooses somebody else’s idea that they like. Then, they ideate and build upon that idea and have others jump in. Throughout my work, I have found that around 30% more and better ideas come from this combination of team and individual ideation. I’ve also found that there is a collective ownership aspect of this that is elevated. People feel like more of a team and are more passionate and energized through this combination. 



Walt Disney focused on making ideas better for many years and made it fundamental to Disney’s culture. Many other organizations have embraced plussing it and have applied it to their organizations. Walt Disney made breakthroughs using his “plus it” method in many different ways. Walt applied plussing it early on at Disney with the idea of Disneyland. He came up with the idea for a Christmas parade going through the park. The financial people at Disney disagreed with Walt’s idea as people were already going to the park and didn’t expect anything different. Walt wanted to deliver an experience that was never seen before. Despite what the finance people had thought, the idea became a huge success and drew many more people to the park. Another example of plussing the experience was when Disney’s ride Space Mountain was rebuilt for their 50th anniversary. They redid the whole ride and synchronized audio to it which created a completely new experience. The third example of plussing a product was when the Apple iPod and the iPhone came about. Steve Jobs cited the influence of Disney on his work many times. It comes down to the little things that most people don’t notice but make Apple products stand out. Another example is Elon Musk’s company, Tesla. The company has breakthrough features such as the summon feature. This feature allows you to call your car to come to a different spot and pick you up. The company is constantly adding features to their products and are never done improving. Disney is also constantly improving and innovating and will never stop plussing it. The last company we will discuss is Zoom, a sponsor of our show. In the last year, Zoom averaged 300 new features and does so every year. Eric and his team are constantly asking how to make the experience bigger and better. 


Today we discussed Walt Disney’s approach to “plussing it”, which is significantly improving ideas and products by thinking differently and pushing the limits. Walt applied the concept to his early work at Disneyland and his hand can be seen all over the Disney experience to this day. The concept is about using each other’s ideas for inspiration and building upon them without using harmful criticism. Improving someone’s challenge instead of being an innovation antibody is key to plussing it. This all starts with individual ideation and combining it with team ideation to make ideas that stand out and are better.  


Direct download: Walt_Disneys_Plus_It_Approach_To_Better_Ideas.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Throughout the show’s history, we’ve done interviews with medical professionals and those pursuing innovations in the medical field. This week’s guest created a breakthrough product used during this pandemic. Clive Smith, the CEO and founder of Thinklabs joins us on the show. We will discuss a stethoscope innovation and what he’s doing to disrupt the medical field.

Clive’s Background

Clive grew up in South Africa and was greatly influenced by the moon landing as a kid. It showed that technology happens in the United States, and that is where he knew he needed to be. Clive studied for his masters at the California Institute of Technology and focused on analog electronics and signal processing. After finishing school, he worked in the corporate world for a few years but realized that was not what he wanted to do. While he didn’t stay there, he is grateful for what he was able to learn.

After leaving corporate America, Clive started Thinklabs. The context was that it would be an incubator for Clive’s and other people’s ideas. He had a long-term interest in medical devices, and while at his undergrad in South Africa, he developed an electrocardiographic device with a friend. On top of that, many of Clive’s friends from school went on to become doctors. Clive’s brother was also a cardiologist, so being surrounded by the medical professionals boosted Clive’s interest. 

Stethoscope Innovation

Clive stumbled across an article in a cardiology journal about the stethoscope. The journal people measured the acoustics on stethoscopes and studied the original stethoscope made by Rene Laennec. They realized that the acoustics of the original was almost the same as the modern stethoscope. The device hadn’t had a performance improvement for nearly 180 years.

Clive decided that he was going to fix the issue and started prototyping in his garage. He came up with a unique sensor for the stethoscope. After talking with cardiologists and comparing his medical innovations to others, Clive started talking with HP medical. They ended up funding his product, but while they were funding it, another company bought the healthcare division.

Due to Clive’s contract, he could leave and put all the technology out on the market himself. The first version of the stethoscope came to the market in 2003 and manufactured in China. In 2013, the production of the product moved from China to the U.S. 

Manufacturing and Product Use

Clive made himself more vertically integrated when he moved from offshore manufacturing to onshore. He did this because he wanted to be able to innovate quickly. Outside manufacturers like the ones in China want to crank out a product efficiently and keep things moving. It’s not that easy to make changes with all of that. Another part of it was 3D printing. 3D printing offers flexibility because it is mostly software.

Moving onshore wasn’t mainly for the cost nor “for American manufacturing”. Many of the suppliers in the U.S had a hard time making high-quality products that Clive wanted. He ended up with a global supply chain as he does assembly in the U.S but gets some components from Japan, China, etc. 

With regards to Clive’s digital stethoscope, some physicians are particularly interested in listening to sounds. Many people still use conventional stethoscopes, and if they hear something that sounds weird, they pass it on to a specialist. Users of the digital stethoscope use it to get a more thorough read upfront. On top of that, regular stethoscopes are known to carry diseases and pathogens and not useful in infectious situations.

In 2014, Clive and his team were called on to help doctors listen to their patients remotely when they were in isolation during the Ebola outbreak. Fast forward to COVID, and they were able to create a process that uses remote Bluetooth transmitters and headphones to listen to patients in isolation. 



The future is going to include a lot of remote healthcare. It is an incredible enhancement to the quality of life, especially for older people. Clive says the hospital at home is going to continue to grow. The internationalization of healthcare will be a massive change as we advance with borders broke down.

In the past, Mayo Clinic ran into problems as doctors licensed in Minnesota weren’t able to practice healthcare in different states. Due to COVID, many states have gotten rid of that requirement, which will significantly impact healthcare and policymakers. Government rules and regulations need to find ways to keep up with the fast-growing innovations of this day and age. Policy always follows technology. 

If you want to keep up to date with Clive and what he is doing at Thinklabs, check out their website here.

About Our Guest: Clive Smith

Clive Smith founded Thinklabs in 1991, a company developing electronic products and systems. He released the first Thinklabs stethoscope in 2003 and held numerous patents in the stethoscope technology field. He was profiled in the annual 2013 Caltech Alumni ENGenious publication. Raised in Johannesburg, Clive spent his early life in South Africa.

He received a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Wits University, where he first developed his interest in medical electronics. He and classmate David Cohen received the Siemens Prize for Best Thesis for their research on multi-channel electrocardiography. Smith came to the United States for graduate study, receiving an MSEE from the California Institute of Technology, focusing on various electronics design disciplines including analog, integrated circuits, digital signal processing, and power electronics.

Direct download: Medical_Innovations_Amidst_a_Global_Pandemic.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

For the first time, we are recording a show in the mobile studio in Austin, Texas. Once we get past COVID, we plan to travel a lot more and visit different innovators in various areas of the country. This past week, I interviewed three CEOs of billion-dollar companies for a virtual event online. I asked them a set of questions and on today’s show I am going to ask and answer those same questions.

Question One

The questions will get people to think and share things that they usually wouldn’t share. I’m going to run through and randomly pick these questions out of a notebook I have. This notebook contains creative and exciting questions that I have collected over the years.

The first question is: What is the most important invention in the last five years? I think electric car vehicles are fascinating, and I’ve had the benefit of spending some time with Elon Musk. I would call an invention that’s having a massive impact as being something that becomes commercially buyable. I think electronic vehicles fall right into this category. There are also a lot of spinoffs that have come from the development of these vehicles. The spinoffs include “battery technology,” which is very important. With products like electric cars, there will be a push in the battery industry to create more improvements. 

Rethinking Education

The next question is: What is your dangerous idea? The answer to this question pertains to an idea that is disruptive and turns everything on its head. My dangerous idea is to rethink education on a global scale. It’s no longer about memorizing formulas, facts, or figures. It is about teaching future generations how to think, solve, and have a passion for lifelong learning. Whatever skill we’re teaching in the classroom today won’t apply in five or ten years due to the rapid change of technology. There needs to be some rethinking done on traditional education structure to promote teamwork, collaboration, empathy, ideation, experimentation, etc. That’s the work environment students will be entering into when they join the workforce.

Years ago, I did some work with the Singapore government and the state of Ohio building textbooks that included innovation and creativity. Some school districts wanted to treat innovation the same as reading, writing, and arithmetic. We must think of innovation as creative reading and apply it to those topics. Innovation and creativity need to go across all the subject matter.

Step two is to create school environments where there are team projects, creative problem-solving, and experimentation. The key with experimentation is that not all experiments are successful. Whatever the result, you have completed the work and learned in the process. The mindset that you passed or failed needs to be changed. We have to develop ways to experiment and fail while still getting an A in the classroom because you learned from it. 


The third question is: What are you optimistic about? During the time of this recording, there are many uncertainties. Examples of this would be COVID, the election, social unrest, etc. Despite these issues, there is still a lot of optimism. As humans, we can come together and get through these times using our ingenuity. Look back at the time of the polio epidemic. There was a consorted effort on the issue, and scientists came up with a vaccine and tamed the disease. I think the same thing will happen with COVID.

When we are face to face with crushing problems, we will innovate around them. We can solve these problems when we come together and attack them as one. We have done it for thousands of years and will continue to do it. 

Another question I posed is: What have you changed your mind about? There have been many times I changed my ideas, such as when I thought certain technologies were going to be successful, and they weren’t. The most challenging changes are when you have to consider somebody’s perspective on politics, beliefs, sports teams/players, etc. I ask this question because people are often so locked in one idea that they don’t even consider the other options. We all need to change in different areas, no matter what they are.

Wrap-up and Final Question

There is one question that gets an interesting response, no matter who interviews. That question is: What should be the role of government in encouraging innovation? Looking back on my own life, I’ve seen some phenomenal things come about due to government research and development. This includes the space program and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, which I watched live as a kid. The blood oximeter, which tells how much oxygen is in your blood, is a spinoff of the NASA program.

Another example is the origin of the internet. The internet came from DARPA, which the government designed to use should Russia nuke the U.S. Governments invest in areas that are transformative to their people and their economies, which will improve the lives of the people.

Direct download: 5_Questions_Every_CEO_Should_Answer_About_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week, we look at an old show that has recently come up. It is a show I did in February of 2012 about innovation metrics. We'll discuss the core set of innovation metrics that every organization should use.

Bad Metrics

Before we get started, I want to address one thing. Bad metrics are very prevalent and extremely popular in areas such as Wall Street and publicly traded companies. These metrics get defined by analysts who have never run any innovation efforts or businesses.

The most popular bad metric that Wall Street has is the percentage of revenue spent on RND. They try to rank organizations based on this metric. I have run tests and trials, collected data from public companies coached and mentored CEOs, and CIOs worldwide from various industries. I am here to tell you that this is a bogus metric that is not predictive of future success. If this metric was true, if I spent 50% of my RND revenue, I should be two times better than somebody who only spends 20% of their RND revenue. False. It varies by industry and company. I spent a lot of time trying to convince the board of directors at HP that this is a bogus metric and not useable.

When it comes to good metrics, I look at it from input, output, outcome, and impact. I spend the most time on input and impact. When it comes to innovation, the impact your innovation is making, and the input you are investing in is key.

Innovation Input Metrics

Let's look at what innovation input metrics you should consider having as part of your success measurement. The first one is the number of new ideas in the funnel. It would help if you kept the funnel full of ideas. This metric is about keeping your organization focused and continuously developing new ideas. At my current organization, we sit down twice a year and look at everything in the funnel. You want to find ideas that are reasonable for your organization.

The next metric is the acceptance/idea kill rate. Acceptance is the number of ideas that make it to the funding phase. You want that acceptance rate to be anywhere from 10-30%. The idea kill rate is when you decide to kill an idea rather than move it forward. At HP, we had a four-phase funnel to managing ideas and turning them into products. At each phase, there was about a 55% kill rate. We would start with ten, go to five, go to two or three, and finish with one. You need to look at your current acceptance and kill rate and set a target, possibly putting it into your Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

The third metric is a balanced investment. This metric is how you will use your innovation spend to influence your organization. This metric has products and services across the bottom, and vertical is your customers and markets you serve. 70% of the innovation spend should be in the core. The 20% should be in new products to existing customers and existing products to new customers. And lastly, 10% in new customers, new markets, new technologies, etc.

Innovation Impact Metrics

The first one is the 3M metric, which is the percentage of revenue from new products. 3M has an innovation metric they have tracked for decades. The metric is what percentage of their revenue that comes from products produced within the last three years. The revenue percentage forces them to come up with new ideas constantly.

The second metric is the quality of your patents, which differs from the number of patents. When I first went to HP, Carly Fiorina was the CEO. She pushed us hard to ramp up the number of patents. Organizations get ranked based on how many awarded patents. She wanted HP to have as many patents as possible to get on the list. I argued that having a large number of patents does not add to your innovation value.

We eventually shifted the focus at HP to the quality of patents. Measured through the Chi Index, look at all your patents. Then look across your industry at other patents that referenced them. The more times your patent gets referenced, the more value it has.

The third metric is the innovation impact on gross margin. I got HP to replace the RND metric's revenue with this, which is the gross margin impact for every dollar spent on RND. Very important, because if you do good innovation on products, your customers will reward you with a margin premium.


Today we talked about the six-innovation metrics every organization should use. The input metrics are the number of new ideas in the funnel, the acceptance and the kill rate, and balanced innovation investment (70, 20 10). The impact metrics are the percentage of revenue from new products (3M metric), quality of the patents (quality over quantity), and innovation impact on gross margin. Look at these six-innovation metrics and figure out how you can apply them to your organization.

If you want to learn more about metrics and apply them to your organization, check out the Disruptive Ideation Workshops, now done virtually.

Direct download: 6_Innovation_Metrics_KPIs_Every_Organization_Should_Use.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week, we will continue the discussion on the FIRE framework and expound upon it. We will discuss a technology that will enable your FIRE framework, known as an Idea Management System (IMS). 

Idea Management System

The Idea Management System supports everything from the focus, ideation, and ranking, to managing your funnel for the execution phase. I deployed my first IMS in 2008 while I was CTO at HP. Not known as IMS yet, we chose a particular platform back then. Every IMS system has its built-in assumptions as part of its basic platform. They have to work on enhancing their platforms due to competition continuously.

If you have procured an IMS, are building one, or are integrating one with other systems, there are seven must-have features you need. The first feature is known as the ease of idea capture. This consists of getting all of your ideas captured and putting them into your IMS. The key here is to get every idea you have into this system. It is also important to track who came up with each idea for legal reasons. 

Support for Innovators

The second feature is all about the support for your community of innovators. Especially critical for IMS because it brings all of your innovators together in a common system. It becomes a back and forth communication process between innovators. Most IMS systems don’t grasp the idea of bringing people together. People often take it as a passive process, observing but not engaging. A common feature needed is the ease of how you “plus an idea.” When someone creates an idea, you want other innovators to build on it. You want a way to communicate feedback on ideas as well. An IMS is also a great way to celebrate an idea, whether it got funding or ended up stopped.

The next feature is to enable an open innovation opportunity. This feature consists of allowing people outside of your organization to contribute. It includes things like public competitions for the best idea and rewarded with a prize.

Another feature that I am a big believer in is university joint ventures. These are opportunities where you fund PHDs or grad students who work in your focus research area.

Features 4-7

The next feature on my list is what I call a flexible and powerful workflow. In many cases, designed enterprise applications have a particular philosophy in mind. While not intentional, they inherently create a step of workflows that enable the feature set within that IMS.

In reality, you want an Idea Management System that adapts to you, not the other way around. It would help if you defined the workflow for your innovation framework and all the tools and processes you use to build upon it. When selecting your IMS, make sure you allow for the system to be easily updated.

Next is a must-have feature; the management of the entire idea life cycle. Ideas get touched by many people. They may get funded, stopped, or even resurrected in the future.  An example of managing the idea life cycle revolves around the selection. We talked about this on some previous shows on ranking. In your IMS, you want to capture the answers from the process of ranking. Years later, the scoring for these ideas could be completely different due to innovations.

The next vital feature is protection or how you protect your catalog of ideas. This feature can be basic security and encryption, which is very important. In this case, however, I am talking about patents. I am not aware of any IMS systems that have a built-in patent management system. In this case, you need to interface your IMS platform with the system you are using to track the patents you are submitting to or want to submit.

The seventh must-have feature is incentives and recognition. People don’t participate in innovation efforts out of the goodness of their hearts. Some organizations I have been a part of pay for patented ideas that are submitted. Use your IMS system to track this. Award badges for the ideas that people submit. Incentives and recognitions are a great way to get people to get engaged. 


The seven must-have features in your Idea Management System are:

  • Ease of Idea Capture
  • Support the Community of Innovators
  • Enable Open Innovation Opportunity
  • Flexible and Powerful Workflow
  • Manage the Idea Life Cycle
  • Protect the Catalog of Ideas
  • Incentives and Recognition

I based these features on my dozen years of employing these systems and helping CIOs or CEOs find what they want in their systems. This platform is a tool that supports the overall framework. We discuss and teach all these things in our Disruptive Ideation Workshops, whether virtually or in-person.

Direct download: 7_Must_Have_Features_of_Your_IMS_-_Idea_Management_System.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

We will discuss something mentioned in last week's show: Execution. If you haven't listened to that episode, make sure to click here. The innovation lean canvas is a structure that we teach in all of our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. It is an innovation plan that offers an overview of your best idea all in one place.

The Innovation Lean Canvas

The lean canvas replaces a typically created business plan. We print this out on a huge poster-sized paper and tack it to the wall in our workshops. It allows you to look at your best idea and the critical areas around it, all in one glance. Updated as you acquire more learnings, you'll be able to see these ideas and critical areas on the paper. I would encourage you to customize your lean canvas to your own organization's needs. Don't be afraid to try something different that fits you.

Let's walk through my lean canvas so we can get a feel for it. Starting, we talk about the problem statement, and what makes this idea different. We discuss who the customers are and what the key metrics are. The steps and activities that are needed, as well as the resources needed, are discussed. With this framework, you get a perfect snapshot view of the problem, the solution, and how it all works. It helps you pinpoint areas that need work.

Breaking Down the Lean Canvas

The problem statement: you may have different variations of this, and you want to put them all on your lean canvas. Next, you want to discuss the solution. This statement is your idea that was ranked the highest, and you and your team feel it is ready to go forward. Now, you want to define who the customers are and discuss their personas. Everything must be crystal clear, and if not, you may need to investigate and validate the customer segment.

Next is the unique value proposition. Why is the customer going to find value in this? Why is it going to be unique compared to what is already out there? It would be best if you define why your idea is better and why the customers will want it. The problem, the solution, and the customer are tightly linked and foundational to execution. You have to be able to answer these areas.

At this point, you need to define some key metrics. What are the criteria for success? What constitutes you're making progress? An example of this would be asking five questions to twenty-five customers and bringing those answers back. The questions get tied to the key activities. The activities would be preparing the survey of questions for the customers to answer.

Unfair Advantage

I challenge you to spend some time thinking about improving your idea to create a sustainable advantage. Once you launch, you will have many copycats if you don't have a barrier to entry. The fast rise of copycats is due to low-cost manufacturing. It would be best if you found a way to have an unfair advantage that is defensive.

Patents are costly, averaging around $30,000-$35,000, including the legal work and working with the patent office. There are other ways for you to create barriers to entry, such as trade secrets. You need to find out what resources you need. Find resources in technologies, expertise, access to a sales channel, etc. You will have to pitch your idea, so you need to be crystal clear on what resources you will need to make it happen.

Next, focus on funding requirements and costs. When most people pitch ideas, they put the funding cost upfront. On lean canvas, we talk about the problem, solution, and how you will accomplish it before talking about the funding. Once you have evaluated these other areas, then you can talk about the funding.

Lastly, discuss the revenue stream. The revenue stream is more about the economic value sources rather than just looking at a spreadsheet.


We walked through all of the lean canvas elements such as problem, solution, customers, unique value proposition, key metrics, key activities, thinking through unfair advantage, resource partners, funding requirements/costs, and revenue streams. This innovation lean canvas is one that I use and teach in all of my workshops. Once a team fills it out, we have them pitch from their lean canvas. I like this approach because it makes sure they cover all of the key areas for successful innovation.

The lean canvas gives you a structure to make sure you don't miss any vital areas. I have found this to be hugely valuable and adaptable. Don't be afraid to adapt it to you and your organization's needs. We use the lean canvas in all of our ideation workshops and teach it to our customers. When you leave our workshops, you go with a filled-in lean canvas of your best idea, ready to be pitched to your management team.

Check out the Disruptive Ideation Workshop here to learn the lean canvas for you and your team.

Direct download: Innovation_Lean_Canvas_-_A_One_Page_Innovation_Plan.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

On this week's show, we will wrap up the series of shows on the innovation framework known as FIRE. We will discuss the part of the innovation framework known as execution. Execution is composed of making your best ideas into something real. 


I have used the FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution) framework for more than 20 years, and thousands of organizations use it. Focus is defining where your problem area is. Ideation is the process of creating ideas to address your problem areas. The process consists of individual and team ideation, which, when combined, generates 30% more ideas than when done individually. Ranking is where you prioritize your ideas. This process is through dot/wow voting and criteria ranking.

Execution, the last element of the FIRE framework,  is how one turns ideas into innovation. Done through two phases; it involves testing and validation and launching the MVP (Minimum viable product). Execution is not easy. 92% of CEOs say innovation is critical to their organization, but only 35% of them have confidence in executing these ideas. 

What to Expect

In my opinion, innovation consists of ideas made real. One quote I repeat all the time is, "ideas without execution are a hobby, and I'm not in the hobby business." At this point, you've ranked your ideas, but need to figure out how to make these ideas a real innovation. Going into this, you won't know all of the answers. Expect a very messy process because there might not be a clear path from point A to point B.

It would help if you were adaptable and ready to learn things. It would be best if you innovated around the idea frequently. Be ok with an unexpected outcome, as it is an experiment. Innovation projects have to be measured differently than a typical product development project. One of the measurements of success is learning throughout the process. Stay away from innovation antibodies. Innovation causes conflict, prompting these antibodies to come out. These include ego response (stepping on someone's toes), fatigue (people who have tried and failed at it before), no risk response (CFO or legal counsel), comfort response (we don't need to change). 

Steps of Execution

The first step to making an idea real is creating the pitch. The pitch is your way to tell the story around your idea, also known as strategic storytelling. The key is to tell your idea's story so that they see what life will be like when your idea is delivered.

The second step is to create the funnel. There are four funnel gates: market validation, customer validation, limited launch, and global launch. The key here is to convey the point that not all the ideas will go forward. Market validation is where you ask if the problem exists. One way to do this is through gorilla idea validation. Talk to people you don't know to get brutally honest feedback rather than people you know, who might tell you what you want to hear. Customer validation is where you see if your idea solves the customer's problem.

I use the Michelle test. I would take a product we built at HP and bring it home and leave it on the counter for my wife. She would take it out of the box and use it, giving it her honest evaluation. My wife is not a technology person to receive some solid feedback from a different perspective.

A limited launch is where you launch in a limited space. I use the buy test to build a product and advertise it, putting it into retail stores like a real launch. When people try to buy it, you give it to them for free in return for their feedback. Global launch is where you put your pedal to the medal and push the product out. At this point, you've gone through all of the steps and should have confidence in your product's success. 



This week's show focused on taking all of your ideas and making them real. Many innovators have great ideas but struggle to find funding. There could be an issue with their pitch. Learn and readjust the pitch, and understand all of the elements that go into it.

When Steve Jobs and Apple worked on the iPhone, the product was ready three years before the launch. They knew that they needed to wait to get a faster processor and another generation of touch screens. They had the discipline and patience to wait, which paid off in the long run.

I use the lean canvas to help me and my team stay on track and stay focused. The innovation lean canvas is in place of a typical plan. It is an overview of the critical areas at a glance, which frequently updates as the product evolves. We will discuss the lean canvas in a further episode of the show, so stay tuned. 

Check out the Disruptive Ideation Workshop here to teach your team the FIRE framework.

Direct download: Execution_-_Turning_Ideas_Into_Innovations.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week's show is a continuation of the series I've done on the innovation framework FIRE. We have discussed focus and ideation in previous shows. We will discuss the part of the innovation framework known as ranking, which helps you prioritize the best ideas you or your team generate.


Innovation is about challenging an industry's assumptions, questioning what we think we know about our customers, and being open to new ideas. When it comes to the framework, it is not the process. Instead, it defines the elements that you need to structure your process around. We use the FIRE framework. The focus area has to be defined or come up with ideas that aren't impactful. Next is ideation, which is generating ideas. Ideation establishes the framework, and you can use whatever process you want to generate those ideas. Th use of ranking is for identifying the best ideas out of the group. Ideas without execution are a hobby, and we are not in the hobby business.

So why is ranking so important? Let's say management asks your team to come up with some new ideas. You write some things down on a flip chart, and someone types them up and emails them out. Typically, this method results in nothing, as there are too many broad ideas. Ranking helps you find the best ideas and zeroes you in on them. 

Ranking Selection Process

The purpose of ranking is to identify the best ideas to execute and move forward. The first key to ranking is leveraging the wisdom of the crowd. First, make sure to select a diverse group of people who have had different experiences. I have my teams ideate and rank at the same time. I have found that you get the best results with a minimum of eight people. The key to ranking is to avoid bias by eliminating executive influence. Vote unanimously. There are two types of ranking: dot voting (where you put a dot on the idea you think is most important), and criteria ranking (defined set of selection questions with some scoring structure). Dot voting is done within fifteen minutes and without talking. Each person gets four dots and places them wherever and however they want. Select the four to five ideas with the most dots and move forward with them. 

Criteria Ranking

The first part of criteria ranking is to define the criteria. Firstly, you need to find the must-have elements of your idea. One way to do this is to look back on your products or services that were successful. Think about what questions you would have asked yourself to give you the ideas that led you to that successful product or idea. Secondly, you need to ask what elements your leadership team is going to look at. Your leadership team is going to be part of this, so you need to meet their criteria. It needs to be constrained and structured the right way with a small number of questions (4-6). I use five questions: the first three are the must-haves for the product's success, and the bottom two are the questions that leadership will use to constitute success.

Question 1: Does this idea improve customer experience or expectations? Does it solve a problem, save money, create money, etc.?

Question 2: Does it fundamentally change the companies place competitively in the market?

Question 3: Does this idea radically change the economic structure of the industry? You'll rarely have an idea that is a "yes" for all three.

Question 4: Does your company have a contribution to make?

Question 5: Will the idea generate a sufficient margin?

Score each question from zero to five, zero being a no, and five a resounding yes. You can apply this process by setting aside thirty minutes and assigning a value of 1-5 to each of your questions. Transfer your score to the team's ranking board and total up the score. 


Ranking is critical in making sure you are working on the right and best ideas. Let's recap the key ideas of ranking. Firstly, leverage the wisdom of the crowd. Get a diverse team if you can. If you are a lone innovator, recruit some people you respect and bring them together to help you. You want a minimum of eight people, and you want to avoid bias within the group. Voting should be anonymous, so people feel like they can give honest and good feedback. Establish your criteria, which will help you make a selection that increases the likelihood of your success. Use the two types of ranking in conjunction (Dot and criteria). Trust the wisdom of the crowd and the criteria you have established. All of this fits into the FIRE framework, which is utilized by more than two thousand organizations. 

Direct download: How_to_Select_the_Best_Ideas.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s guest is an innovation guru who has been around for many years. Jeff DeGraff, known as the “Dean of Innovation”, is a business professor at the University of Michigan and an author and thought leader on innovation. On today’s show, we will discuss social responsibility and Jeff’s new book, “The Creative Mindset”. 


Jeff’s Background

After graduating from grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jeff met a man who worked for someone who owned a twenty-million-dollar pizza company called Dominoes. He turned down a job offer from an Ivy League school to join the team. Five years later, they sold the company for five-billion-dollars to Mitt Romney. Not long after, Jeff was recruited to teach at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He didn’t want to teach MBA’s because he thought they were dull and drab, but that is why they wanted him there. 


Two Faces of Innovation

Innovation creates concave value, things that are presently manifesting, and convex value, issues that are long-term. These types have to be measured completely differently. People tend to think about innovation from the tangible side of it. In places like Iowa State, they have huge innovation impacts, but no one sees it because it is based on research influence, not tangible products. Consumers tend to see the end result. When it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S, many different startups and big pharmaceutical companies have been working and building off of old research to create one. Once a vaccine is made, then they have to figure out how to make billions of doses of it. It’s a lot more complicated than people think it is. Big innovation is composed of a lot of moving parts.  


The Creative Mindset

Jeff grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood and in an age where innovation was viewed as a social responsibility. There are a lot of creativity books out there nowadays that are what Jeff calls “new agey”. Jeff took what he thought was the real research on creativity and put it in layman’s terms for everyone to use. The book focuses on taking ordinary things and making them extraordinary. Jeff wants to re-install the old way of building things through developing learning and trying new things. He uses what he calls the six skills through the mnemonic device CREATE (Clarify, Replicate, Elaborate, Associate, Translate, and Evaluate). The book gives tools in a simplified form to somebody who is trying to grow and make something better. 

I got invited to do a keynote speech for Vail Resorts several years ago. I did a raise of hands asking how many people think of themselves as creative. I was shocked to see how many people didn’t raise their hands. People think it takes a special type of person to be creative, which is simply not true. We all have natural strengths that vary from person to person. The object is to recognize your strength, build on it, and find other people with different strengths. 


Advice for the Listeners

People refer to Jeff as the “Dean of Innovation”. When he went to work at Dominoes, people often threw the hard problems at him. When he got to the University of Michigan, he had some students that went on to be famous, so the name just ended up sticking. As far as advice goes, Jeff says that innovation happens from the outside in, like a bell curve. Its easier to change 20% of the company 80%, than changing 80% of the company 20%. Secondly, diversity your gene pool. All the people in Jeff’s labs are different than him. Thirdly, give as much as you can away to people. In doing this, you build your network and become a better human being and fulfill social responsibility. 


If you want to keep up to date with what Jeff DeGraff is doing, check out his website here. Check out Jeff’s LinkedIn here. Check out his new book on creativity here


About our Guest: Jeff Degraff

Jeff DeGraff is both an advisor to Fortune 500 companies and a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. His simultaneously creative and pragmatic approach to making innovation happen has led clients and colleagues to dub him the “Dean of Innovation.” He has written several books, including Leading Innovation, Innovation You, and The Innovation Code. Jeff’s thoughts on innovation are covered by Inc., Fortune, and Psychology Today. He has a regular segment on public radio called The Next Idea. He founded the Innovatrium, an innovation consulting firm focusing on creating innovation culture, capability, and community. He earned his nickname, the “Dean of Innovation,” while working as an executive for Domino’s Pizza in his youth, where he accelerated Domino’s growth from a regional success story to an international franchise phenomenon. 

Direct download: Innovation_and_The_Creative_Mindset.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT


Our guest this week comes from a similar industry, and we share many mutual connections. Mo Katibeh, the EVP-Chief Product & Platform Officer of AT&T Business, joins us to discuss 5G innovation. We will talk about what is real versus what is hype when it comes to innovation in 5G, as well as some advice for the listeners.  


Mo's Background

Mo's parents left Iran right before the revolution in 1978 and came to the U.K. He moved to the U.S in 1991, where his parents bought and ran some sandwich stores. From the age of 13, he was working at the stores and learned about working with customers. Fast forward to today, Mo has been with AT&T for almost nineteen years. He loves AT&T because of how diverse they are with what they do. You can do something different every single year, and you are always learning new things. For Mo, that has included managing call centers, construction, and engineering, building up the LTE network, financial planning, product management for cybersecurity, marketing, etc. Similar to Mo, I was employed at a young age. My mom managed a bowling alley and was a professional bowler, so I worked at the alley often. It was great to see what working was about at such a young age and I gained great experience from it.

AT&T has an astounding legacy and has been heavily invested in innovation. They were one of the first companies in the world to put a lot of work into a corporate research group/fundamental science outside of product development. This was done for the sake of advancing the knowledge of mankind. 


AT&T and COVID-19

Voice, arguably the oldest innovation when thinking about communications network, experienced skyrocketing growth due to COVID-19. Peak use days are usually holidays such as Mother's Day or New Years' Eve. During the beginning of COVID, that level of network usage was seen every day across the country. Humans are social beings naturally so when you're sheltering in place you tend to get lonely. Work also shifted from central to distributed locations so that added to the high level of network usage. When the movement started in China, AT&T was able to get a heads up on what was coming before it shifted into Europe and the U.S. They were able to prepare and work with their large enterprise customers to help with the oncoming challenges of COVID.



When people think about innovation in 5G, they often think of speed. Speed is a part of it, but when thinking about it from an innovation/business lens, it's important to look at the other capabilities. The first one is latency, or how quickly the network responds to a command. One promise of 5G is driving down latency from hundredths of milliseconds to sub-ten milliseconds. Another key promise is massive connectivity where you can connect a million things per access point. This technology will truly reshape the fabric of this next decade. Many people think about innovation as that next big thing, but oftentimes it's done in incremental steps. 

When it comes to 5G, there has been a lot of "hype" around it. In healthcare, a robot doing surgery on someone is something that would be hype because it is far in the future. What is available now is ways to move around large files more effectively from an MRI machine to a doctor using a cellular connection. In a post-COVID world, there are things like connected medicine boxes that track what medicine was used and recognizes the doctor using 4K video computer vision. Kids hate wearing medical bracelets at hospitals and like to take them off. 5G brings an IoT bracelet that offers peace of mind to the parent and can be branded with different fun designs. 


Advice for the Listeners

If Moe went back to the beginning of his career, he would tell himself three things. Firstly, in everything you do, look for how you drive step-function improvement. Find how to materially change the outcomes in every job tied to whatever your key performance indicator is. Secondly, make sure you communicate how you drive that improvement inside your specific role. Lastly, just be a good human being. Look out for the people you work with and share what you have learned. When you become a leader, look out for your team, and create a culture that is balanced and flexible. 


If you want to keep up to date with what Mo is doing at AT&T, check out his LinkedIn here.


About our Guest: Mo Katibeh

Mo Katibeh is the EVP-Chief Product & Platform Officer of AT&T Business. He has responsibility for the group's portfolio-wide P&L with $36 billion of annual revenue as well as its cutting-edge integrated platforms, products and solutions including Mobility, 5G, Edge Compute, Internet of Things, SD-WAN, cybersecurity, cloud connectivity and wholesale. He also oversees pricing, distribution strategy, compensation, analytics and AT&T Business's digital platforms and portals. Previously, Mo served as EVP-Chief Marketing Officer for AT&T Business, where he was responsible for marketing strategies including branding, advertising and global events. His team created the award-winning Edge-to-Edge advertising and marketing campaign, highlighting AT&T Business's ability to provide an entire range of services to business customers. During this time, Mo was named to Forbes The World's Most Influential CMOs 2019 list, citing his work around 5G in business. A 19-year veteran at AT&T, Mo draws on a wealth of experience in technology ranging from cybersecurity, omni-channel digital strategy, long-range technology and financial planning as well as deep operational expertise across call centers, field force management, construction and engineering, and customer experience improvements.


Let's connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don't forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.


Direct download: Innovation_in_5G_Capabilities_.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s show covers an area that is critical to your innovation success. Ideation is the act of generating ideas, which is part of the FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution) framework that we use to help discover ideas and lead to disruptive innovations. We will break down FIRE and discuss ideation and the process of our Disruptive Ideation Workshops


In the past, we have covered the four elements of the innovation framework, consisting of focus, ideation, ranking, and execution. Focus is the area that you set up processes and ways of collecting info that identifies problem areas. Ideation is where you create a funnel of ideas and collect them. The Ranking is where you take this collection and score the ideas based on their impact and importance. Execution is where you take the best ideas and experiment to see what your outcome can be. FIRE is a framework that is used by many organizations that tailor it to their specific wants and needs. We will discuss the ideation aspect of FIRE.


Ideation needs to consist of a type of idea that is being targeted. There are killer ideas, which are breakthroughs and create an advantage that makes the entire marketplace react. These are giant leaps forward and will shock the existing market. Incremental ideas are improvements in product quality, new features, etc., and happen over time. You need to be clear with your team where your focus will be on the type of idea.

I like to use tools that help trigger ideas. We use the Killer Questions Card Deck that focuses on questions based on the who (customer), the what (innovating product), and the how (organizational transitions that need to be made). Think about the questions you want to ask in ideation activities. You need to prepare for this and come to it from multiple different angles. There is feature versus function ideation. An example of a feature is to design a better cup. An example of a function is to design a better way to carry liquids. It would be best if you focus on coming up with complete ideas.

Ideation Workshop Process

Let’s walk through the exact process I take people through during our ideation workshops. Firstly, we start with individual ideation. We use sticky notes and put one idea on each sticky note. We spend about twenty minutes working on this, and you want to get 20 good ideas. Next, we use a process called SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse). Search SCAMPER under Google for more info or check it out on

At this point, it is still an individual activity. Done for about ten minutes, you will want to come up with five more ideas here. Now, you take your twenty-five ideas and briefly explain them to everyone else in your group or team. If there are two similar ideas, clump them together. If someone’s idea triggers a new idea, add it to the group of ideas. Now we move on to team ideation. One at a time, someone chooses another’s idea that they think is important and exciting. Then, they build upon that person’s idea and help improve it. The process should be done quickly and without any form of criticism. 


At this point, you should have a collection of good ideas grouped by similarity. When you combine a tool like SCAMPER (individual ideation) with team ideation, you will generate around 30% more ideas out of your ideation- as compared to doing team ideation and individual ideation separately.

If you are interested in learning more about ideation or want information from previous shows, check out all the free downloadable material I put together here

If you want to host a disruptive ideation workshop for your organization, check out the website here


Direct download: Ideation_-_How_to_Generate_More_and_Better_Ideas.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest offers some excellent knowledge about productivity and having your priorities in place. Steve Glaveski, CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Campus, joins us to discuss prioritizing high-value work. We talk about his view of the 6-hour workday, and how it helps to better innovation.

Steve’s Background

Steve went through the motions of getting his degree and climbing the corporate ladder, chasing what society associates with success. He worked for companies such as KPMG and Ernst and Young and found himself miserably comfortable while in his late twenties. Despite reaching these levels of success, but Steve felt it wasn’t doing what he was called to do. He decided to give it all away and pursue entrepreneurship, which led him to co-found Collective Campus, launch other ventures, and write multiple books. The inspiration behind the work he does is helping organizations and people unlock their potential to create an impact in the world and lead more fulfilling lives. 

One of his ventures is a company called Lemonade Stand that donates a license to children from socioeconomically disadvantaged areas for every license they sell to the developed world. It works as a software service platform that walks kids aged 10-15 through the entrepreneurial life cycle. When it comes to licenses, they work with schools, governments, and individuals. 

More Done in Less Time

Steve has a lot on his plate with all the ventures he runs. People often say you can’t do more than one thing if you want to do it well. According to Steve, it is based on how you go about doing things. If you are intentional about getting rid of unnecessary tasks and focus on the high-value work, you will get a lot done and innovate better. Steve reflects monthly and quarterly on how he spends his time whether it’s his daily tasks or products he’s working on. A couple of years ago, Steve and his team ran a 6-hour workday experiment to get more done in less time. The shorter timeframe forced them to do away with meetings/outsource and focus on the high-value work. After the experiment, they discovered that productivity was the same if not higher and people had more time to do things outside of the office. 


Time Rich: Do Your Best Work, Live Your Best Life

Steve’s book is about changing the 8-hour workday. This workday traces back to the last eighty years or so and has acted as a baseline. As the recent times, the nature of work has changed. Work has shifted to more of a cognitive work over a purely physical work. A recent study on scientists found that the ones who worked 20 hours a week were twice as productive as their peers who worked 35 hours a week. Even less productive were the scientists who worked 60 hours a week. You might think more hours equals more output, but in reality, you aren’t able to recover and recharge to innovate better. There are many distractions these days such as social media, which tends to distract us and hinder our productivity. At CableLabs, we have an unlimited vacation policy for our staff. With this option, people can manage their own time and schedules so they don’t get burned out and lose focus. 


Advice for the Listeners

Money can always be earned back after it gets spent, but time cannot. When you say yes to something, you are saying no to a whole lot of other things. We need to be frugal with how we spend our time. A lot of people say yes to everything which causes them problems. The key to saying no is based on what you truly value and what your goals are. Stay aligned with your values and goals in order to be successful and innovate better.


About our Guest: Steve Glaveski 

Steve Glaveski is an entrepreneur, author, and podcast host whose mission is to unlock the latent potential of people so that they can create more impact for humanity and lead more fulfilling lives. He is the CEO of Collective Campus, an innovation accelerator based in Melbourne and Singapore. He also founded Lemonade Stand, a children’s entrepreneurship program, and edtech platform, and during COVID-19 lockdowns, established NOFilter Media. Steve is the author of multiple books and hosts the award-winning podcast the Future Squared. 


If you want to keep updated with what Steve and Collective Campus is doing, check out his website here. Check out his book here

Direct download: 6-Hour_Workday__Better_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week's guest applies AI innovation to an industry where you usually wouldn't think it can be possible. Micah Hollingworth, the CEO & Co-founder of, joins us for a discussion. On the show, we will discuss AI in the theater industry and what Micah and are doing to change the game. 


Micah's Background

Micah grew up in rural Massachusetts and had a passion for theater at a young age. He ended up attending UMass Amherst, which was the total opposite experience that he grew up in. His time here set him up on a path to entrepreneurship and the technology field. The program wasn't focused on performance but took a more generalist approach, which was similar to starting a startup. You have your initial idea, you raise capital, and you work to find your audience. Working together as a team is very important because even if one show isn't successful, you never know if the next one will be. Everyone always thinks there is a secret formula to success, but in reality, there isn't. You never know what your audience will think about your product until you put it out there. Look at the famous show Hamilton for example. If someone pitched it to investors in an elevator, they would probably have no interest in it. That's just how the industry works. Being comfortable in uncertainty is key. 


Innovating in the Theater Industry

Differentiating the experience is key to drawing in crowds. When the theater industry looks to innovate, they are often stuck with a lot of constraints. They have limited space and often have old, worn-down buildings. They focus on creating a special experience that is deep and powerful so that the fan is willing to accept things like waiting in lines to get tickets. There is a lot of competition for live events. People only have so many hours in the day and a limited attention span. You have to be where your fans are. It's not as simple as just putting up a website. 


Shows are typically not selling their shows directly. They often rent a property like a stadium and use a ticketing system that they don't have full control over. helps partners find what they are looking for in tickets and at a specific price-point in a personalized way. In most cases, the partner is the event producer of a show. They aren't a ticket reseller or broker, they are just facilitating the sale and generating data for the event producer to see what most people are looking for.

Micah never thought he would end up in the tech field given his background. His last employment opportunity was with Jujamcyn Theaters as the VP of Company Operations. During this time, he met a company called Satisfi Labs that pitched them an idea for an AI product in large arenas. This product would use location services to help people find things near them or ask questions if needed. They didn't have much of a use of this product, as Broadway theaters are generally very small. His current partner Jon Scott asked what would happen if they used this approach for selling tickets. Micah jumped on the idea and got to work. He brought it up to his owner and was encouraged to take the steps to do it. Micah and his team branched off and raised funds to launch their own company and invested some of the funds into Satisfi and their partnership. 


Advice for the Listeners

Micah says that any good idea will take time. You have to be patient. You're never done with the process in the tech world. You need a long-term focus to get to where you want to be. As innovators, we can often see the end result. However, the path to get there is never straight. You need to work with people that are smarter than you and often challenge you to keep up. 


If you want to keep up with what Micah is doing, check out his LinkedIn and Twitter. Check out his website here


About our Guest: Micah Hollingworth 

As CEO and Co-Founder of and two decades of experience in creating, operating, and marketing live events, Micah is an innovator in the entertainment space. With, Micah has recreated the audience experience, moving the customer conversation to the web from the box office window.


Direct download: AI_Opens_on_Broadway.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Innovation efforts require a structure to stay organized and for successful execution. Many organizations have weak frameworks, which in turn, weaken their overall effectiveness. This week, we'll look at an innovation framework that I use and have used throughout my career, known as FIRE. We'll also discuss how you can utilize this framework within your organization. 

Framework Versus Process

Think of a framework as the components needed to empower your team to be highly successful within innovation. Innovation frameworks and processes are not the same things. A framework is a construct that all organizations understand they need to have. A process is what is built on top of the framework to do the individual elements. I am not a big fan of processes as they often don't work because they require tailoring to the individual organization.

In the past, organizations have tried to use the process that I used at HP. Kroger used it, and Stanford and Harvard's business schools teach it. If you pick up this process and use it, you are not going to be successful. The process needs specific tailoring to work for you. Each organization requires a unique procedure, as each one has different structures, needs, and resources.


A framework gives your team a mental model for conversations, motivation, and overall understanding. Here are four vital elements needed in every innovation framework:

Focus – Focus defines and researches the opportunity or problem area where you are going to point your team. It would be best if you investigate and determine the focus area. I create a list of 4-6 areas of focus with my team. Next, you need to create a problem statement that drives people to find a solution. Creating a problem statement is not an easy task, but it is vital. With a problem statement, you will increase the quantity and quality of your ideas. 

Ideation – Based on your focus, create a funnel of ideas that address the opportunity or problem. The funnel is where you generate your ideas. Step one is to do both individual and team ideation. I have found that when you combine both individual and team ideation, you increase the quality of your ideas by 30%. Step two is grouping the ideas. You can use Jamboard or post-it notes to bring those ideas together and generate that funnel. You want to capture all those ideas and make sure nothing gets thrown out. 

Ranking – This is the element that most innovation frameworks leave out. The driver for ranking is to use it to identify the best ideas based on specific criteria. The goal is to create criteria to identify a ranked list so that you can take the top two or three ideas. I teach a two-stage ranking process. The first stage is what I call the "wow stage." Everyone is given five dots and walks up to the list of ideas and puts their dots on ideas they think are the best. Next, you have criteria ranking, which varies by organization. It would help if you did the ranking in the same session as the "wow stage." 

Execution – You have to drive execution, which is very specific to an organization. It would be best if you had a test/experimentation on the idea. Next, you have to have an experimentation culture that is continuously experimenting and getting feedback. Lastly, you have to get a minimal viable product into the customer's hands. 


Let's review what we learned about the innovation framework. I refer to this framework as the FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, and Execution) framework. When you bring these elements together, you have all the components needed to be effective in your innovation efforts. Each of these requires a process that is unique to your organization. If you don't have these four elements, you are fooling yourself. Used by thousands of organizations around the world, this framework is what I personally use and teach. A part of the bigger picture known as box think, the framework shows us to view things through different eyes. 

If you want to check out the diagrams from this show, as well as other materials from previous shows, click the link here.


Direct download: 4_Required_Elements_of_an_Innovation_Framework.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Crafting well-written problem statements that focus the idea of creation are critical. Albert Einstein said, "If I only had one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and five minutes finding the solution." This week, we will discuss combining out of the box thinking with inside the box thinking, and how this can be used to create problem statements and solve your problems. 

Problem Statements

Well-defined problem statements are freeing because they allow a team to innovate within certain guardrails. The goal of a problem statement is to solve a problem, remove a barrier, or improve an experience. One key characteristic of a problem statement is that it has to be solvable. It's not just about solving the problem but being able to define it within the confines of your resources. Some problem validation questions need to be applied.

Firstly, do you think it is a problem or is it a problem? If you think it's a problem, chances are it might not be. You are not a proxy for your customers. You have to prove that it is a problem by getting feedback from your customers. Secondly, find out how often this problem occurs and how long it has been occurring. 

The elements of a problem statement focus on three key areas: who the customer is, what the problem is, and why it is important.

  • Who is the customer – Who is the target? Outline the broad or narrow customer segments. You need to define and describe the customer. 
  • What is the problem – Define the problem that is occurring.
  • Why – Find out why it is crucial to solving the problem, and why you are spending time on it.


Let's look at an example of a first draft problem statement. Middletown Hospital's current diagnosis protocol and tools are resulting in low diagnosis effectiveness/efficiency causing up to 40% of its critical care patients painful extended treatments while substantially reducing the hospital's earning potential and resource efficiency.

Let's try to make this statement more concise. Middletown Hospitals' current diagnosis protocol and tools are resulting in low diagnosis effectiveness/efficiency, substantially reducing the hospital's earning potential and resource efficiency. This statement is better as effectiveness and efficiency stand out, but we can do better.

Middletown Hospitals' current diagnosis protocol and tools are resulting in low diagnosis effectiveness and efficiency, causing up to 40% of its critical care patients painful extended treatment periods. I think this one is good because it defines the problem and why it is essential, but we're going to try to make it a little better. Up to 40% of critical care patients are experiencing painful extended treatment periods due to low diagnosis effectiveness and efficiency of current diagnosis protocols and tools.

The one characteristic seen through these four examples is that they are getting shorter and more precise each time. Spending time thinking about the problem statement and making it efficient and crisp is critical. The example was an actual problem statement used to help an organization for ideation sessions they wanted to host. 

Here is a template that I use when crafting my problem statements. The what (describe the problem) effects the who (describe the customer), resulting in (Describe why it's important/what the benefit is). 

Box Think

Box think is doing both inside the box thinking and out of the box thinking. Using this process, an organization can create a complete collection of ideas that lead to better innovations. The first step of box think is to define the problem statement. Secondly, you need to identify your industry/company constraints. What are the operational rules of your company and industry? For inside the box thinking, you want to operate within those constraints. For out of the box, you want to remove those constraints and modify the problem statement accordingly.

Now I am going to walk you through a real example from when I was at HP. Our laptops are highly personal items, therefore, need to be designed and marketed to target demographics to increase sales in next year's peak selling season. The first constraint here was a time constraint. The peak selling season for laptops is the Christmas holiday season. The second constraint was the demographic that was going to be targeted. The product that ended up coming from this problem statement was a digital clutch designed by Vivienne Tam.


It would be best if you took the time to understand the problem before you expect your team to be effective at generating ideas. If you aren't sure what problems to target, you need to ideate on the problems. People tend to seek solutions when they find problems, which can be difficult. You need to ideate problems and then rank them accordingly. Set aside an hour to identify the top one or two problems, which will turn into problem statements. Crank out as many problems that you can find without worrying about solutions. Rank your problems and then allow your team to vote. After you identify your problems, choose the goal and timeline that you will apply to move forward. 

Direct download: Box_Think_-_Crafting_The_Problem_Statement.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Box Think is doing both inside the box thinking and out of the box thinking. As we discussed in past shows, out of the box thinking is what most people use when they think of creative thinking. People often overlook what I call inside the box thinking and try to stay away from it.

Out Of The Box Thinking

The term “out of the box thinking” is a metaphor that means to think from a new perspective. It originally came from some management consulting firms that were trying to solve problems in new ways. The term was attached to a concept known as the nine-dot problem.

When challenged to do “out of the box thinking,”, you need to utilize risk-oriented thinking. You need to take all the risk constraints out of the scenario, whether it is financial, technology-based, etc.

Next, you need to rely on shared thinking. Shared thinking can be hard but is necessary to accelerate your ability to “think outside the box.”

Lastly, practice reflective thinking. We all love our ideas, as they are our “babies.” In some cases, we need to take a step back and take our emotions out of it. We need to distance ourselves from our ideas and look at other views as well. Set aside time to practice all of these thinking processes, and you will be able to successfully “think outside the box.”

Inside The Box Thinking

‘Inside the box thinking' means to innovate within the constraints defined by the box. It is more generally described as constraint-based innovation. The idea behind it is understanding your constraints and utilizing those constraints to innovate beyond the box. The box can be an organization, government, or even a team. It defines where you are operating here and now. The box can contain inside constraints that you can change.

Most people tend to think that good ideas only come from out of the box thinking, which is not true. Inside the box thinking is to constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it. Inside the box thinking is also to constrain the atmosphere, but not the team. Inside the box thinking is restricting the resources but not the ways to utilize them.

Constraint-based innovation is hugely powerful in limiting resources and can empower a team to create something novel.

Box Think

Box Think is the process of combining BOTH outside the box and inside the box thinking. To ensure you have a complete view of all possibilities for innovation, you need to do both and this is done by crafting problem statements that challenge the teams during ideation/brainstorming to look at the problem in both ways.

For more on Box Think, then download the free resources here.


Direct download: Box_Think__Combining_out_of_the_Box_and_Inside_the_Box_Thinking.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest has been around in the innovation industry for quite some time. We know a lot of the same people as we were at two companies that worked closely together. Brad Chase is an author and a former Senior VP at Microsoft. We will discuss innovation advantage through strategy and insights from his book, Strategy First: How Businesses Win Big

Brad’s Background

Brad’s stepfather used to go to Heathkit stores to find computer parts and build computers. Through this, Brad saw a lot of future potential in personal computers. He ended up going to business school, and after finishing, he interviewed with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and HP. He ended up landing a job with Microsoft, where he spent 14 years exploring innovative advantages. While at Microsoft, Brad led the marketing efforts for the Windows 95 launch. It was the first operating system to help PCs go mainstream. Windows 95 ushered personal computers, Microsoft and Bill Gates into the mainstream media and technology world. 


Brad learned a lot about strategy from Bill Gates. At Microsoft, he learned how the company had bet on the PC. They believed there would be a PC in every home on every desk, running Microsoft software. Right away, he learned that making bets is vital to success. If you bet on the wrong thing, you fail, but if you bet on the right thing, you will have a chance at success.


When Brad first started, Microsoft was doing poorly on word processing and spreadsheets and was behind its competitors. Microsoft decided to bet on a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and made a big risky bet on Windows, which turned out to be very successful. They eventually went on to become the leader in applications by using innovative advantages. Microsoft built most of their applications from the ground up.

A significant difference between Microsoft and Apple was that anyone could build a Windows computer as well as applications for it. Apple was a closed ecosystem where the users were not able to do that. 

Strategy First: How Businesses Win Big

When Brad was talking strategy to different businesses and MBA students, people would always ask him if he had a book. He did some research and found out there were no books that talked about strategy in a clear and easily understandable way, and that is how his book was born. The purpose of the book is to show that strategy is the most important thing to the success of a business leader and to give a model and tips about how to build a good strategy.

In many organizations, the strategy can mean a thousand different things. Brad defines strategy as a plan to compete with three key elements: execution, market potential, and customer value. Customer value is the inherent value of a product or service to a customer. The market potential is generally about how much profit you can make.

In some businesses, it might be how many customers you have, such as Twitter. At the Innovation Bootcamp, we don’t look at financials first when evaluating an idea. We say to value the idea first on the standpoint of impact and to achieve the objective. Once you’ve identified those ideas, you build a hypothesis on what the market potential is. Some people lose focus on the idea and don’t add the strategy in, which is a bad idea. 

Advice for the Listeners

Brad gives five key tips for building a new strategy in his book. The first is to seek change. Whenever there is a change in the market, such as COVID-19, there is a strategic opportunity to put innovative advantages into play. The internet, as an example, has made some businesses fail, and others succeed. Secondly, mind the gaps. Minding the gaps is about looking at the key areas of strategy and seeing where people aren’t doing well, then filling those gaps. Lastly, do a strategy off sight. First, assess your current strategy. Then, discuss where you want to take your strategy with your team. Talking things out and being aligned with a strategy is so very important. Leaders not aligned with a strategy will fail. No team sport will succeed unless everybody is on the same page. 

About our Guest: Brad Chase

Brad Chase has advised leaders of businesses of many different sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 firms. Some of the companies he has worked with include GE, Telstra, VMware, Mozy (a subsidiary of EMC), Blucora, Sonos, Vizrea, and Crisply. He has also held leadership positions on the boards of many companies and nonprofit organizations, including Expedia, Ooyala, DreamBox, Brooks, Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, and The Nature Conservancy. As a public speaker, Brad has spoken about his particular theory on business strategy, Strategy First. He has talked to executives at large and small businesses, incubators, at conferences, and to students at top-flight MBA programs. Before consulting, board work, and speaking, Brad spent 14 years at Microsoft finishing his tenure as a Senior Vice President and Executive Officer managing a team of over 4,000.

If you want to keep updated with what Brad is doing, check out his website, and book here. Check out his LinkedIn here.


Direct download: Using_Strategy_to_Create_Innovation_Advantage.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s guest is a follow up of a show we did recently around 3D printing. A lot of the listeners were interested in learning more about the overall tools and techniques of 3D printing. Andy Roberts, Vice President, inventor, and lead developer of Live Parts™ at Desktop Metal joins us today. On today’s show, we will discuss 3D printing and how Andy and Live PartsTM seeks to innovate the manufacturing process.


Andy’s Background

Andy was in the software industry for many years before getting involved with 3D printing. Eventually, he wanted to be involved in something more tangible like manufacturing. When Desktop Metal started, he saw an opportunity to innovate manufacturing by mixing software with hardware through 3D printing technology. I have a little background in subtractive manufacturing (building by removing material), as my father worked at an old milling machine company. When it comes to additive manufacturing (building by adding material), it is quite interesting. Technology is so sophisticated that it can create finished or near-finished products. It allows parts to be made in ways that they weren’t able to be made before. Desktop Metal is building these printers for the creation of products, as well as the software so people know how to properly use them. That is important because if a user is not from a manufacturing background, this software allows them to create quality parts. 


Live PartsTM

Andy was interested in innovating manufacturing by creating new design tools for engineers. One day he was looking out a window and watching trees blow in the wind. He thought about nature and how no one designs a tree, but rather plants the seed and it grows and adapts on its own. He started studying cells and how individual cells grow and take the form of different shapes. He created a prototype design tool based on this process. While it seemed like a cool idea twelve years ago, the technology was not there, so Andy put it on the shelve and pursued other ventures. Four years later, Desktop Metal was started, and Andy reached out to them to help build this software through 3D printing. The process starts with an assembly of existing parts. You then designate the regions that have to connect to different parts and send the information to the system. You need to specify the material which defines the strength of the parts. The system knows to get rid of excess material for less weight or to add material for more strength. 


The Creation Process

Andy walked us through a video showing the process of a skateboard being created by Live PartsTM. The parts were shown growing to fill in the regions connecting the parts. Next, they went through a process of adapting, in which old cells were killed off and new cells were spawned. The analysis of the part simultaneously takes place as the part grows, similarly to what happens in nature. When it comes to different materials, the parts can be very different. Engineers have the opportunity to choose different materials and change them during the process based on their wants. The parts react just like living cells and adapt accordingly, which is how Live PartsTM has innovated manufacturing through 3D printing. 


Advice for the Listeners

In the innovator space, there is a lot of interest in rapid prototyping to get ideas tangible. Many innovators have the ideas but don’t have a mechanical background or any experience with 3D printing. Andy recommends that innovators get their feet wet with 3D printing in some sort of capacity. If you work for an organization that has access to printing materials such as plastic or polymer, start using them. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of using these technologies. A common misconception is that you just push a button and it starts printing things. There are a lot of details and constraints that will affect your design when you are attempting to innovate manufacturing. You don’t have to buy a 3D printer to get involved in it. There are a lot of places that have access to 3D printers so you can get started.


About our Guest: Andy Roberts 

Andy Roberts is Vice President, inventor and lead developer of Live Parts™, a new generative design tool at Desktop Metal that uses morphogenetic principles to enable engineers and designers to quickly realize the benefits of additive manufacturing, including material and cost efficiency, and design flexibility. A graduate of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with extensive experience at leading technology innovators such as Parametric Technology Corp., Ab Initio, Azuki Systems, and IBM, Andy has a proven track record of bringing to market successful products for engineers and developers.


If you want to keep updated with what Andy is doing with Live Parts, check out Desktop Metal’s website here.


Direct download: How_to_Use_Nature_to_Innovate_Manufacturing.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest innovates in an area that most view as already being innovated to its max potential. This view can’t be further from the truth, as this innovator and his team have made game-changing new products. Dave Fabry, Chief Innovation Officer at Starkey, joins us to discuss the innovation of hearing aids. We will discuss innovations in audio and what Dave and Starkey are doing to advance hearing aids technology. 


Dave’s Background

Dave is not the typical CIO, as he didn’t come from a tech background. Growing up, he wanted to be a veterinarian and found audiology while on that path. In the early 1980s, Dave went to the Mayo Clinic as an extern, and fell in love with clinical practice and working one-on-one with those who suffered from bad hearing but were reluctant to use aids. After getting his PHD., he went on to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he got direct exposure to acoustic pathology that many soldiers struggle with. Later in his career, he switched over from the clinical side of audiology to the industry side, and that eventually lead him to Starkey. 


Starkey’s Mission

In the U.S, only one in three people that need hearing aids wear them. If people become complacent with that, they leave room for a newcomer to disrupt. The mission at Starkey is to self-disrupt the market while still focusing on its core strategy of better hearing. They wanted to provide the first hearing aid with employed sensors connected to the internet. Starkey aims to turn hearing aids from something that people have to wear, into something they want to have and wear. On the show, we have talked about battling innovation antibodies, and how people deal with their innovation antibodies in an organization. At Starkey, Dave challenges himself to look at what the needs of the patient are rather than what his perspective would lead him to believe. He wears the products at times and works directly with patients when working on new technology. Many organizations view innovation programs as lab-oriented activities. You need to get out there and see first-hand what the customer is interested in, to fill their needs and wants genuinely. 


Starkey’s Features

Dave has a relatively young staff under him at Starkey. The average first-time hearing aid user is 67 years old. Starkey continually has to adjust their perspective to that of the end-user as they do not see things the same way as their older users might. On top of that, they have to care enough to learn about the patient’s situation. They are increasingly taking in consideration of other elements that the family and users need. One challenge of innovating for an aging population is the intimidation factor. For me, I had my Starkey’s custom-built to help me hear questions coming from large audiences, and I’m a tech-savvy person. If it were my grandparents in the same situation, it would go right over their heads. Starkey focuses on creating hearing that is useful and effective without much effort from the user. They recently introduced Edge Mode that uses AI technology that provides an acoustic analysis of the situation by just tapping on the device. Starkey has partnered with companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon to take advantage of cloud computing. They also have a feature called thrive care that allows the family to monitor the user’s activity from an app with the user’s permission. They also have Bluetooth features that are compatible with iPhone and Android platforms. 



Starkey is continuously working on multi-functionality for its users. One unique challenge is similar to a problem I had at HP, which is battery life. A little bit of optimization makes a big difference, as battery life is only going up 10% a year. At Starkey, they have rapidly changed from regular batteries to rechargeable batteries that give more efficiency to their product. Innovation isn’t about reinventing the wheel but instead thinking about what is in front of you differently. 


About our Guest: Dave Fabry

Dave Fabry, Ph.D., is the Chief Innovation Officer at Starkey leading end-to-end innovations within the clinical audiology department. Dave received his Ph.D. in hearing science from the University of Minnesota. Subsequently, he divided his career between academic/clinical roles at the Mayo Clinic, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the University of Miami Medical Center, and several industry positions. He served as President and Board Member of the American Academy of Audiology, and recently, elected to the Board of Directors of the American Auditory Society. Dave has served as Editor-in-Chief of Audiology Today since 2008 and is a past Editor of the American Journal of Audiology and Section Editor of Ear and Hearing. He is a licensed Audiologist in Minnesota, Florida, and Rwanda. His 30+ years of industry experience and proven ability to implement forward-thinking concepts are instrumental in shaping future innovations at Starkey.


If you want to keep update with what Dave and Starkey are doing, check out their Facebook here. Check out Starkey’s website here.

Direct download: Audio_Innovations_You_Can_Hear.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Over the last few weeks, we have been focusing the shows on different thinking styles, such as out of the box thinking. This week's topic is a different twist on what we have been recently discussing. People often overlook what I call inside the box thinking and try to stay away from it. On today's show, we will discuss inside the box thinking and how it can be utilized in any team or organization to boost innovation success.


Inside the Box Thinking

'Inside the box thinking' means to innovate within the constraints defined by the box. It is more generally described as constraint-based innovation. The idea behind it is understanding your constraints and utilizing those constraints to innovate beyond the box. The box can be an organization, government, or even a team. It defines where you are operating here and now. The box can contain inside constraints that you can change. It may also include outside the box constraints that are out of your control. Let's look at what those constraints can look like:


  • Strategy/Vision – Going into a particular market with a fixed and specific plan.
  • Policies/Procedures – Depending on how these are set up, they can be very constraining.
  • Decision Making – Who makes the decisions? What are the decision-making criteria?
  • Resource Allocation – How does your organization allocate resources (time, people, money, equipment)?


The Seven Laws of Innovation

Dealing with inside constraints can be a tough task. What I like to call the seven laws of innovation, are laws that are critically important for inside the box thinking. Here's what the seven laws mean: 


  • Leadership – Having leaders within an organization that support innovation is critical. An alignment amongst the organization must happen to achieve innovation success.
  • Innovation Culture – Culture is key because an innovation culture encourages people to get out and try new ideas. Likewise, a bad culture can drag an organization down.
  • Resources – It is critical to have resources that are devoted to innovation, and to use your best resources. 
  • Patience – Inside innovation takes time. Stay committed. 
  • Innovation Framework Process – You need to have an innovation framework process that is tailored to your organization's culture. 
  • Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – What is the colossal objective that you are going to pursue? The goal needs a timeline and plan of execution. 
  • Execution – Remember that ideas without execution are hobbies. There is no value without execution. 


Outside Constraints

These can include competition, outside investments, partners/suppliers, government regulations, etc. I've worked in regulated industries, which have given me a good perspective on what this is all about. Outside constraints are typically outside of your control and have been imposed upon you. These don't always have to be negative and can often be used to your advantage. Let's look at what these are:


  • Competition – If your competitor is much larger than you, they can invest and fund a lot more than you. You can innovate around the economy of scale by blowing it up. Look at what Uber and Lyft did to the taxi and rental car industry. 
  • Outside Investments – Innovation requires capital. It is challenging to do game-changing innovations without capital these days. That being said, there are a ton of different ways to get capital. 
  • Partners/Suppliers – If you combine your innovation efforts with partners, you can bring products to market faster. I call this co-innovation, and I have done this a lot throughout my career. A common interest and culture are vital when partnering with someone. 
  • Government Regulations – Governments can define regulations that restrict your access to raw materials/different markets. Sometimes you have to meet specific requirements to operate in a particular market. 



Like I mentioned earlier, people tend to think that good ideas only come from out of the box thinking, which is not true. Inside the box thinking is to constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it. Problem statements are critical because they radically increase the quantity and quality of your ideas. Inside the box thinking is also to constrain the atmosphere, but not the team. This is around culture and giving permission and autonomy to innovate. You don't want to limit the team so that they can't innovate ideas. Another part of inside the box thinking is restricting the resources but not the ways to utilize them. Constraint-based innovation is hugely powerful in limiting resources and can empower a team to create something novel. 

Direct download: Inside_the_Box_Thinking.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week we are joined by a guest who has helped a wide range of companies speed up the process of innovation. John Carter, an inventor of Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones, designer of Apple’s New Product Process, and founder of TCGen Inc., joins us to talk innovation. On today’s show, we will discuss the lessons John learned while working under Dr. Bose, and how you can better your innovation pursuits.



John believes that viewing things as a system rather than individual components helps achieve more profound innovations. By system, John means a collection of components that lead to consumer value. He found his interest in systems while studying engineering at Harvey Mudd College. His interest was focused on sound systems, so he pursued a master’s degree at MIT after graduating. While at MIT, he got connected with Dr. Bose and went on to work at Bose for 15 years. John learned many life-changing lessons from Dr. Bose that greatly impacted his career. 


Lessons Learned

While at Bose, John worked on noise-canceling headphones for seven years. He learned an important innovation lesson right away while working on microphones for headphones and quality loudspeakers. His first two projects were solely with Dr. Bose and a technician. During the first couple of months, they were making great progress on the headphones but were having some challenges. Dr. Bose decided to drop the other program and focus on the headphones. While focusing on improving the base and distortion of the headphones, they realized that the customers wanted noise cancelation. As the inventor, they thought they knew how the customer would like the product, and they were dead wrong. John and his team made the mistakes of not understanding the true benefits of the product and overengineering. When I was at HP, there was a lot of overengineering with our printing business. We were engineering way out on the curve, while the customers couldn’t even tell the difference that we thought was noticeable. John says that Bose was able to beat its competitors by not focusing on improvements that aren’t very noticeable. 


The Importance of Marketing

In the last segment, we talked about the patience required through the innovation process. The noise-canceling headphones have always impressed me, not just the product, but how it was brought to the market. $300 noise-canceling headphones were so new and radical to the market. Some of the greatest innovations at Bose were done on the marketing and sales front, not the product. They used simple product mission statements such as “great sound from small packages”. While John was developing products in the lab, Dr. Bose was focused on retail and marketing experiments. He used an innovation process of successive refinement and thought outside the box. Firstly, he tried selling Bose products door to door. Next, he went to direct mail by putting coupons in magazines. Lastly, he went through a radio station that covered various products. This allowed Bose to build a dedicated fan base and taught John the importance of third-party credibility. Having someone else in a position of authority talk about you in glowing terms is very impactful. Dr. Bose was an amazing innovator when it came to marketing. His willingness to experiment, fail, and try again is what brought Bose to where they are today. Failure is education and is about cutting out dead alleys to find the right way. 


Advice for the Listeners

One common question I get is around innovation investment. In John’s experience, you should spend about 10% of your budget innovation three-five years into the future. When I first got to HP, innovation was a low percentage of the budget. Over time, we shifted to using 10% of our budget on innovation as well. For smaller organizations, John says a rule of thumb is to fund about ten to twenty thousand dollars a year of every technical person you have on board as an investment. Many organizations hurt themselves by not hiring the right people and not letting them do their thing. Having small teams and a high focus is very important for innovation success. 


If you want to keep updated with what John is doing, check out his website here. Check out his book here


About our Guest: John Carter

John Carter is a widely respected expert on product development. He is an inventor of Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones and designer of Apple’s New Product Process. As Founder of TCGen Inc., he has consulted for Abbott, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, Mozilla, Roche, and 3M. He is the author of “Innovate Products Faster,” featuring more than 40 tools for accelerating product development speed and innovation. John has an MS in Engineering from MIT.


Direct download: Innovation_Lessons_from_Bose.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

We are picking up where we left off from last week's show. Lasts week, we discussed out of the box thinking, which means to think from a different perspective. In part 1, we discussed thinking differently and thinking unconventionally. On this week's show, we will discuss thinking specifically from a new perspective. 


Recap of Part 1

We started last week talking about thinking styles. Some of us may have multiple styles, such as myself. I like to come up with creative ideas, but also tend to be an analyst that likes collecting information. Next, we talked about thinking differently. We discussed seven different ways that are vital to thinking differently. You want to practice strategic, inquisitive, big-picture thinking, focused, risk-oriented thinking, shared-thinking, and reflective thinking. As I shared last week, one of these is not better than the other. You should do all seven of these in some scheduled way. Set some time on your calendar to utilize each of these seven types of thinking. Set an hour a week for strategic thinking, then another hour for inquisitive thinking. Ask what questions you should be asking of your team or customers. Step back and take some time to look at the big picture. For focus thinking, go somewhere isolated where you can focus on an opportunity area. For risk-oriented thinking, find someone more willing to take the risks that you won't. For shared thinking, collect ideas from people. For reflective thinking, set aside all of these times to reflect on new ideas. 


New Perspective

One key area of thinking outside the box is to think from a new perspective. It would be best if you change your perspective by taking a different route than your current one. One challenge that I give my staff is to take a different path to work. Sometimes we get in the zone and don't notice new things as we are stuck in the same route every day. 

Firstly, we need to get a new perspective to help us see customers, products, and opportunities differently. Let's look at five ways to do this:

Naturalism – This is an approach where one sits back and observes. At HP we did a project on lower-middle-class members in India. The project was looking at communication with family members that had gone to college and moved to Europe or North America. Instead of asking questions, we stayed in people's homes. We observed how they interacted and communicated right then and there, which was an eye-opening experience. 

Participant Observation – This is observing while asking questions. The best example of this is when I would go into Best Buy to observe and ask customers why they chose a product other than HP's.

Interview – This is a large observation. We do this for our Innovation Bootcamp, where we bring customers to dinner, and the students in the class ask the audience questions. 

Survey – This is gathering information about the group. The best way to do this is by asking questions of different types. A variation of this is focus groups. I am not of a big fan of focus groups and surveys because I think bias can be injected into the surveys based on the questions asked. 

Archival Research – There is a ton of work that has been done by other researchers. You can learn from others, so find research that may disagree with you and look at it transparently. Get out of your comfort zone, because changing your perspective can help you find that next great idea. 


The Customers Perspective

Now we will discuss how to walk in your customer's shoes. The best way to do this is to create a customer journey map. This tool examines how your customers interact with you. Let's look at what is needed to do this:

Establish User Personas – This is a semi-fictional character based on your prospective and current customers. You take a collection of your customers from surveys or observational studies and categorize them. Allow yourself to think about it in the context of that customer.

Understand Your Customer Touch Points – How will your customers interact from start to finish? You need to understand their perspective of your ads, websites, product quality, etc. 

Actors Who Influence Your Customers – These are people out of your control who can influence a positive or negative experience. If I am at Best Buy observing/talking to people and someone brings a friend with them, that friend can have a significant impact on what product they end up buying. 

The first thing you want to do when you have all of this is to create an empathy map. An empathy map examines how the customer feels during each interaction. An example of this is Chick-fil-A employees saying my pleasure after serving you. Next, you want to sketch the customer's journey on a whiteboard, post-it notes, mind map, etc. This process helps create innovations that will have a considerable impact. 


This two-part series was about out of the box thinking. In part one, we discussed different thinking styles. It is crucial to understand how others think and to have people with varying styles of thinking on your team. Next, you want to think differently through all seven of the styles previously stated. In part two, we discussed getting a different perspective. Do interviews, invite prospects to dinner, do surveys, etc. Next, create a customer journey map and personas to get into the customer's shoes. Then, understand how customers interact and how they are influenced. Lastly, create a customer empathy map and sketch your customer journey to find how to make their experience better. 

Direct download: Out_Of_The_Box_Thinking_-_Part_2.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week, we will cover a topic that is a bit of a spinoff from a show on buzzwords that I recently did. A listener of the show was confused about buzzwords and buzzphrases that are often used in the innovation space and sent me an email. We will discuss the buzzphrase “out of the box thinking,” analyze it, and discuss how you can think outside of the box to gain an edge in the world today.

Out of the Box Thinking

The term “out of the box thinking” is a metaphor that means to think from a new perspective. It originally came from some management consulting firms that were trying to solve problems in new ways. The term was attached to a concept known as the nine-dot problem. The idea is a 3 x 3 grid of dots formed in the shape of a square, equaling nine dots. The challenge is to draw a line through all nine dots without retracing over a previous line or lifting your pen. You need to use out of the box thinking to solve this problem. Initially, four lines in sort of a triangle shape were commonly used. Next, someone came up with drawing three-wide lines going around the box, touching all the dots. Then, someone solved the problem with one very fat line. If you’ve been a long-time listener of the show, you have heard me give the challenge of answering what half of thirteen is. If you answered 6.5, you’d get an A on your math test. On an innovation test, I’d give you a C-, because you solved it with one easy answer. You could write it out as 1 and 3 and split it vertically, creating two digits. You could also write it out as Roman Numeral thirteen and split it vertically, which gives you eleven and two. There are thousands of different ways to answer these types of questions. The key is to not stop at the most obvious answer or to say it does not have an answer. Part of thinking out of the box is to think differently and understand the problem from a different perspective.

Thinking Styles and Types

We each have our natural thinking styles. It’s important to know what your preferred style of thinking is, and if you are a mix of different styles. Let’s dig into what those thinking styles are:


Synthesist – These people are creative and open to a wide range of ideas. The synthesist is an interesting type of person that is always exploring new things.

Idealist – These people are always working towards a big goal. They set the bar high for themselves and others around them. Idealists are great at achieving things that nobody thought could be done.

Pragmatists – These people take the logical approach to problem-solving. They tend to be focused on immediate results and driven by quarterly or annual achievements.

Analysts – These people are interested in the facts and data points. They have a clear procedure for doing things. They love data and are big on metrics. They get satisfaction from achieving success by using defined processes.

Realist – These people tackle problems head-on. They don’t feel challenged by everyday ambiguity. These are the people who get stuff done in an organization.

Once you know your style, you need to figure out how you can think differently to achieve success.


‘Thinking differently’ is the key question to tackle once you know your thinking style. I’m now going to share seven ways you can think differently. The key is to utilize all seven of these approaches to be free of blind spots:


Strategic Thinking – This helps prepare for uncertainty. It gives you a plan to prepare for the what-if situations. Strategic thinking puts you ahead of every situation that could occur.

Inquisitive Thinking – Question everything. This causes people to think differently and look at problems differently. This can be applied to everything. Ask questions to gain knowledge.

Big-Picture Thinking – This applies heavily to analysts. Think about the situation from another person’s lenses, whoever that may be. This gives you a different and valuable perspective.

Focus Thinking – This shuts out the operations and takes away distractions. You need time to think away from the everyday busyness of society.


How to Think Differently

When challenged to do “out of the box thinking,” there are a few ways you can approach it. Firstly, you need to utilize risk-oriented thinking. As a leader, you need to dream bigger than most. Whether you are a leader of teams or ideas, you need to think big. We tend to mentally apply a risk model to these situations, which needs to be eliminated from the thought process. You need to take all the risk constraints out of the scenario, whether it is financial, technology-based, etc. Once this is done, you will be more comfortable taking the necessary risks to be successful. Next, you need to rely on shared thinking. Collaboration in the innovation space is critical. You need to get input from others because you are not always the smartest person in the room. Shared thinking can be hard but is necessary in some cases to accelerate your ability to “think outside the box.” Lastly, practice reflective thinking. We all love our ideas, as they are our “babies.” In some cases, we need to take a step back and take our emotions out of it. We need to distance ourselves from our ideas and look at other views as well. Set aside time to practice all of these thinking processes, and you will be able to successfully “think outside the box.”

Direct download: Out_Of_The_Box_Thinking_-_Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s show is going to be a little different than usual, as I will be doing a solo show. On today’s show, we will discuss some current affairs, my opinions on them, and provide my answer to some fan feedback. 



One thing that has recently piqued my interest was the SpaceX Dragon demo launch. I was glued to the NASA stream and was quite impressed. The stream offered a great look at the inside of the rocket and I got to watch the rocket launch into space. As a kid, I watched Apollo’s launch and Neil Armstrong taking steps on the moon, which really exited me. I am a big believer in space due to the history of the U.S space program. It is an excellent catalyst for innovation, and I believe all governments have a role to encourage innovation. Technology such as a sensor to monitor blood/oxygen levels is just one of many creations that came from NASA. An innovative friend of mine, Gretchen McClain (former AD for NASA ISS), started a public-private partnership where the U.S paid others to build capabilities. The U.S module that is part of ISS was built by the Russians. I had the distinct privilege to be Gretchen’s guest at NASA to see the U.S module go up to be part of the ISS. Gretchen realized that to better explore space, it was important to co-innovate. We are seeing more and more of this being done by our government today. The key is to define a problem in such a way that people feel like they can solve it. 


The Future of Businesses

Over the weekend, a friend sent me an article from the Charter Tribune by Chris Jones. It was sent to me due to my interest in “megatrends” over the years. This article was looking at the impact on cities from COVID-19. The article was structured around the question of whether the cities would recover. My friends asked me what I thought about all of this based on my megatrends research. My research always focuses on 10-20 years out and is constantly changing. No one can predict anything too accurately, but it is more about laying out the range of possible futures to be better prepared. In the case of COVID, schools were out, businesses went to working from home, etc. Luckily, 80% of U.S homes have access to broadband services at home and have tools like Zoom to assist them. Zoom has turned out to be a big tool that a lot of people are using for school and work purposes. With all of this going on, we are learning how effective working at different locations other than the office can be. In my case, I have run the radio show from many locations such as Florida, Kentucky, Las Vegas, D.C, etc., and have done it with similar efficiency as in the studio. I see a future model of working from anywhere springing up rapidly due to COVID.  


Virtual Brainstorming

Last week, I took a meeting request from a key government agency in the U.S. They heard about the work I’ve been doing with the Marine Corps, VA hospitals, and in the past, the U.S Department of Education. They wanted to take what we have been doing with other agencies and apply it to them. I ran them through what we had done in the past, and how we do our one-day Ideation Workshops. One question that was posed was, “can this be done virtually?”. My answer was yes. It can be done just as good virtually. Since COVID, I have been putting out “Virtual Brainstorming Demonstrations” on YouTube and have been hosting virtual brainstorms. This has been made easy with tools like Jamboard. Through doing this, I have found that it can be more inclusive and diverse. You can invite anyone from the world to join the session without the cost of travel and extra constraints. This opens up more opportunities to build a better team. Another benefit is the fact that it requires less time. It takes little time to fire up a Zoom or Jamboard session and get working. More people will be willing to join in a session like this because of how hassle-free, efficient, and convenient it is. 


Innovation Misconceptions

Recently, I got an email from a listener of the show asking if it is a good time to start a business or invent a new product/service. This is tied to the question around COVID-19. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses and have had tons of conversations about this recently and throughout my career. People often have a great idea but haven’t done anything about it. It is often thought that innovation is for the young, but that is not the case. Vera Wang, fashion designer, didn’t start innovating till she was forty. Colonel Sanders of KFC didn’t get to franchising till his sixties. Henry Ford didn’t start his motor company until his forties. Age is not a constraining factor, and you can’t let it stop you from innovating. People often say, “don’t start a business in a recession/depression”. Companies like Disney and HP both started in a depression. Some think you need a special degree, which isn’t the case either. Some think you have to have all the contacts and a ton of money. There are many ways that you can work around those factors. Maybe you don’t know where to start. Firstly, you should find a community of people with similar passions. If you are an innovator like myself, join The Innovators Community. We have about one thousand members range from high-up CEOs to innovators working out of their garage, who are supporting each other. My final question to you, “What are you waiting for”?



Direct download: Thoughts_on_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week's guest comes from my family's neck of the woods, the state of Ohio. Jerry Abiog is the Co-founder and CMO of Standard Insights, an AI service growth platform. We will discuss his learning from past innovation failures, and how Standard Insights utilize AI to aid the growth of businesses.

Innovation Failures

Jerry and I share a mutual appreciation for Ohio, as both my family and Jerry are from there. While talking about the state, we got into discussing the funding programs for startups that Cincinnati offers. I have been supporting a company from Cincinnati called LISNR, which is an audio technology that allows you to embed data and audio that humans do not hear. I would describe Cincinnati as a non-traditional high-tech center, not as high up as Boston or Atlanta, but steadily growing in its technology presence.

Jerry has about 25 years of experience in sales and marketing. He left the corporate world around nine years ago to help out software companies with sales and marketing initiatives. Working with was an AI startup, which turned out to be an innovation failure, taught him a lot. Jerry said he learned that it doesn't matter what software platform you are selling. It has to be easy to use and solve your customer's problems. After this, he ended up meeting his co-founder, and Standard Insights was up and running.

Failures of an AI Startup

Jerry said that the main lesson he learned from the AI startup failure was that it can't always be about you. No one cares about how good your technology is unless you can solve a problem with it. When It comes to starting Standard Insights, the vision was to help businesses drive buyers with AI. There are great tools out there with regards to AI, but they are not on an easy-to-use platform. Standard Insights helps businesses target the right person with the right product or service at the right time. Standard Insights is different because they incorporate all the text stacks into one, making it simple and easy to email, text, or run social media campaigns. It's not about creating something that is a big breakthrough but making something that is already out there better.

Standard Insights and COVID-19

In the business world, there has been a new drive for digital transformation. With COVID, it has become an imperative thing. Grocery stores are taking online orders and doing curbside pickup, as well as restaurants taking orders and payments online. At Standard Insights, they developed a digital menu for restaurants last year, but it wasn't taken too well. Now, they are bringing it back and launching it. You can access the menu on your phone and order from there, making it faster to get your order in. It also benefits restaurants as they don't have to use Grubhub or Uber Eats, which costs them a good amount of extra money. In times of disruptive shock such as COVID-19, more and more innovative technologies continue to spring up.

Advice for the Listeners

Jerry gave some good advice from his experience as an entrepreneur. He said never to give up and always be open to learning. If it were not for his past innovation failures, he would not be where he is today. He said, try to do something difficult every day, if not professional, personal. He competes in Ironman fitness competitions, which helps him stay sharp for his business dealings. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, failure comes with the territory. I always tell entrepreneurs that innovation failures are part of the experience. Most investors look for entrepreneurs that have experienced failure.

About our Guest: Jerry Abiog

Jerry Abiog is a Co-Founder and CMO of Standard Insights, an AI service growth platform that enables businesses to execute data-driven omnichannel campaigns. Jerry has roughly 25 years of experience in sales and marketing and has been involved in several startups throughout his career. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Cincinnati.


If you want to keep update with what Jerry is doing, check out his LinkedIn here. Check out Standard Insights website here.

Direct download: Lessons_Learned_from_Past_Innovation_Failures_of_AI.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

While I was CTO at HP, I had the gaming division reporting to me. Also, I used to be a hardcore gamer, so gaming is something that has always held my interest. This week’s guest does an exciting twist on the typical gaming strategies/approaches. Austin Smith is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mission Control. We will discuss esport innovations, and what Mission Control is doing to change the esports world.


Austin found his passion for gaming while growing up and gaming with his brother and his friends. He does not consider himself a hardcore gamer but engages in gaming for social interaction and fun. Austin used to view gaming as something you either do on your own or occasionally with friends, but that changed. He sees esports as very similar to recreational sports. The social and community aspect of sports is what inspired Mission Control. You don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy game-changing esports with your friends.

I, too, realized how big the gaming market was when I attended a huge gaming event in Korea. This was in 2006, and there was around 45,000 people in attendance. The experience changed my view of gaming from a strictly social activity to a competitive sport.

Mission Control

Austin came from a line of business owners, so creating a business was natural to him. While in college, he befriended his co-founder, Byron. They worked on a lot of things together in college. They ended up getting hired and worked together professionally after college, growing their friendship and teamwork. Austin says they have overlapping values and visions, but also have very different personalities and skills that help them excel in their business. Austin said that he and his partner noticed how esports was growing and wanted to dive in and build something. They couldn’t walk away from it, and in late 2018 they left their jobs to pursue Mission Control.

Byron is very focused and is the one who executes, while Austin is more creative and acts as the visionary. Their team reminded me of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Jobs was the visionary, and Steve Wozniak put the vision into play. It is vital to find that compatible partnership early on in a business pursuit to be successful.

Esport Innovations

COVID-19 has given Mission Control an advantage as they provide social interaction but on a digital level. Gaming offers interaction and community through our rec-games, and they gained a lot of attention as soon as things started shutting down. Mission Control focuses on the micro-community. We gather those micro-communities from all over the place and create a social community of those people. We don’t focus on gathering the best players around the world but focus on having fun as a group.

Mission Control has been around for about a year now and launched a beta in 2019. Austin says they launched their product to a larger group and started scaling it in early 2020. In the past months, they have had 3 times the amount of plays than in their whole history. Duke University, MIT, and GameStop are some notable groups that use their product to create community experiences. Austin says that Mission Control’s biggest hurdle is giving everyone what they want. They are so many game-changing things you can add to a platform, so that is where it gets tough. Players do have a mobile app that they can download and schedule games. They can also communicate with other teams, similar to a fantasy league, but they are many other things that can be future add-ons.

When looking back, Austin said there are some things that they could’ve have done differently. Over planning is one thing that Mission Control struggled with early on, as they focused more on planning than executing. Austin says it is essential to have good people that specialize in different things around you. Austin found his staff while looking for intelligent, open, kind, and curious people.

If you want to keep track of Mission Control's esport innovations, check out their website here. Check out Austin Smith’s LinkedIn here.

About our Guest: Austin Smith

Austin Smith is the Co-founder and CEO of Mission Control, a platform for rec league esports, similar to a local adult softball league or college intramural — but video games. Mission Control manages the league schedule, validates scores, and determines the champion while serving as a community forum for league members and friends. Austin attended St. Louis University, where he studied Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Service Leadership.

Direct download: Game-Changing_Esport_Innovations_During_COVID-19.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest on Killer Innovations is one who has had innovation experience in a variety of different industries. Jonah Myerberg is the CTO at Desktop Metal, a company that specializes in metal and carbon fiber 3D printing technology. We will discuss 3D printing and what Desktop Metal is doing to aid in fighting COVID-19.

Jonah’s experience

Jonah started at Black & Decker, making power tools. He went on to work at Bose Corporations, which exposed him to a high level of innovation. The creation of A123 Systems reintroduced him to engineering, which his team eventually sold to a Chinese conglomerate. While at HP, I had the benefit of getting a personal demonstration from Dr. Bose himself. He spent 20 plus years of research on a suspension system, leading a great example of innovation. I don’t know any other organization that was committed to innovation on that scale for that amount of time. In the innovation game, some people tend to focus on the present rather than what can come in the future. Dr. Bose set a great example of how important long-term innovation is.

3D printing is an excellent example of this, as it came from “traditional” printing to the 3D printing technology we have available today. Jonah states that the huge killer innovation does not necessarily have to be your invention, but your invention can enable the next killer innovation.

Desktop Metal

Jonah was designing high-performance batteries for racing teams. While working with these racing teams, he saw how they efficiently and effectively used 3D printing to optimize their performance. He thought this technology was something that everyone should use, not just elite racers. Making 3D printing accessible to everybody who wanted to use it lead to the creation of Desktop Metal. There are so many industries that are attracted to 3D printing in one way or another. Apart from the automotive industry, consumer electronics invests heavily in single designs for small parts. The jewelry industry has to manufacture small metal parts and would love to print precious metals like silver, copper, and gold.

Judging the performance of produced parts is a traditional focal point for 3D printing. Fidelity is an essential factor in 3D printing, but performance is generally the central focus. The material needs to be strong and have the right chemistry for the intended purpose. At Desktop Metal, they realized that the big challenge is when new materials and processes get presented within 3D printing. They started with materials that were well known and commonly used. Even if the process of forming is different, many engineers feel comfortable using 3D parts built out of stainless steel because the material used is familiar.


Aiding the fight

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have come together to develop products to aid the situation. Desktop Metal opened its doors of technology and asked what they could do to help with the situation. They reached out to hospitals and essential workers and got a lot of feedback on needed supplies they could help out with. They had requests from the VA hospitals to make scuba masks into COVID-19 facemasks, as well as ventilators for other hospitals. Swabs were one highly requested item that Desktop Metal and some other companies teamed up to develop.

When it comes to the face masks, Desktop Metal was asked by doctors to design and provide a converter that would take an N95 filter and connect it to a scuba mask. As far as the ventilators go, hospitals acquired a ton of them after they had run out. The only issue was that there was no way to connect them. We ended up printing several connector pieces and attaching them to the ventilators.


Advice for the Listeners

Throughout Jonah’s wide-ranging career, he has had a lot of beneficial experience. When asked for advice if he was to mentor a new innovator starting a career, Jonah’s advice is to dive in. “Don’t be afraid to ask what needs to be fixed and try to fix it. Also, do not be afraid to fail at your attempt to fix it. Try to help people because they all have different challenges that need fixing. Don’t focus yourself in one area, instead learn broadly. Cross functionality is essential for success in innovation. Don’t reinvent the wheel; apply it in different areas.” 


If you want to stay up to date with Jonah Myerberg and Desktop Metal, check out their website here. Check out their LinkedIn here.

On today’s show, we will be doing something a bit different than that of our recent shows. We will be discussing buzzwords, things that are often misused in the innovation world and outside of it. 


Innovation Buzzwords

A buzzword is a term that can be technical or specific to an industry or a job function. It is often used to impress laymen, which often pushes people away. Some common examples would be synergy, which simply means working together. Another example would be clickbait, which is used as a negative slam for those who create content. Growth hacking is also a buzzword that has gone way overboard. It consists of trying to figure out how to grow an organization. Buzzwords are meant to simplify things for some people, but others often don’t know what they mean. It would be so much easier if we just simplified our language in a way that everyone could understand it.


 In the Innovation game, we have our own set of buzzwords that tend to drive people crazy. The number one innovation buzzword in my book is design-thinking. Design-thinking has been around for quite some time and is a term hated by actual designers. The original intent was to find a process where the needs of the user were conceived from the start of the project all the way through. These days, design-thinking has lost its meaning and fully turned into an innovation buzzword. 



The next innovation buzzword I want to discuss is ideation. Ideation is a term that I use a lot. We at The Innovators Network teach workshops on the process of ideation. What does it really mean? Ideation is a process where innovators generate ideas. People outside of the innovation industry can be highly annoyed by it. In reality it is a made-up word. What is the difference between ideation and brainstorming? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the difference. The output of both ideation and brainstorming is ideas. In some cases, you can argue the usage of ideation arose because as a way to find new clients.


The next buzzword is one that I also use a lot. The term disrupter describes someone who “rocks the boat”, coming into an existing industry with a unique and different angle. Disrupters may not necessarily be bad people, but they come in and disrupt already established settings. An example of this would be Uber changing the ride-hailing industry. Uber disrupted the industry earning itself the reputation of a disruptor. Along the lines of disrupter, we have the buzzword innovators. This is basically someone who introduces a new product, service, or a new strategy that is revolutionary. The challenge is that everyone and their mother says they are an innovator. People often describe themselves as innovators to be seen as extraordinary. As a result, it’s meaning has become less and less differentiated, making it hard to tell who’s really an innovator. Some argue that innovator is not a buzzword, but I say it is based on how much it is thrown around and applied so loosely. 


System-Thinking/Pain Points

The next innovation buzzword we will discuss is system-thinking. You may have heard of this from one of the big six consulting houses attempting to differentiate themselves. I used to be part of this group, so I understand what these companies are trying to do. They use the term system-thinking in which they look at complex things as systems rather than a defined and well-understood process. This concept is so vague that most people don’t know what it really means. They are trying to make something sound way more complex than it really is. Next, we have the buzzword pain points, which refer to answering the things that drive customers crazy. Another buzzword used is social innovation, which I have had a good amount of experience with. This term has been used to the point that it is almost meaningless. It is meant to focus on innovating to fix a social problem. 


Thought Leader/IMS

The next buzzword we will discuss is the term thought leader. This should be the goal of all aspiring innovation leaders, but this term can become cringe-worthy and overused. Do you call yourself a thought leader? Or do others call you a thought leader? You need to be genuine in your thought leadership and humble with it. Idea management software is a term that appeared in the last ten years. Its sole purpose is to capture and track ideas. The misuse of the term comes when people label their excel spreadsheets as idea management systems, which simply are not. Calling something an idea management system just because it is a popular buzzword is misusing the term. I often find myself using many of the buzzwords we discussed, which end up confusing people. My goal this year is to get rid of the barriers that separate those inside and outside the innovation arena, starting with buzzwords. 


Thanks for joining us. Check out my blog here and my book here. If you want fast updates on what I am doing, text innovation to 44222 (U.S), or send me an email to This will add you to my contact list and update you on any of my upcoming webinars. 




Direct download: Innovation_Buzzwords.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Due to the great feedback we received from our Virtual Brainstorming show last week, we will be doing another one this week. Our goal at the end of the show is to come up with a list of suggested features for our sponsor, Zoom. Zoom has experienced a lot of growth during the COVID-19 virus and has seen new usage in a lot of unique ways. Part of today’s objective is to show how you guys can conduct a virtual brainstorm by yourselves using Jamboard. The process will help you generate tons of new ideas on whatever issues, opportunities, or needs you and your organization may face.


Question 1

We will be dealing with three questions from the Killer Questions Card Deck derived from my book “Beyond the Obvious.” On the front of a Killer Questions Card, there is a set of questions. On the back, there is what I like to call “sparking questions,” which are there to push you to the next idea or unique insight. The card deck consists of who, what, and how cards that come in gold, blue, and green. Today we will be focusing on who and what. Question number one asks, “Who is using my product in a way I never expected?” The sparking questions are, “what problems and needs are you looking to address? Are you too focused on what you believe your customer’s problems and needs are that you are missing out on a potential opportunity?”. The second sparking question is, “how can you identify existing customers and observe how they use your product?”. Thirdly, “is there a way to allow your potential customers to play with and use your product without giving them specific parameters on how and when they should use it?”. Let’s hop onto Jamboard to get this session going:

  • Education – If there’s one thing regarding the use of Zoom that surprised me, it’s this one: 1:1 with teachers, virtual classrooms, students doing team projects, and students just hanging out together.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists - School-based therapists had to offer tele-practice services due to COVID-19 suddenly. 1:1 calls between therapists and clients provide the ability to see and hear each other. We have seen 3rd party apps that the therapist and client can do over Zoom to work on specific skills while having fun.
  • Musicians - Using Zoom to hold virtual concerts given that each musician is in their homes. For King & Country, they used virtual tools to write a new song called “Together.” Musicians are giving music lessons over Zoom.
  • Gymnastics/Dance Studios – Zoom has allowed these lessons to continue. Grandparents like me can watch our grandkids no matter how far away they are.


Question 2

Question number two asks, “What features of my product create unanticipated passion”? The sparking questions are, “what are the features that have elicited the strongest emotional response from my customers?”, “how do you ensure these are carried forward both in your current and future products?” and “how do you avoid killing the passion?”. Let’s jump into brainstorming:


  • Free Zoom to Schools/Teachers – It elicited so much passion because it was the right thing to do. They made it easy for schools to avoid budget issues.
  • Virtual Backgrounds – It allows you to hide the messiness of any background. We hold background competitions at my office every Friday. Zoom has virtual background competitions. There is now a new category of graphic designers and photographers that create libraries of Zoom virtual backgrounds.
  • Original Audio – This takes away all the filtering of audio. This feature has allowed for music-making/the listening of live concerts without hearing the chopped-up sound. Zoom offers this feature to remove all the filtering.
  • Grid View – This allows you to see upwards of twenty-five to fifty people at a time. The grid view gives you the feeling of everyone being present, eye-to-eye. It offers a much more personal perspective and has generated a lot of passion.
  • Ease of Use – Zoom works across all platforms, making it super convenient to use. Given how easy it is to get people to join a Zoom call, people are using it to stay connected with their friends and family members.


Question 3

Question number three asks, “What emotional, psychological, or status benefits could people derive from using my product”? The sparking questions are, “does your product create a connection with its customers that goes beyond just being a good solution to their needs?”, “can you refine it to reflect the changing needs and desires of your customers?”, “is the emotional connection literally between the customer and the product, or between the customer and what the product signifies?” and “are there good or interesting reasons to resist an emotional connection and prevent them from happening?”. Let’s hop on Jamboard and crank out some ideas:

  • Being Together - Using video to stay connected with friends and family. Zoom allowing teams to feel like they are together and working effectively.
  • Reduce the Feeling of Loneliness -Especially for those who are single and by themselves. It helps family members in nursing homes feel less lonely.
  • Feeding the Spiritual Needs of the Community -Churches using Zoom for services, small groups, and for generally getting together to talk and support each other within a given faith community.



Based on thinking deeply about these three questions, what new features would you present to Zoom? Let’s hop back on Jamboard to get some ideas going:


  • Video Overlay (similar to what I am doing with Jamboard/Youtube) – this allows the speaker to engage the viewer and “make eye contact” with them.
  • Remote Karaoke – allows for social interaction and rates how well you hit the notes and sang.
  • Payment System tied in with Zoom – allows Zoom to become a revenue-generating platform for those who are putting out content such as fitness trainers or musicians.
  • TV Streaming Via Zoom – allows the audience to watch a movie or show at the same time and allowing them to communicate with each other during the event.



Thanks for listening to the show. Do you have a topic, opportunity, or problem you would like to propose for a Virtual Brainstorm? Send it to me at Check out the brainstorm for this show that I did on Jamboard here.


Direct download: Virtual_Brainstorming_Innovating_Ideas_for_New_Zoom_Features.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

On today’s show, I will be demonstrating a private ideation/brainstorming session that you can do on your own. This helps in generating key ideas and solutions to the various problems you may be facing. There are numerous tools you can use for this, but today I will be using Jamboard from Google. 


Virtual Brainstorm

With the COVID-19 pandemic going on there are a lot of unknowns. You currently have two choices. You can freak out and go into hibernation, or you can sit down and brainstorm ideas that will allow you to not only survive but thrive during the crisis. For today’s virtual brainstorm, we will look at two questions from the Killer Questions Card Deck as they relate to COVID-19. These questions have been edited to focus the ideation specifically around COVID-19 because better focus increases the quantity and quality of the ideas. Our first question asks what customer segments will no longer exist or will be significantly impacted as a result of COVID-19. Our second question asks what customer segments could emerge as a result of COVID-19.  


COVID-19 Changes

Let's get into ideas for our first question. What segments will no longer exist or will be significantly impacted as a result of COVID-19? One idea I thought about would be sports and concert fans. These people love going to social activities and are going to be significantly impacted by COVID-19. The other segment that I thought of was travel influencers. These are the people who travel and do reviews of different places and are definitely going to be impacted as a whole. Similarly, businesses that are dependent on tourism such as hotels, tour guides, and national parks are going to be challenged going forward with this crisis.


New Emergences

Let’s move on to our second question. What segments could emerge as a result of COVID-19? The first one I came up with is the social distancing butler. This is the person such as a family member or friend who helps with errands such as grocery shopping and picking up various needed items. This person helps reduce the risk for someone who might be more affected by the virus. Another idea is what I call the COVID gig. These are people who have become contractors to essential businesses such as restockers or delivery drivers. These might be those who have been furloughed from their jobs and are filling the gap somewhere else. My next idea is what I call the virtual babysitter. Being a grandparent, I often babysit my grandkids for our kids that live in the area. With COVID-19, things are a little different as they cannot drop the kids off and go on a date anymore. Two to three times a week, my wife and I will virtually read bedtime stories to our grandkids via Facebook portal. This gives the parents a bit of a break from the kids and gives us some quality time with our loved ones. The final idea I thought of is what I call a virtual background creator. As a result of COVID-19, our sponsor Zoom has seen an astounding amount of new users. With this growth in video calls, virtual background is going to become very important going forward and I think the demand for the software will see an increase. 


Let me know what you think of the virtual brainstorming and feel free to propose a topic and killer question for a future “virtual brainstorm”. Check out the brainstorming session I did on Jamboard here. Watch the brainstorming session on YouTube here.


Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Virtual_Brainstorm.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Joining us via Zoom this week is William Benner, the President and CTO of Pangolin Laser Systems. We will discuss laser technology and what he's doing to change laser-powered innovation. 


Pangolin Laser Systems

William got into electronics because of his father, who worked as an engineer at NASA. I attended college to study electronics but was also in a rock band. During my time in a rock band, the focus was not always on the music. We enjoyed being flashy and creative and got people excited about it, which is where I found my interests in lasers. Eventually, the band faded away, but my love for lasers continued, and I wondered how I could do business out of it. Fast forward to today, and we are the only laser-powered innovation company in the United States and manufacture products for people who conduct laser shows such as clubs, concerts, etc. How big is your company? We started in 1986 and have a total of 35 people scattered around the world. We manufacture 100% of our software in the U.S and sell a lot of hardware and software overseas with the help of our sister companies in Slovenia and China.  



Who are your main customers? William says the customers consist of theme parks such as Disney World and Universal Studios, the NFL, NBA, NHL, tours, concerts, and corporate events. Most of our customers are not direct but contract out production companies to utilize our products. 

In my experience, customers are not typically the best source for innovation. Do your customers often come to you with ideas, or do you develop them? William said it's the customers that are usually asking us to adapt our technology to their ideas. We look at how close their idea is to what we already do, and how much time and money it will cost the customer and us. We go where we need to go to help bring our technologies to other markets and benefits. 


Crazy Experiences

Laser shows can get crazy and creative. What are some of the craziest things you guys have seen or done? William says one of his peers was approached by the Chief Marketing Officer of Coca Cola, offering a million dollars to put a logo on the moon. One company has come up with an idea of sky lasers serving as beacons being projected into the sky. We don't know what this will look like, but you'll only know if you experiment. One customer came to us wanting to project lasers into space, and we had to figure out how to make it safe and reliable. We developed a product and formed a separate company that sells the product. 


Advice for the Listeners

Given all your experience, what advice would you give to the listeners? William said it is a lesson he learned quite recently. In the past, I would ask myself how I would put together a product for a customer. For our last three projects, what helped was not asking how, but imagining what it would look like if it already existed. Write it down, and that becomes a map to get you to where you are going. It's not business advice, but when it comes to innovation, its how to get there. This turns all the "how" questions to something more tangible and visible.

What are some challenges you have faced with laser-powered innovation? William says that laser scanners need to be filled with epoxy. I had an idea of how to do it, but I tried it, and it did not work. As soon as it failed, I came up with another idea to solve the problem. Yes, my idea failed, but it led to a solution that wound up being much easier and better. While it hurts sometimes, failures lead to success over time and begin a new pathway to solving a problem. 


If you want to stay up to date with what William Benner is doing, check out his website here


About our Guest: William Benner

William Brenner is the President and Chief Technology Officer of Pangolin Laser Systems. In addition to receiving more than 25 international awards for technical achievement, products invented by Benner and manufactured by Pangolin are used by companies such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Boeing, and Samsung. 


I'm hosting this free webinar to help other leaders navigate the changes that are coming. Being able to identify, survive, and leverage the current disruptions is the new must-have skill set of a successful leader. This webinar applies to all types of organizations. You can register to be part of the series on disruptive shock by visiting the website here.


Let's connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don't forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Laser-Powered_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week's show is an excerpt from a recent webinar I did on how to survive and thrive during challenging times such as these. At the end of today's show, I will share how you can attend the free webinar series through Zoom, known as Disruptive Shock. 


Disruptive Shock

We're currently experiencing what I call a disruptive shock. What is a disruptive shock? It's a sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience that stop things from continuing as usual. COVID-19 is the poster child for a disruptive shock. With its fast, people have been asking me for advice on how to deal with the situation. While this all seems new to some, disruption is always happening. It happens in the form of new technology, new business models, etc. 

There are three types of disruptions:

  • Operational Disruption – this is your normal fluctuation of pricing, etc. Price wars, being short of supply, not being able to meet demand, etc. These can be planned for. 
  • Competitive Disruption – made to get an edge on competition from the outside. Uber disrupting the taxi industry, Tesla with electronic cars, etc.
  • Disruptive Shocks – these cannot be anticipated or planned for. SARS, COVID-19, etc. 


We're all familiar with things like flooding, earthquakes, fires, etc. Some of these may be short-lived and of little impact such as a storm hitting a rural town. In the case of COVID-19, it is unique in that its impact is on a global scale. GDP is estimated to be down anywhere from 11-30% in the U.S. In times of economic depression, it is said to never start a business. However, during the Great Depression, companies like Disney, and HP were started. We as leaders cannot retreat at this time but need to identify those opportunities to better position and create opportunities for ourselves.  


My Experience with Disruptive Shock

I've had my fair share of disruptive shocks throughout my career. During the SARS epidemic, I was at HP and our supply chains were impacted significantly. Our supply chain was not very digitally managed or monitored and due to the multinational distribution, it was quite a shock. We decided we would never be single-sourced on any key component again and utilized resiliency and flexibility to recover. Then, when the Fukushima tsunami happened, we ran into more component problems. One little spring that was a vital component in laptops was from one manufacture based in the area where the Fukushima tsunami occurred. This missing spring shut down laptop supply for three months causing us to miss revenue targets. This unfortunate situation taught me to utilize a second-order supply chain. After Hurricane Catrina happened, I was released from HP with help from the White House to head up recovery efforts in New Orleans around technology and broadband infrastructure. What I learned here was that in hard times competition and politics diminish, and the ability to leverage collaboration can be the difference between life and death. 

Here are three main lessons learned from my disruptive shock experiences: 

  • Take Action – this is not a time to push off action. Be willing to course-correct as you learn more about the situation
  • Prioritize Possible Changes – what changes will impact you? How do you prioritize all the things that are going to be disrupting against you? 
  • Rapid High-Velocity Experimentation – you need to be ready to do a series of rapid high-velocity experimentation to find your new normal now and make the proper adjustments. 


Disruptive Shock Strategy

When I'm in the middle of a disruptive shock, I like to step back and ask myself a set of questions I call disruptive questions. First, I ask what someone I know or respect would do in the situation. What would Elon Musk, Albert Einstein, or Thomas Edison do in this situation? Next, I ask what the one thing I should not do in this situation is. This creates a barrier that I know not to cross. Thirdly, I ask myself what would happen if I stop doing certain things, and ask what the outcome of that would be. 


I'm hosting this free webinar to help other leaders navigate the changes that are coming. Being able to identify, survive, and leverage the current disruptions, is the new must-have skill set of a successful leader. This webinar applies to all types of organizations. You can register to be part of the series on disruptive shock by visiting the website here


Let's connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don't forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Disruptive_Shocks.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest is an innovation guru from one of the world’s leading business schools. Stefan Thomke is a William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration Chair at Harvard Business School, and a widely published author around innovation processes. On today’s show, we will discuss Stefan’s new book, “Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments” and how experimentation functions as the engine of innovation. 



Stefan says he got involved in experimentation while working as an engineering intern. He got tasked with optimizing a chip manufacturing process and was lost on how to do it. Someone mentioned looking into experimentation, and he decided to research and study it. He was able to solve the problem, prompting his realization that experimentation is the engine of innovation. For many innovators I know, innovation is viewed as stumbling in the dark hoping you have that “eureka” moment, verses having a methodology. Is that the case for innovators you interact with? Stefan says part of the problem is how we use the word experimentation itself. When people say they experiment, often they mean they are just trying something. They did something and it didn’t work, therefore it must be an experiment. I am talking about disciplined experimentation using principles employed in a scientific method. This is important because you can’t learn much from an experiment without implementing a process into it. In your book, “Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments”, you call out the difference between an experiment and a mistake. In your opinion, what is the difference? Stefan says a mistake is something that you learn nothing from. The difference is that a failure has a learning objective, where a mistake does not. Failure is ok when you are learning from it. 


Does experimentation get correlated to incrementalism? Stefan says that most innovation in the world is incremental. Most of the big performance changes we see are the result of the cumulative impact of small changes. Microsoft changed the way they displayed their headlines and increased revenue by 100 million dollars a year. I call it high-velocity incrementalism, which means that you need to run fast but also go for scale. You need to be able to link cause and effect as a business. At the end of the day, you want to have a high level of confidence that action A will produce outcome B. 


Experimentation Culture

What are some attributes that are needed for an experimentation culture in business? Stefan says that companies often assume if they put the right tools into place the experimentation will just happen, which is not the case. There are a few elements needed to be successful. Firstly, a company needs to have curious people who value surprises. Secondly, they need to insist that data trumps opinions. Oftentimes companies will only accept results that confirm their biases and challenge results that go against our assumptions. Thirdly, we need to empower people to perform experiments. If people have to run it up the chain for every experiment, you’re not going to get the scale that you need run on. Next, you need to ethnically sensitive because we will all react differently to experiments. Lastly, you need to embrace different leadership models. 


When it comes to an experimentation culture, how do leaders need to act differently? Firstly, they need to set a grand challenge. The role of the leader is to set a grand challenge to keep the focus of the organization. Secondly, put in place systems, resources, and organizational designs so the people of the organization can get to work. Lastly, you need to be a role model and subject your ideas to tasks with intellectual humility. 


Advice for the Listeners

 Can you give us an example of one of the myths in your book and explain it? Stefan says he was giving a lecture to a group of leaders. A man raised his hand and said they didn’t agree with experimentation and said he taught his people to follow their intuition and judgment. I explained to him that it is not one or another. Rather, experimentation compliments intuition and judgment rather than turning it off. It's about bringing them together rather than doing one or the other. 

What is some advice that you could give the listeners on implementing experimentation into the innovation process? Stefan says to just get started. Experimentation is the engine that drives innovation. You can’t innovate without experimentation. You go through different levels as you experiment, but you have to start at point A to reach point B. 


If you want to keep up with what Stefan Thomke is doing, check out his website here. Check out his LinkedIn here.


About Our Guest: Stefan Thomke

Stefan Thomke is a William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Stefan Specializes in the management of innovation, product development, technology, and operations. Prior to joining the HBS faculty in 1995, he worked as an electrical engineer and a consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he served manufacturing and service companies in the automotive and energy industries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on business and the innovation experimentation processes.


Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Experimentation_is_the_Engine_of_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest is one who is all too familiar to us. Phil McKinney, the host of the Killer Innovations show, will be joining us for the 16th anniversary of the Killer Innovations podcast. Bob O’Donnell, a Silicon Valley veteran, the President, Founder, and Chief Analyst at TECHnalysis Research, joins us to discuss the history of the Killer Innovations and some memorable moments on the show. 


How It All Started

Let’s talk about the backstory of the podcast. How did it get started and what was the motivation behind it? In 2004 while at HP, I had a talk with my mentor Bob Davis. I asked him how I could pay him back for all the help he had given me. He laughed at me and told me to just pay it forward. In late March 2005, I recorded a little test show while in a bathroom at the Marriot Resort in Arizona and eventually it just took off. What was the idea for your focal point? For me, it was all about innovation. Everybody thinks of me as being a tech guy because of my time at HP, but my background also covers things like wireless and mobile. It’s all about giving people an inside look on things and helping them take ideas and develop them into knockout products and services. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a lawn care service or a large multi-national company providing auto insurance. Our listeners cover a wide variety of sizes and industries. What’s your elevator pitch on innovation? Innovation is a skill that anyone can learn, and anyone can become proficient at it. We are all born naturally creative, and we need to find those channels of creativity to create and share the ideas running around in our heads. It’s all about taking those ideas and not letting the fear of failure stop you from successfully solving those problems. 



When companies hire you to discuss innovation, what are the key messages you deliver? Recently, we’ve been working with Brother, the U.S Marine Corps and the Veterans Administration helping the government understand innovation from a unique perspective. We teach a framework with four elements around the word FIRE. F stands for focus and it’s about identifying where the upside opportunity is. Once you identify the problem space, then you can get into the I which is ideation. There are a lot of different ways to come up with ideas. Each person goes off on their own and comes up with ideas. Then they come back and share those ideas with their group. The third step is ranking. Very few organizations participate in rankings. There are different processes for ranking ideas but as a leader, it is important to get your team involved in it. The last letter is E for execution. Without execution, it’s a hobby. What are the timeframes for teaching the framework of FIRE? For the Marine Corps, we can do focus, ideation, and ranking in two to three hours. That includes problem statement definition, individual and team brainstorming, ranking, and an early phase of execution. 


Memorable Shows

What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve done? I’ve had Peter Guber, co-owner of the Golden State Warriors on the show, and got to be in one of his books. Bob Metcalfe, the founder of 3Com which co-invented ethernet, was also on the show. In 2005 before iTunes was a thing, I started podcasting. There was a company called Odeo that specialized in podcatching so people could get podcasts on their iPods and phones. They reached out to me asking for feedback when they were first conceiving their product. Odeo ended up becoming the social media platform Twitter. The Dean Kamen (FIRST, inventor Segway) show we did recently was also a very memorable one. 


Fan Moments

Phil said its really motivating when you get feedback from fans of the show. My very first fan engagement was in London, back in the early days of the show. A guy reached out to me asking if he could meet me. We ended up going to a pizza restaurant across the street from the hotel I was staying in. I thought he would be the only one there, but it turns out the whole restaurant was filled with fans of the show. Not too long after that, HP acquired webOS, and I announced that I would be flying to New York. When I got to the hotel at around 2 am, there were almost a dozen people I didn’t know waiting in the lobby to talk to me. 


The Innovators Network

The podcast has grown from an individual podcast to the Innovators Network and is on the Bizz Talk Radio. Can you tell us some history of that? Phil says the Innovators Network was launched around two and a half years ago. We wanted to create a platform allowing up and coming podcasters to get distributed on platforms like iHeart and Spotify. It is a host distributor for innovation podcasts such as Tech.PinionsKiller Innovations5 Miniutes to New Ideas, and Kym McNicholas on Innovation podcast focused on medical-tech innovation. A few years ago we got asked to syndicate the show on Bizz Talk Radio and are now on 63 radio stations in the United States. 



Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Looking_Back_at_15_years_of_Killer_Innovations.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week’s guest is involved in the innovation game for as long as I’ve been around. Stephen Shapiro is a leading speaker and author on innovation, who previously lead a 20,000-person innovation practice at Accenture. On today’s show, we will discuss creativity, reframing questions, and how diverse personalities can come together to create a thriving innovation team. 



Stephen says that we all start with a high level of creativity. We are all creative in our ways, but some people approach creativity differently. As we discussed in the previous show, every team needs a variety of different players with varying levels of creativity to achieve success. Stephen says collaborating with teams is vital to innovation success. Finding what teams are and what they are not will help them surround themselves with the key members that are needed. What is one lesson you learned from your time at Accenture? Stephen says he learned early on that everyone is creative and innovative; we just contribute in different ways. 


Personality Poker

Stephen created a card game to help bring different people together to achieve a goal, known as Personality Poker. The game has four steps to the innovation process, and four different styles are linking back to the steps. While in Vegas playing Blackjack, I got the idea of 4 steps, 4 styles, 4 suits, went home and grabbed a deck of poker cards, and got writing. The goal is for people to play to their strong suit, and to make sure your team is playing with a full deck. Not playing a strong suit is where a lot of organizations are falling flat. We tend to hire people and who “fit the mold” and result in the loss of breadth of experience and thinking. How would you compare this to something like Gallup Strengthfinders? Stephen says it’s not about what you are good at, but what gives you energy. We can be good at something, but it might rob us of our energy. The game helps you see what you do well and what gives you energy while telling you who you are and aren’t. How have these impacted teams? Stephen says there are 52 cards as well as words that describe behavioral attributes. People can gift these cards to others, which allows you to see how you are perceived and how people remember you. It acts as a great conversation starter within organizations and helps to bring the right people to the right team. On top of that, the game emphasizes having diverse perspectives and appreciating what each person brings to the table. 


Reframing the Question

What drove you to write your new book, “Invisible Solutions”? Stephen says that his previous book emphasized asking better questions but did not explain how to do it. I spent the last ten years building a toolkit on reframing problems and decided it was time to put it into a book. “Invisible Solutions” are the solutions right in front of you, but you can’t see them because you are asking the wrong questions. What approach do you use to craft good questions that people understand? I created a systematic approach to reframe questions, not to generate new questions necessarily. What is the “aha” moment for people in figuring out how to reframe questions? Stephen says they first come to have a deep appreciation of how important it is. They also start to understand how difficult it is. People usually don’t want to take the time to stop and think about what the right approach is. Thirdly, people can’t stay in the question stage, and they just want to start solving the next one. Most people don’t spend enough time trying to solve the problem, and they just rush the answer. 


Advice for the Listeners

What is one story that will give the listener some advice to take away? Stephen says a great example would be of a group called Pumps & Pipes in Houston, Texas. This group is composed of cardiologists who get together with people from the oil and gas pipeline industry. As far apart as those groups sound, they both work with the movement of fluid through a tube. In one story, a cardiologist was trying to figure out how to break up clots in the body. An oil engineer was dealing with the same issue from sludge and had developed a filter. They collaborated and were able to create a filter that breaks up clots in the body.


If you want to keep up with what Stephen Shapiro is doing, check out his website here. Follow him on LinkedIn here.



About Our Guest: Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro is a full-time innovation speaker and advisor to clients around the world. Before becoming a full-time speaker, Stephen created and led a 20,000-person innovation practice at Accenture. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, SUCCESS Magazine, CNBC, ABC News, TLC, and USA Network. He is the author of four books and continues to teach and lead innovation and problem solving everywhere he goes. 



Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Playing_Personality_Poker_with_Your_Innovation_Team.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

On Today’s show, we will be discussing the most optimal innovation team size that will generate the most creativity and innovative ideas. This topic is something that would have helped me greatly if I had studied and learned it early on in my career. I will also discuss eight types of people that every innovation team needs in order to be successful.


Innovation Team Size Study

Does team size have an impact? Recently, I read a study done by Jeanne Brett and Dashum Wang from the Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern University titled “If You Want Creativity, Keep Your Team Small”. Basically, this study said that large teams solve problems, and small teams generate new problems to solve. As the teams grew from 1-50, the levels of disruptiveness decreased. The large teams delivered value by developing established ideas and used smaller companies to be disruptive.

The issues that impacted teams as they got larger were:

  • Relational Loss – the perception of team members that they are working with little support from other members
  • Social Loafing – the tendency of the individual group members to contribute less than they would contribute working in a smaller group or alone.
  • Lack of Development Maturity – larger teams tend to look to leaders for direction and motivation. Smaller teams frequently progress to periods of intense productivity fueled by “trust-based” relationships, structures, etc. With five or six people on your innovation team, it is easier to move forward with a common vison for the problem you are trying to solve.

How do you address the innovation team size problem? It is found through utilizing Multi-Team Systems (MTS), which is the process of breaking down a large team into smaller teams with some form of structural network. Implementing this process will bring efficiency and a higher rate of success.


My Experience with Innovation Team Size

We will now discuss my experience of team sizes throughout my career. My career started at Deltak where we developed computer and video-based training. This publishing operation required large teams. Later in my career, I joined Thumbscan which had mid-sized teams of a couple dozen people, and the lack of efficiency frustrated me. Through my frustration, I branched off to create a product called PCBoot, which ended up winning product of the year at Computer Dealers Exhibition (Comdex), the precursor to Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It took me by myself a long time to build that product to the point where the parent company ran out of money. Through these times, I realized not only how important a team is, but the size of the team as well.

Other Teams

Let’s talk about other teams outside of my direct experiences like Apple MacIntosh in the 80s. They came out with the Apple 1, 2, and then the 3, which was not very successful because it was developed by a large team. Apples success came when Steve Jobs hand-picked his MacIntosh team and locked the doors to anyone outside of the team. He separated the team from the larger organization to reduce the risk of large team influence, and it paid off. Now let’s look at the Manhattan Project. It started off with a small team which was split up into smaller teams in different areas focused on different aspects of the project. Each team knew what they had to generate in order to contribute to the larger overall objective, and they were very successful. When teams are broken down and given a specific objective, they become efficient in obtaining their specific goal.


My Optimal Innovation Team


I’d like to use a religious reference here. Jesus had twelve disciples, so why would I try to handle more than he could? Throughout my career I’ve learned that my optimal innovation team size is in the 6-8-person range. If I have more than that, I tend to lose focus and feel less engaged. I would argue that nobody should have more than twelve people directly reporting to them. While the number is important, the make-up of the team is also important. As a leader, it is your responsibility to bring together an innovation team with the right skillsets.  

Here are seven people that I believe are core to any high-impact innovation team:

  • The Visionary – the person who is the heart and soul of the idea.
  • The Leader – the person who recruits and motivates the best possible team.
  • The Mother – the person who is sensitive to everyone and makes sure everyone is taken care of.
  • The Energizer – the person who will get it done, sometimes at a cost. They pump energy into the team
  • The Customer Advocate – the person who advocates for the customer. They are the voice of the customer on the project.
  • Radar O-Reilly – (from the movie and TV show Mash): The person who can find/secure anything you need by understanding the process in an organization.
  • The Designer – the designer is no longer a behind the scenes activity.



  • Neurodiversity – get people who think differently than you on your innovation team. They can see what others don’t see in a unique way.

With these key players on your innovation team, you are that much closer to creating that game-changing product or idea.


Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: The_Optimal_Innovation_Team_Size_Is.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Introduced to me through a mutual contact I worked with at HP, this week’s guest is the Senior Vice President of Product and Technology at Universal Electronics Inc. (UEI), Arsham Hatambeiki. We will discuss innovating technologies and what UEI is doing to make in-home technology experiences better for the consumer.


What is UEI, and what is the company’s history? Arsham says he’d bet just about every listener of the show has a product of UEI. The company started with a basic concept of making life easier both for the consumer and the service provider. We came up with the idea of a “universal remote control” that could control different aspects of TVs and set-up boxes from the provider. How big is UEI today? We are about 3,700 employees distributed globally with offices in Scottsdale, AZ, the Bay Area, Orange County, and San Diego, California. Does UEI deliver finished products or just components added to a later finished product? Arsham says they do both. We offer finished products such as remote controls, security sensors, and gateways. We also have software that can integrate with smart TVs and smart speakers, as well as a software-only solution.

Path to UEI

What was the spark that led you on the path to UEI? Arsham says he would categorize it into two different things. Firstly, I wanted to help the market evolve by integrating innovative technology into smart home, speaker, and other innovative home products. Secondly, I saw the need to keep brands in control of their own experiences. UEI came together to enable direct home delivery for the consumer. We focused on protecting choice and bridging the gap between entertainment experiences and smart home experiences. Have you seen pushback from consumers with privacy concerns? Arsham says most concerns of privacy by consumers have been misguided. I do think clear business models from brands will be the only way to address that. Having a clear business model stated by the brand is the only way to address that.

Cross-Brand Innovation

What advice would you give to people innovating technologies across ecosystems? Arsham says to always start from the user in the application. In the world of smart homes, there is much more value in going deep than going wide. When integrating across ecosystems, you are often hoping that your business model doesn’t conflict with another’s, so beware of that. Users have proven that they like specific brands, they want to have a choice, and they like to build their own experiences. You need to go to the market with that in mind.

If you want to keep up with what Arsham Hatambeiki is doing with UEI, check out his website here. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

About Our Guest: Arsham Hatambeiki

Arsham Hatambeiki is the Senior Vice President of Product and Technology at Universal Electronics Inc. Arsham has a research background in areas of data communication networks and machine learning with a special passion for smart home applications of conversational AI.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Innovating_Technologies_behind_the_Tech.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s guest is one who I met a few years ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Albert Zeeman is the Director of Marketing Services at GBO Innovations Makers and is an editor for the GadgetGear tech blog from the Netherlands. On today’s show, we will discuss trends and changes at CES, as well as some tips for startups.



Governments at CES

With all the changes with the companies at CES, what have you seen? Albert says he’s seen a lot of changes in his 16 years attending CES. I’ve seen different trends from the apple products such as the iPad to different flying cars and drones. Most notably, there have been a number of different policy makers in attendance at the show recently. People from the EU, the U.S Department of Energy, and some state secretaries of European countries have attended. Countries are sending different people to CES to promote themselves. Why is this trend arising? Because government policies have been struggling to keep up with the rate of innovation. AI has been growing and continues to be a hot topic these days. While the government can’t regulate everything, the question of whether there should be some ethical principles plugged into AI continues to resurface.

Change at CES

With all the new innovative products, have you noticed anything that isn’t at CES anymore? A lot of technology has moved in and design products have moved out. Everything is becoming touch screen and interactive. Another thing that disappeared has been companies making mounts for TVs. There used to be thirty or forty of them, but now there are just three. Audio headphones were also huge, but now its wireless earbuds such as the Apple AirPods.


Startups at CES

At Eureka Park of CES, there are a ton of different companies. Albert says that Eureka Park is filled with diverse startups eagerly looking for investments. A lot of these companies think they have the best idea and they are going to win investments with it. In reality, a good idea in and of itself does not win anything. Proper timing, execution, and focus are the keys to a successful startup.  Many startups make the mistake of having one target market. Albert says that startups should redefine their target market strategy to three or four target audiences.

Medical Products

 Albert said that there have been a lot of new medical startups at CES. One product I saw measured stress level from something added to the wristband on a watch. Medical devices have always interesting to me since I oversaw accessibility technologies creating products for those visually impaired or deaf while at HP. Albert says he’s seen a lot of hearing aid devices at CES this year.

If you want to keep up with what Albert Zeeman is doing check out his LinkedIn here. Check out his book and marketing plan methods here.



About Our Guest: Albert Zeeman

Albert Zeeman is a certified marketing and IT specialist who has worked on various innovative products throughout his career. Albert is the author of the book, “Marketingplan Today”, which details his proprietary method for developing a marketing plan in 1 hour. Currently, Albert is the Director of Marketing Services at GBO Innovations Makers and is an editor for the GadgetGear tech blog.


Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.


Direct download: Global_Perspective_on_Changing_Innovation_Landscape.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week's guest is an old friend of mine with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for collegiate athletics. Craig Ridley, CEO, and Co-Founder of ROUTE Analytics Inc. joins us to discuss some game-changing innovation efforts in the world of college sports recruitment. On today's show, we will discuss sports tech innovation and what ROUTE is doing to help young student-athletes make their dreams come true.


What is ROUTE? Craig says ROUTE Analytics is the convergence of three of his many passions. It's sports, technology, and innovation through data science. We help high school athletes find their best path to play collegiate sports. We are grounded in the sport of football for three reasons: It is the most popular American sport, it is the most complex in terms of recruiting, and it is the most lucrative. There are many challenges for the parents, players, and coaches, in the recruiting process. What is the process of getting an athlete noticed by colleges today? Craig says it's more competitive than ever, and much of the lift falls on the athletes and the parents. That process begins earlier than ever, and the student-athletes and their families need to find the best opportunities to play. Collegiate athletic organizations such as the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA all have varying restrictions on college coaches and student-athletes contacting each other. That is where ROUTE comes into play. What kickstarted ROUTE? My son played football as a wide receiver in high school and wanted to play Division 1 football, but his coach told him that he was a Div. II/Div. III player. Through the recruiting process, we realized it wasn't that simple. Long story short, we took a sports tech innovation approach to the process and my son was able to get recruited to play at West Virginia University.

The Birth of ROUTE

Craig says that a dream without a plan is a wish. We put up a plan to help my son achieve his goal. When the coach told us that he was a D2/D3 player, we were looking at about 417 schools and a total of 672 schools with football programs in the NCAA. We went to a football camp at the University of Maryland and realized that with 350 kids at the camp, the coaches were unable to evaluate all the kid's talents. Realistically, you can only do about five football camps a summer with the five weeks in between football seasons. We came back from that camp and got smarter with our approach. I started to build a spreadsheet and went to athletic and academic websites, journaling information and narrowing down the schools to target. That is the approach that we took to get my son to his dream. After navigating that process, I had parents asking me for help, but I could only help one family at a time. With my sports tech innovation background, I wondered if there was a way to help navigate this process more efficiently. With regards to ROUTE, what has been the response from coaches and schools? Craig says the coaches love it because it makes their jobs easier. We provide the research and analytics and the predicted outcomes, simplifying the process.

Spreadsheet to Business

How did you go from a spreadsheet to launching a business? Craig says he started by looking for a great data scientist. I was blessed to find three of them and with some tremendous diverse experience. From there, we built a prototype and took it to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The coaches at the show said they had never seen anything like it and encouraged us to build it. I put the initial capital in to go from prototype to beta, and now we're post-beta and working on version three. 80% of our current customers are on IOS devices and we are working on getting it available on Android as well. We have athletes from every state in the country, Canada, as well as users from Europe using our product. What is the next sport after football? Craig says basketball would be next, due to the number of kids playing it in the U.S. What does it take to bring on a new sport? Craig says they acquire a massive amount of data, so it is not a simple task. It's not just on the athletes, but on the school's athletic and academic data. We want to be the foremost data analytics and research company in the area we are in now. Focusing on sports tech innovation in one key area at a time is vital to maximization.

Advice for Startups

With ROUTE being your fifth startup, what is the advice you wish you had before all the startups? Aligning your interests with the folks you're working is beneficial for everyone. Startups don't die because they run out of money, but because the founders run out of energy. It comes down to what you're willing to sacrifice to achieve your dream. How do you validate that your interests are aligned? Craig says it comes down to leadership. Listening is an underrated leadership skill. If you ask the right questions and you listen, you'll hear who and what makes them tick. Assembling my team was the essential step in creating ROUTE.

If you want to keep up with ROUTE and download the ROUTE app, check out their website here. Follow Craig on LinkedIn here.

About Our Guest: Craig Ridley

Craig Ridley is the Co-founder and CEO of ROUTE Analytics Inc. ROUTE is a college football recruiting application that helps athletes make better decisions about where to play. Craig has a background in sports tech innovation through data science and was involved in five different startups.

Let's connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don't forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.


Direct download: Sports_Tech_Innovation_Beyond_The_Field.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today's guest is one that I had the privilege of working alongside during my time at HP. Luca Di Fiore, Head of Products at Xtreme Performance Gear, joins us here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, to discuss some game-changing innovation efforts. On this week's show, we will discuss gaming tech innovation and the latest at Xtreme Performance Gear (XPG).


During my time at HP, I worked alongside Luca in the Innovation Program Office. Luca leads the effort for the carbon fiber laptop known as the Voodoo Envy. He went on to work for Razer, leading the VR efforts over there. Luca says after working on some award-winning products at Razer, he moved on to a new venture known as XPG by ADATA, a memory company. XPG had an exciting plan to push into gaming. Given an innovation budget, Luca has the freedom to innovate. Why would a memory company want to get into gaming? Luca says it's more evident than it looks. The connection is very simple. Memory is the one part that you can really push through the next level with gaming. XPG was able to assemble a team of people passionate about gaming tech innovation from different companies such as Razer, HyperX, Corsair, etc. How big is the group? Luca says he has three teams working in product management, marketing, and RND, totaling almost thirty people. In less than eleven months, we've managed to launch short of twenty products with a relatively low budget. Luca says most of his team is in Taipei, Taiwan, a hub of competitive gaming.

New Products

With XPG, you guys have made a ton of announcements recently. Can you give us the rundown? Luca says the big announcements here at CES are called "Invasion has Begun" and the fact that XPG entered into systems. There aren't many gaming companies that can do accessories, peripherals, and systems at the same time, so this is big for us.

On top of that, we announced a new gaming laptop and a partnership with intel. We also partnered with a U.S startup called Pixeldisplay to create one of the most innovative gaming tech monitors in the market. We looked at how much time tech enthusiasts spend on their monitor and wanted to find a way to preserve their eyesight. We've implemented Pixeldisplay's technology, which offers a better quality of the image that doesn't filter out the blue color, but just the harmful blue LED properties. How big is this display? Luca says it's the same size as any other display with the difference that it does not ship with a stand. On the peripheral side, we have brought in our innovation spearhead called XPG Headshot. In developing this product, we asked the question of how to create an ultra-lightweight mouse. We used 3D printing to create a nicely structured mouse built into one place.

Product Customization

Typically, with mice today, there is a universal set of hand sizes, such as small, medium, and large. With 3D printing, do you customize the mice at XPG? We built this AI application to help in the customization of the mouse. We use an AI algorithm to take a picture of your hand and modify it based on the specific dimension. We even let you choose your grip style and personalize the mouse specifically for your needs. Scalability isn't a problem because our gaming tech innovation allows us to build anywhere in the world with these 3D printers.

What are some other announcements from XPG? We are sponsoring an ESL tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, and we brought a 24-karat gold keyboard, worth $10,000 as the prize. We also have a laptop collaboration with Intel. It is a gaming laptop with a 15" display and is available to ship in Taiwan and Latin America, acting almost like a field trial for the future U.S market.

Idea to Product

Many listeners of the show have ideas. They've come up with but no expertise on how to turn them into a product. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur with a fresh idea? Luca says the first rule of thumb is to do great prototypes and make them as functional as possible. For example, my monitors had a prototype that could turn around in a month's time frame. We have a lot of prototyping housing in Asia, specifically Taiwan, due to the cost-effectiveness of the area. The area also has a lot of companies that help with startups. Having a prototype will get you started in creating your gaming tech innovation products or any other product types.

About our Guest: Luca Di Fiore

Luca Di Fiore is the Head of Products at Xtreme Performance Gear (XPG) at ADATA. Luca is a bleeding-edge technologist with an international mindset and years of experience innovating and solving problems within the ICT industry, looking to make a difference in people's lives through new human-machine paradigms. His previous experience includes Director of R&D at Razer, and Senior R&D Manager, CTO Office-Innovation Programs at Hewlett-Packard.

Let's connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don't forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.


Direct download: Bringing_the_Game_to_Gaming_Tech_Innovation_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s guest is no stranger to the Killer Innovations Show. John Osborne II, Chairman of the Board of the Zigbee Alliance and General – Manager of Leedarson North America, joins us at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). On this week’s show, we will discuss the growth of IoT devices and the trend of consolidation within IoT. 


The Zigbee Alliance 

With the recent scale-up of the device connectivity arena, what’s Zigbee been up to? John says that Zigbee has formed together with Apple, Google, and Amazon, to drive the industry into a common direction. If we can accomplish what we are trying to do with the big four, it will drive the industry towards consolidation. Consumers can go to stores and buy the product they want rather than focusing on specific brands. We don’t want this to be just another standard. Instead, we want to take the top existing technologies and put them together. We’ve seen more and more large companies desiring consolidation.



I get a lot of inquiries from listeners on the show with ideas for IoT devices. With your experience, what advice would you give to someone with these ideas? The company I work for, LEEDARSON, specializes in that. Whether one comes with a design ready to be built, or they have an idea, we can walk them through it. We try to educate, as well as walk them through the design process, and occasionally do real-time iterations. We’re happy to help whether they’re a multi-billion-dollar company or someone new to the industry. Sometimes people come in with similar ideas for devices that we already have. We’ll modify their idea, make it compliant, package it, and ship it to them. Others come in with great ideas about different devices, and we’ll test them and possibly do a joint development. We don’t strictly manufacture. We are involved in many different things.


Advancing IoT Products

What unique applications of IoT have you seen? John says there are very few significant new ideas. It’s mostly the same products being improved over time. The most changes we’ve seen are on the AI side. We’re trying to get the end device smart enough to operate without the cloud. Recently, I’ve seen some cool new things in the lighting arena. Lighting has been recently tied to entertainment. If you’re playing Fortnite, you want the room around you to emulate what is happening. However, this can often be tricky. In the case of many IoT devices, there is a cost lift to each of these modified products. What is that cost lift? John says people want more functionality at a lower price. For example, people are willing to pay about $5 premium on a smart bulb. That is a target we are all shooting for. Today, it is at around $10 premium. What are the other barriers holding people from buying IoT devices? Most people won’t just throw away their already purchased light bulbs. LED bulbs last a long time, so people get comfortable with them. We need to figure out how to incentivize people to swap out a good bulb for something more connected. 


Increasing Consolidation

As Chairman of Zigbee, what else have you been working on? Part of what we have been dealing with is whether we’re a technology or an alliance. We may be changing the name soon. We’ve been partnering with different entities and working to put our differences aside to reach common goals. We have also been working on consolidating internal protocols to gain more flexibility. Some massive changes are coming for Zigbee. With all these groups newly combining, do you see this continuing over the next 4-5 years? These organizations have assigned full-time resources into it, as it is essential to them. I believe we will see this consolidation grow a lot over the next couple of years.


If you want to keep up with Zigbee Alliance, check out their website here. Follow John on his Linkedin here and his website here


About our Guest: John Osborne II

John Osborne is currently General Manager at LEEDARSON North America and Chairman of the Board of the Zigbee Alliance. In these capacities, he helps educate and grow the IoT market globally. LEEDARSON is a global provider in traditional and connected lighting and sensors. The Zigbee Alliance is the premier Internet of Things (IoT) standards development organization since 2002. John has extensive experience in new product development, rapid product commercialization, systems innovations, and operations improvement. He has demonstrated the ability to manage and inspire multi-cultural, internal-external teams. He is a skilled communicator and presenter and has a sound background in budgeting, resource allocation, and operations efficiency.



Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.


ES2020 Guest: John E. Osborne II S15 Ep50

Direct download: Where_is_Iot_Going_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This year at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 (CES), we were joined by another groundbreaking innovation group. E-Novia is an innovation company that inserts robotics and AI into everything they do. Our guests include Ivo Boniolo, Chief Innovation Officer and co-founder of E-Novia, Fabio Todeschini from BluBrake, Roberto Rossi from Smart Robots, and Patrizia Casali from Wahu, all enterprises of E-Novia. We will discuss E-Novia’s product lines and how they are infusing robotics and AI throughout various enterprises.  



 Ivo says that E-Novia came from the desire to bring robotics and AI to Italy’s most recognized fields. E-Novia collaborates with local universities to find and develop products that will have success in the marketplace. Currently, E-Novia has 30 enterprises in their group, while only being a company for five years. Ivo says E-Novia is currently in the process of an IPO to increase capital and qualify its unique model. What is the scale of E-Novia’s enterprises? E-Novia has enterprises that are in every stage, some early, in the middle, and some more advanced. With the huge design market in Milan, E-Novia has been working to create design products infused with robotics. We seek to create products that will welcome and interest the users. How has E-Novia been funded so far? Ivo says that E-Novia has been funded by an Italian family in the Manufacturing Industry as well as through fundraising. We have been working on growing our international relations, as we have a subsidiary in San Francisco, CA, and are currently opening an office in Japan.



We are now joined by Fabio Todeschini of BluBrake, an enterprise of E-Novia that develops Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) for e-bikes. Why do e-bikes need ABS technology? Fabio says that the e-bike market is growing a lot. The way we use bikes has changed from strictly cyclists using them to commuters using them as well. Many people using these e-bikes are unfamiliar with how to use them, causing accidents. People panic brake which cause the majority of e-bike accidents. Is Bluebrake’s product being used by bike manufacturers today? Fabio says it is available in Europe and they are working on making it available in the U.S. What is the incremental increase in the cost of adding this product to an e-bike? Around $500 additionally, which has been positive due to our high-end target-market. Are there others out there doing this? Fabio says there one competitor is Bosch, but Blubrake’s product is a bit different that its competitor. With all this traction, what’s next for Blubrake? Fabio says they are in the scale-up phase and wish to expand into the U.S, as they already have customers in Europe. As far as product expansion, Blubrake has a potential interest in motorcycle, scooters, and car braking systems. 


Smart Robots

We are now joined by Roberto Rossi from Smart Robots, a system used to support production line operators in factories. Smart Robots emphasize making the human the center of the production process. What does this collaborative robotics really mean? Smart robots put humans first and support them with their two configurations. One guides humans during manual operations to eliminate errors by suggesting feedback. The other configuration works as a co-worker alongside the human. How do you get the workers to accept the robots as a tool? Roberto says that it is a step by step process. You introduce the robot to the workers and they get acquainted with it over time. Eventually, they come to appreciate the robot's help and treat it as a colleague. Where can these robots be useful? Roberto says that there is a lot of interest in different sectors of manufacturing. Wide goods productions such as washing machines and automobiles can use them due to their need of human and digital assistance. Complete automation is an old approach and human use in manufacturing is coming back. What’s next for Smart Robots? We have a big surprise coming into the safety realm of the manufacturing process. Many conditions in manufacturing need extra safety to keep workers protected. Our new product will aid in the safety of these workers. 



Now joining us is Patrizia Casali of Wahu, a company that offers a shoe sole with the capability to adapt to ground features and environmental conditions. Why is having a sole that changes so important? Patrizia says that if someone wants to go hiking or play golf, they need to use different types of shoes. With this technology, you use the same shoes and they adapt to your environment. How do the shoes auto-detect what’s underneath them? Inside the sole, there is an electronic board with sensors and actuators that take data and analyze it. We offer a lot of different customization options that the user may choose from. 


About our Guest: Ivo Boniolo

Ivo Boniolo is a co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of E-Novia, an innovative group that infuses robotics and AI into their ventures. Ivo studied at schools such as the Politecnico di Milano, the Politecnico di Torino, and Alta Scuola Politecnica. The experience gained from his schooling added to his skills in innovation, management, and invention. During his ten years with the E-Novia group, he has spent his time transferring his technical and innovation knowledge and experience to the growth of E-Novia’s many enterprises. 


About our Guest: Fabio Todeschini

Fabio Todeschini is from BluBrake, an enterprise of E-Novia. Fabio has a Ph.D. in engineering. He has experience in working on Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) for motorcycles. Fabio has taken his experience in ABS and applied it to e-bikes, the product line of BluBrake. 


About our Guest: Roberto Rossi

Roberto Rossi is from Smart Robots, another innovative enterprise of E-Novia. Roberto has a Ph.D. in robotics. After receiving his Ph.D., he helped start Smart Robots, which aids humans in the goods manufacturing process. 


About our Guest: Patrizia Casali

Patrizia Casali is from Wahu, a company that offers a shoe with a unique sole that adapts to different environments. Patrizia is a biomedical engineer who joined E-Novia to work on innovation after receiving her master’s degree.


If you’re interested in learning more about E-Novia and its enterprises, check out their website here


Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Innovating_Across_Enterprises_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Two outstanding guests joined us while we were at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 (CES). Bob O’Donnell, the President, Founder, and Chief Analyst at TECHnalysis Research, and Greg Johnston from Manta5, a company that offers the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike that replicates the cycling experience on the water. This week on Killer Innovations, we will discuss CES, the PC industry, and Manta5’s new game-changing product.


Standing Out at CES

With the size and noise of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), how do companies attract attention? Bob says that flashy press conferences are the key to getting noticed. Panasonic brought out Michael Phelps and showcased Star Wars characters to broadcast their work with Walt Disney Imagineering. Sony rolled out a car prototype known as the Vison-S during a press conference to promote the component technologies they are producing for the automotive industry. Having something that stands out is vital to gaining attention at an event like CES.


PC Growth

Bob and I had the pleasure of growing up together. We reconnected many years later through the PC industry. Bob has been a follower and influencer of the PC industry for a long time. With talk about PCs being dead, Bob shared some thoughts on the matter. The PC market has never reached its height. Still very much alive and kicking today, PCs have proved to be relevant even in the days of smartphones. The capabilities offered from PCs such as a larger screen and a physical keyboard are incredibly important. We saw some of the most significant innovations of PCs have been in recent times. AMD came out with their Ryzen 4000 Series parts for desktop and laptops based on their Zen 2 Core. Intel just debuted Tiger Lake, their next-generation intel core processor. On top of that, these guys are also exploring AI and 5G within the PC realm. That is why I partly believe we are in a real renaissance era of the PC market.

If you want to follow Bob’s endeavors, check out his recently started Forbes column here. He writes for Tech.pinions and has the Tech.pinions podcast, so check that out here. If you want to dig in, go to Bob’s website here.



Here at CES, you will see just about anything and everything under the sun. Joining us is New Zealander Greg Johnston, CEO of Manta5, a company with a unique product. What is Manta5, you might ask? Greg says that Manta5 is the “brain-child” of its founder Guy Howard-Willis, an avid cyclist who had the dream of cycling on the water. Years later, that dream came true when Manta5 created the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike on water. The bike itself has two wings and a propeller, and while the user peddles, the cycle planes on the water.


Idea to Product

As an innovator, I know how hard it is to translate an idea into a product. How was the process of turning this idea into a product? Greg said there wasn’t much to go off at first, so they started with a bike frame and a propeller. We used a private pool and experimented with heaps of different prototypes trying to develop the hydrofoils. Once we nailed the rider position relative to the foils, we received a grant from Callaghan to develop the propeller and foils with an engineer. How long was the time frame for this process? It took about seven years to get the product out, and the product has been on the market for about a year now. It is a customized product except for the handlebars, the seat, and the pedals. What was the feedback on the product? Greg says the feedback has been overwhelming. We created an unboxing experience to deliver directly to the customer which they loved.


Growing Manta5

What was the learning process for the company with the blow-up of the product? Going from creating a prototype, to designing the product, to producing it on a scale has been a significant challenge. We’ve grown our design team as well as our production and engineering team over time. We’ve also been developing our relationships with suppliers for when we are ready to mass-produce these products. How did you guys catch the attention of manufacturers with this product? Greg says that Manta5 worked with an agent in Taiwan who knew their founders. Building relationships is everything. If manufacturers like you as a person and your vision as a company, that is huge.


Vision for the Future

What’s next for Manta5? The vision is to become cycling’s new frontier. We want to create a range of new products in biking while cultivating a sport through our product. When it comes to any game-changing product, copycats always arise. How will Manta5 deal with copycat products? We at Manta5 place importance on establishing ourselves as the leader in Hydrofoil Biking. We support other brands that may pop up in the future, as we want to cultivate a sport out of Hydrofoil Biking.

Follow Manta5 and check out the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike, view their website here, and check out their Facebook here.


About our Guest: Bob O’Donnell

Bob O’Donnell is the President, Founder, and Chief Analyst of TECHnalysi Research. The firm's research and O’Donnell’s opinions are also regularly used by major media outlets, including Bloomberg TV, CNBC, CNN, Investor's Business Daily, the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, and more. O'Donnell writes regular columns for USAToday and Forbes, as well as a weekly blog for published on TechSpot, SeekingAlpha, and LinkedIn. Before founding TECHnalysis Research, Bob served as Program Vice President, Clients and Displays for industry research firm IDC. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.


About our Guest: Greg Johnston

Greg Johnston is the CEO of Manta5, the creator of the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike, that replicates the cycling experience on the water. Greg is a driven entrepreneur who’s passionate about high growth startups and innovative social enterprise. He’s currently working alongside the original Torpedo7 founders to commercialize the Manta5 Hydrofoil Bike. Greg enjoys being a part of the Waikato startup and business scene. He’s always keen to meet new people, help connect others, and find ways to collaborate.


Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation

Direct download: Renaissance_Era_in_Innovation_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we witnessed a notable trend occurring. Government agencies from all over the nation, as well as foreign government agencies, were seen at the show. This week, Dimitri Kusnezov, the Deputy Under Secretary for AI and Technology at the U.S Dept of Energy, joins us on The Killer Innovations Show. We will discuss what the future of AI looks like from the Department of Energy’s side of things.

The Dept of Energy’s Mission

Typically, people don’t notice much of the DOE’s activity in their everyday lives. In reality, the Department of Energy continuously operates from the shadows fixing our nation’s toughest problems. It works in areas that range from the health industry to electrical grids. At its core, the Dept of Energy exists to fix a wide variety of issues by leveraging its innovative capabilities. Dimitri Kusnezov, says that the DOE is the biggest funder of physical sciences in the U.S. They focus on public-private partnerships to accomplish their many goals. The DOE uses connections, as well as advanced innovative technologies, to keep our nation running efficiently.


CES and the Dept of Energy

How does the U.S Department of Energy approach attending a show like CES? Dimitri Kusnezov says that innovation is global. It’s almost anywhere you look, from small and large companies to academia. The DOE needs to identify where the innovation trends are and ask important questions. Who should we talk to? Where should we draw ideas? With the recent “overhype of AI,” the name has been thrown around loosely everywhere. I asked Dimitri where the DOE stands on AI. Due to the recent birth of Artificial Intelligence, the DOE has kept its feelings of AI open. Dimitri says when it comes to the future of AI, only time will tell. The Dept of Energy looks at specific problems and asks what it will take to best solve them. Something like AI can pose other problems if not approached correctly. AI touches areas such as privacy, civil rights, etc., and can sometimes hint at unintended biases. Who is to blame in touchy situations like these? Is it the guy writing the code? Is it the guy collecting the data? The problem with AI is that no one owns it explicitly. Data confidentiality is a big issue in the technology world today. With the growing potential and use of AI, innovators need to explore what the tech is all about thoroughly.


The Role of AI at the Dept of Energy

What is the role of AI at the Department of Energy? Dimitri Kusnezov says that Washington D.C has recognized the importance and value of AI increasingly over the past couple of years. The DOE has 17 labs and a workforce of around 90,000 people. They have surfaced more than 600 projects in the areas of nuclear weapons, smart cities, cybersecurity, transportation, farming, cancer research, etc. You’ll be able to see the core of learning and AI technology in many different areas throughout the U.S Department of Energy. With such a large cache of info available, how does the DOE extract actionable data? Dimitri says the DOE focuses on catastrophic events. They use AI and partnering to understand when to make decisions in those high-consequence situations. With such a big organization,  how does the Dept of Energy leverage its tools? Dimitri Kusnezov says that the DOE workforce has many different skillsets and a good knowledge of their assets. The DOE has a unique advantage with the ability to simulate very realistic situations. Dimitri says their ability to handle data is unmatched by anyone else.


Advice on AI

What information can you give to other organizations looking into AI? Don’t overthink it, Dimitri says. Currently, AI is in a fragile stage. It is very limited in what it can do. The answer isn’t, “where can I plug in AI?” but rather, “what are the problems you’re trying to solve?”. Which AI methods apply to your problems? Identify what is essential for you and how AI can help you.


When it comes to the government, many innovators either avoid working with them or don’t know where to go to get involved. Where can those who are looking to help find you guys? Dimitri Kusnezov says that the Dept of Energy’s doors are always open. Many companies are stopping by our D.C headquarters and talk to us about various things. We have a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) office as well as other resources for innovators to get involved with us. I encourage innovators to get involved in a public-private partnership to solve government problems, advancing their products along the way. If you are working on something that might be useful to a government agency, I encourage you to reach out.


About our Guest: Dimitri Kusnezov

Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov currently serves as Deputy Under Secretary for A.I. and Technology. Dimitri received A.B. degrees in Physics and Pure Mathematics with highest honors from UC Berkeley. Following a year of research at the Institut fur Kernphysik, KFA-Julich, in Germany, he attended Princeton University earning his MS in Physics and Ph.D. in Theoretical Nuclear Physics. At Michigan State University, Dimitri conducted postdoctoral research and then became an instructor. In 1991, he joined the faculty of Yale University as an assistant professor in physics, becoming an associate professor in 1996. He has served as a visiting professor at numerous universities around the world. Dr. Kusnezov has published over 100 articles and a book. He joined federal service at the National Nuclear Security Administration in late 2001 and is a member of the Senior Executive Service and is also a Visiting Researcher at Yale.

If you’re interested in learning more about the U.S Dept of Energy and what they are currently up to, check out their website here. For small businesses interested in working with the DOE, check out their SBIR program here.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.



Direct download: Dept_of_Energy_on_AI_and_its_Impact_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week on Killer Innovations, we are joined by two guests here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Scott Kim, CEO of NEOFECT USA, an innovative health tech company, and Sarah Brown, the Director of Event Communications for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). On this show, we will be discussing technology in the health industry, as well as what the future of CES looks like.


NEOFECT has been focused on aiding people in stroke rehabilitation by providing them with top tier health technology. Their products, such as the Smart Glove, run solely on AI technology. This provides a more independent therapy option for users while tracking their progress over time. Scott Kim's passion and vision for the company come from hard life experiences. Scott was born with Spinal Bifida, making him very familiar with the rehabilitation process at a young age. Scott worked through his adversities and created something successful and meaningful. While NEOFECT has established itself as a high-end health tech company, it wasn’t an easy journey. Scott Kim started with a team of eight founders, and only three currently remain with the company. The company started small with limited funding and worked for four years to launch its first product. Today, the company has multiple products to aid stroke patients, as well as products to aid children in dealing with motor challenges.

What’s New

Going forward, NEOFECT is launching an app called NEOFECT Connect. This app will give its users live rehab solutions to aid in recovering from a stroke. It will act similarly to Skype and will provide users with the human relationship aspect of therapy that is desired. To keep up with NEOFECT and what they are currently doing, check out their Facebook page here.

Trends at CES

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s largest and most influential tech event. Sarah Brown, the Director of Event Communications for CTA, the host of CES, joined us to discuss the growth and future of the event. A new trend is visibly starting up, as non-tech centered companies are attending CES. New industries such as travel and tourism, have been promoting products and services at CES as well. Smart Cities, aimed at making communities better prepared for natural disasters, have been popping up at the event. An array of different companies joined CES to show off their products to the world. CES become the "go-to" show not only for innovators but for policymakers as well. Representatives from the government, such as the Department of Energy, as well as international representatives from the EU, were in attendance.

Growth and Expansion

With all the different companies at CES, there is a magical competition between companies large and small. Startups are trying to gain the attention of investors and larger companies with their products. Hotels are filled up, and more and more companies are attending each year. With this continual growth, some questions come to mind. How much bigger can CES become? Sarah says that if companies want to be at CES, we want them here. Space is running out, but the facilities are being expanded significantly, so even the smallest companies can attend. What is one thing at CES 2020 that wows you? Sarah says flying cars are the coolest. Companies like Hyundai are partnering with Uber to bring flying cars to the people.

About Our Guest: Scott Kim

Scott Kim is the CEO of NEOFECT USA (San Francisco, CA), and Co-founder of NEOFECT, its parent company based in South Korea. The company is a rehabilitation technology company focused on providing vital rehab equipment to those recovering from strokes and suffering from motor challenges. Scott was born with Spinal Bifida, which gave him a unique understanding of the rehabilitation process. His prior work experience includes working in the gaming industry for GREE, Z2Live, and 505 Games.  He received a bachelor’s of Business Administration from Korea University, as well as a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Virginia.

About our Guest: Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is the Director of Event Communications for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Sarah serves as a spokesperson for CES and leads the media relations strategy for the show. Previously, Brown led the global media strategy for leisure, innovation, and food & beverage for Hilton Worldwide. Before her time at Hilton Worldwide, Brown worked for Ketchum, a global public relations firm. Sarah Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Arizona and a master's in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. 

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Impact_From_Innovation_Personal_and_Global_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s guest is one of the top technology industry analysts, well known in Silicon Valley and globally. When he talks about your company or products, you hope it is more positive than negative as his word moves the markets. Our guest is here with us at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is his 50th. This week on Killer Innovations, Tim Bajarin joins us to discuss what is real and becoming a future innovation platform.

How’s it Shaping Up

CES has evolved over the years from a heavy focus on video and audio to every product category that touches technology. From cosmetics, toilets to autonomous cars, and smart televisions. We have seen it all say's Phil, who is in his twenty-fifth year at CES. The evolution over these years has generated innovation and technology in our everyday lives that was once a fantasy you saw in movies. Now turned into reality. One area is in transportation and the progression of the vehicle becoming, as one Fortune 500 CEO told Phil, a “Cell Phone on Wheels.”  The smart vehicle today is now turning into your entertainment room and productivity station – Transportation As A Platform (TAAP).

The glass on vehicles and your house is transforming into the smart visual platform that keeps you communicating wherever you are. These glass displays today are amazingly more connected, but just now tipping the iceberg of potential. Companies like Corning are doing amazing things by focusing on the smart glass and its unlimited possibilities.

AI Everything —What’s Real? How about Ethics?

Catch all term?? When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is everywhere, but used as a loose term – for most a feature I need to have and tout. We have AI in our soap. You don’t need to rub soap all over your body, it now finds the dirty spot and rubs it for you. Really what is practical and real AI? It has been around for many decades in different lingo and forms. Now, AI has more market form and will be in anything electronic. You need to understand AI and not just use the term or application loosely. The intelligence aspect of AI has to be applied to more effectively utilize the full potential.

Where is the critical impact on AI that can hurt or help you, it’s ethics. Most organizations are inserting AI into their common language and products; however, the impact is not all that obvious. If you are not thinking of the ethical and various risk impacts, you are just a follower in the buzz word bingo. It's crucial to establish your AI governance. Setting up an AI ethics Board is what is going to keep your risk low and your value high.

Computing will Drive Innovation

AI is one of the advancing technologies that rely on high-performance computing and silicon. However, demand shifts, availability and advancement can generate problems for the next generation of innovation. Computing power advancement does come with the balancing of the cost versus rapid progression that companies are grappling with today. Impactful innovations and expectations of new products and technologies are reliant on industry players making the right call and investing.

Without the exponential growth of computing power, we will stall in our progression of innovation. IoT, sensors, AI, Cloud, Drones, Autonomous, and all the latest trends will come to a halt unless the dynamics are aligned and balanced from cost, pricing and R&D for those providing the computing power. The demand is at such a high pace at this stage of technology expansion. It takes a tremendous commitment from the major players such as Intel and AMD. It also makes the PC players keep providing productivity tools. One of which is still the PC. Many think the PC is dead, but that is not reality as it is still the most productive platform.

Will Form Factor Make a Difference

Foldables at CES was a big attraction, as they moved towards mobile devices and displays for entertainment and productivity. Manipulated to the contour you desire, these intelligent displays are starting to gain traction and turning into reality. For the players, it comes down to a component that can give the industry a big boost, a refresh, and generate new channels and opportunities for innovation. Phil was pioneering foldable/bendable displays 10+years back when at HP and his prediction has taken form. The foldable players are building all the intelligence in a complete screen that bends at will. What does this give the consumer – more straightforward communication, lighter smartphones, increased productivity and creative possibilities beyond the obvious.

About our Guest: Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is one of the most recognized and sought after global technology analysts, futurists, and consultants. His fifty years in Silicon Valley has made him a voice that moves the market.

His writing and analysis have been at the forefront of the digital revolution. He was one of the first analysts to cover the personal computer industry and is considered one of the leading experts in the field of technology adoption life cycles. He is president of technology-focused company Creative Strategies and is also a regular podcaster on Tech.Pinions (also broadcasted on The Innovators Network).

Bajarin is a futurist and credited with predicting the desktop publishing revolution three years before it reached the market and multimedia.

He has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, AMD, HP, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Qualcomm, Toshiba, and numerous others.

He also serves on the technology advisory boards for IBM, Compaq, and Dell. (from Wikipedia)

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.


Direct download: Future_Innovation_Platforms_CES2020.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

AI has become the new buzzword that has been applied to anything and everything. You can’t attend trade shows without seeing AI attached to labels such as AI apps, AI-enhanced coffee, and AI influenced healthcare, etc. As of recent, AI has been in transition mode. It has moved from merely a “hype label” to something of reality. Some are even calling it the AI-driven “fourth industrial revolution.” On today’s show, I am going to be discussing AI and how it can be applied and used in innovation.

AI Innovation

Innovation and creation come from our learnings and experiences. With every new creation comes inspiration from something else. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb; he perfected it. Einstein was inspired by physicists that went before him. So what is the difference between AI invented and AI-inspired? Input and experience play a key role. For AI, that comes in the form of the “training data” supplied to the system to recognize patterns and identify the best solutions. Training data is critically important and allows AI to do what it does. It is part of an element called machine learning, which has historically applied to games like chess and go. It was initially thought that humans had a unique advantage at these kinds of things. Here are a few examples that may prove otherwise:

  • Deep Blue’swin over Chess champion Garry Kasparov. It took multiple attempts, but the robot's skill evolved after a while.
  • IBM Watson’sJeopardy win over human trivia kings.
  • Google DeepMind’s Go-playing bot’s win against a Korean grandmaster. The top player has retired, saying that a human will never be better than a computer at Go.


Is this proof that AI is becoming smarter than humans? It depends on how you define smart. Do you define it by IQ number, critical thinking skills, or memorization? What makes humans smart? Let’s not move too fast here. In the case of chess, the key is to recognize patterns and to be able to look at the number of steps ahead. These are two skills that computers have become quite good at using machine learning. So is that the definition of smart?

 There is no doubt that AI will make an impact. Will it have an impact on innovation? If so, how will it be manifested? In what ways can we use AI to support our innovation endeavors? Are you ready to jump in?

AI and Creativity

One example of AI is in the writing of stories for Associated Press

AP uses deep learning in its Wordsmith tool to generate millions of news stories for financial services and sports, outpacing the output of all major media companies combined. Wordsmith has been trained on articles written by others that were redeemed as “good.” It plans to offer medium-specific stories, such as those published online and read on the air by newscasters, publication-specific stories separately tailored for publications like the New York Times and Buzzfeed. The question I ask myself is, could they write the script for my show? Not really, because my show isn’t triggered by press releases, and based on a specific style. So what is the downside of this? No one is reading the press release to validate it manually.


 One of my hobbies is to write instrumental music I use during ideation and brainstorming workshops. They recently came out with an experimental AI plugin from Magenta Studio. I’ve been experimenting with it to see if it can be a tool to help me create better instrumentals

Magenta provides a pretty easy way to get started with AI applied to create music. Another example of AI applied to creativity is when Christie, in October 2018, auctioned its first work of art generated by an algorithm called a generative adversarial network (GAN). This GAN approach meant that the AI was fed 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries to train it in a style of art. Then a portrait was created by one computer network (the generating computer) that attempted to convince a second computer (the discriminating computer) that the image it generated should pass as real art. The discriminating computer is trained with portraits to teach it how to discern what a good portrait looks like so it can play the referee. The generating computer’s task is to create convincing art through a feedback loop, which improves both their capabilities over time. The portrait that passed the test sold for $432,000. This begs some important questions: Who should get the byline for the article published by the wordsmith tool for AP? Who gets the songwriter credit for the new song?

Who should sign their signature to the painting?



Applying AI

Could AI be applied to creating ideas that result in high impact innovations? Could it replace human creativity? Could AI be used to generate new ideas? I don’t think so. It could be used, however, as a tool to take raw ideas and apply AI to expand, enhance, and improve them. Possibly a tool to help the human side of brainstorming get past the mental block of generating more and better ideas.

So if we use AI as a tool to “create,” …

  • Who should get the byline for the article published by the wordsmith tool for AP?
  • Who gets the songwriter credit for the new song created by a tool like Magenta Studio?
  • Who should sign their signature to the painting?
  • Who should get credit on the patent application for a tool that helped in brainstorming?

AI augments what authors and inventors can do. With advances in machine learning, the interaction between algorithms and the creative process is changing. AI now allows artists to find unexpected beauty in chaos and complexity that exceeds the human grasp. AI is something to experiment with. It shouldn’t be feared. I am very optimistic about the role AI can play as a tool.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

No two people are alike. We all enjoy different movies, music, and experiences. To be normal is not to be average, but different. For some reason, we are uncomfortable showing our differences. Many people feel inadequate when looking at others around them. Face it; we are all quirky. Everyone has their own “normal.” It is normal to follow your natural inclinations. Trying to conform to the crowd is not acting like yourself. We are all outstanding in some way. Once we find what our “super-power” is, life takes on a new meaning. What are the steps to being content with who we are? Find out who you are and be that. Discover your strengths and use them. You are unique, and it is your duty to be who you are.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is, or you can go to and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: Will_AI_Replace_Human_Creativity.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT