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, 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. 

Summary

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 PST

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.

Conclusion

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 PST

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. 

Execution

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. 

 

Summary

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 PST

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.

Ranking

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. 

Summary

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 PST