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".

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. 

 

Ideation/Disrupter

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 innovation@killerinnovations.com. 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.

 

Ideation

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 phil@killerinnovations.com. 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 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: Virtual_Brainstorm.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT