Tue, 31 March 2020
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.
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.
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.
Direct download: Playing_Personality_Poker_with_Your_Innovation_Team.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT
Tue, 24 March 2020
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:
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.
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:
With these key players on your innovation team, you are that much closer to creating that game-changing product or idea.
Tue, 17 March 2020
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.
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.
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.
Tue, 10 March 2020
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.
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.
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.
Direct download: Global_Perspective_on_Changing_Innovation_Landscape.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT
Tue, 3 March 2020
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.
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.