Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney
An award-winning podcast and nationally syndicated radio show 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".

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.  

 

Customers

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 feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com 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 feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com 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. 

 

Experimentation

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 feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com 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. 

 

FIRE

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 feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com 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