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".

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. 

 

SpaceX

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.

Gaming

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