Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney
An award-winning podcast 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 often wonder if people will accept our ideas or criticize them. This fear can halt us from utilizing our creative expression, which ultimately affects how we innovate. When our creativity is encouraged, it can have a positive impact.

Creative Expression

When coming up with new ideas, early encouragement gives you the motivation to repeat them. In my seventh-grade art class, my teacher was showing us how to cut linoleum blocks. Being a boy scout, this was a natural thing for me, and I enjoyed experimenting with it. With the knife and the block, I constructed a dragon’s head that I used for stamping. The teacher liked the dragon head I created and showcased my work to the entire class.

Unknown to me, she submitted one of my prints to a local art contest, and I placed towards the top of the competition. I still have that linoleum block on my bookshelf, and it continually reminds me of that first level of encouragement I received. What she did can be applied to putting innovative ideas out there.

The Power of Encouragement

The question of today is how to encourage creative expression. Showing people that linoleum block I made was risky, as students could have laughed at it. However, I am glad my teacher showcased it because it encouraged me in a way that I didn’t think it could. I would love to go back to jr. high and thank my teacher for her encouragement, but unfortunately, I cannot. I can, however, pass on what she did for me by paying it forward to others.

When you see someone being highly creative and coming up with ideas, be encouraging to them. It would help if you were an encourager of others as it holds a lot of value. People don’t often realize that words go a long way. However, keep in mind that you should refrain from false platitudes as they decrease the value of your encouragement.

When giving an encouraging word, remember to explain why you are giving this encouragement. Ask questions such as how they came up with the idea. Please provide feedback on how they can do it better but do so in a positive way. Don’t be afraid to spread awareness about other people’s ideas as well. 

Imposter Syndrome

While encouraging creative expression is essential, being able to receive it also holds importance properly. Many people suffer from imposter syndrome, which makes it hard for them to receive encouragement. People with this syndrome are afraid of taking any credit for their successes. These people feel as if they just got lucky and don’t deserve any of their accomplishments. In this occurrence, our irrational mind tries to credit something else with our success.

I am a big sufferer of imposter syndrome and gave a TEDx talk on the syndrome years back. The experience is where I draw my knowledge on this topic. When people encourage your creative expression, it is crucial to avoid this pitfall. It would be best if you assumed people have positive intent when encouraging you. Ask why they responded the way they did about your ideas and use it as a learning experience. 

Conclusion

At this point in my career, I am not the one coming up with many ideas. I build teams and encourage those teams to come up with ideas that turn into innovations. My role is attracting the right talent, creating a solid funding base, protecting from outside antibodies, and being an encourager to my team.

You may think of me as an extroverted person. I’ve done speeches, hundreds if not thousands of YouTube videos, a radio show, this podcast, etc. The reality is that I am an introvert and am happy being a homebody. I have to work extra hard to be the encourager to those doing interesting work. Encouraging people online tends to be a lot easier but can lead to comparison, which leads to discouragement.

We discussed not letting social media be your validation on a recent show. My friend Ernie, who worked with me at HP, is a great photographer. He spends a lot of time travelling and taking extraordinary photos. I follow him on Instagram, where I post photos that I take as well. When Ernie likes my photos, it is a form of encouragement to me.

Encouragement is a learning opportunity. Remember that you should not expect anything in return for giving out encouragement. Focus on genuine encouragement because it holds meaning. I challenge you to take the next step and encourage people’s creative expressions wherever you find yourself today. 

Direct download: Why_Creative_Expression_is_Important.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

We all struggle with being creative from time to time. We may feel like we have lost something, and nothing seems to spark that creative flow. What is killing your creativity? Your ego is the biggest killer of creativity. The struggle tends to become an issue for people in the middle and later years of their career.

The Biggest Creativity Killer

When you are called upon to be highly innovative and creative, the fear of failure can often step in and stump you. You might subconsciously have a bias towards making yourself look good and feel good. This bias feeds your ego and vanity and turns into a vicious cycle. I have seen many people get caught in this cycle and eventually get stuck in a rut.

If you look at highly innovative individuals, they tend to be most prolific in their early thirties. This cycle happened to breakthrough artists and inventors such as Ansel Adams, Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla, and many more.

As you achieve success, it becomes more challenging and more problematic as it feeds the ego. Naturally, you will act in ways that fit into how you want to be perceived by others, resulting in a creativity killer. For example, if you are a top innovator, you will fall into the trap of keeping that specific image or brand. When this happens, your lifestyle, identity, social status, reputation, etc., will impact the creative risks you are willing to take.

My Experiences

You may wonder how I came across all this knowledge of the topic. The knowledge I have comes from what I experienced in my own life. I had great success in the innovation space early on in my career.

In my mid to late twenties, I won two best product of the year awards two years in a row. Three times I led teams that won Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Teams” awards, I did numerous products, had a radio show, and now a podcast. Looking back at how I used to be versus how I am now, I realize I am completely different. I now have a brand, a reputation, accolades, and an ego. I recognize that I have let that get in the way of things and hold me back in the past.

Everyone wants people to like them and to keep giving them positive feedback. The more we build up those accolades, the fewer risks we start to take, opening up room for a killer of creativity. To achieve creative success, you need to be aware of your vanity and let go of your ego. Disconnecting your ego from creativity enables you to take risks, which opens up the opportunity for outside success.

Taking risks is essential for innovation success. Without it, you are not going to make progress. Taking risks open up previously unconsidered areas. When you stop caring about what people perceive to be true about you; then you will see success. While this concept is simple, it is not an easy thing to do.

Keeping Your Ego at Bay

The most significant way to keep your ego at bay is to stop comparing yourself to others. Each of us is on a different creative journey. The path I’m on is not the path you should be on, as no two paths are the same. If you keep comparing yourself to others, you are feeding that ego and will end up disappointed.

In my opinion, social media hurts a lot in this area, primarily through how it impacts your ability to be creative. Social media is not reality, and often give us the idea that we are not as good as others. Don’t try to be somebody else, rather be the best version of yourself. Don’t shy away from your natural gifts and talents because you will get into a state of self-doubt if you do. Once this happens, you lose your ability to be creative and innovative.

We are currently in a transition from the information and knowledge economy to the creative and innovation economy. Allowing room for a creativity killer will halt your creative potential. You need to find ways to continually nurture your creativity and keep that ego at bay, to be successful going forward.

Direct download: What_is_the_Biggest_Killer_of_Creativity.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

The Importance of Utilizing Tools

I really enjoy reading as well as listening to podcasts and audible books. With all the information I come across, I have to be able to capture, organize, and recall it to properly utilize it. I’m currently working on a new book as well as some disruptive innovation courses and workshops. The real challenge for me is finding a single tool that solves the issues stated. Over the last six months, I challenged myself to find the right tools and combine them in a way that I can capture the input, organize it, and make it easy to retrieve. The criteria I emphasized was usability on a mobile phone and desktop. I typically carry an Android, iPhone, and laptop on me, as well as an iPad Pro. I need tools that can collect from books, podcasts, websites, magazines, and emails with minimal manual steps. The tools also need to adapt as the content focus shifts. As of late, I have been focused on ethical innovation, but sometimes shift to discussing the digital divide and other things. I also need to be able to find information easily without remembering exact wording. Lastly, I need tools that create the serendipity effect.

 

The Tools I Use for Innovation

The first tool I have used for innovation is the Moleskine notebook, which I have thousands of. Recently I have shifted to the reMarkable 2 tablet. Using the tablet is just like writing on paper but better. There is a pen for writing and erasing, and it stores and exports all my information to my mobile phone and desktop. I actually wrote out the entire script for today’s show on my tablet. On top of my writing, I read a lot of information from RSS news feeds. I am a big user of Feedly, primarily for access to its AI engine. It is very trainable and interprets sentences to see what concepts are being talked about. I scan through 500-600 articles a day and save different feeds that I like to the Pocket app. The Pocket app is a collection of things that you save to read at a later time. Another tool I obtain information from is through my Kindle Oasis. In the Kindle, I can highlight things I like, and they are automatically fed into my workflow for future inspiration. Podcasts are also things that I capture content from. I use an app called Airr, which allows you to capture a podcast snippet that interests you with one touch of the screen. Otter.ai is another tool I am experimenting with to help me capture ideation sessions.

 

Organization/Combination, and Serendipity Tools

One tool that I found recently was Readwise, which collects everything from my Pocket, podcasts, Kindle, hardcover books, articles, and combines it. Readwise also points out things in your collection that you might not have picked up, triggering serendipity. While Readwise is great, it only prepares information for what I am ultimately looking for. I found an impressive tool called Roam Research, which takes everything from Readwise and organizes it, connecting words and concepts for you. Roam Research runs very well on mobile phones, and I use it for show content, books, articles, etc. I also use the software for my project work and documenting upcoming content for the show. 

 

Direct download: 5_Tools_I_Use_For_Innovation_and_Creativity.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Sam Liang is one of the key innovators behind the scenes in Silicon Valley. He is one of the founders of Google's location services and on the Google Blue Dot patent. Sam is the co-founder and CEO of Otter.ai, which specializes in live transcription services.

Sam Liang's Background

Same earned his Ph.D. at Stanford in hopes of becoming a professor. While in school, he met many smart people working on startups, which influenced him to go that route. He went on to work at Cisco, worked on a startup, and then joined Google for four years.

While at Google, Sam and his team created the Blue Dot and started the Google location server project, which became location services. While we use these services daily, we often don't think of the behind the scenes work that goes into them. When the technology first started coming out, everyone was so amazed by it. Now the market has matured to the point where it is an intrinsic part of daily life.

While Google maps have gone through this process, AI and speech recognition is currently going through it. Even though voice recognition and automatic transcription systems have advanced a lot, there is still more to come.

The Birth of Otter.ai

When using Alexa or Siri, you ask a question or give a command, often taking little time. When using Zoom or similar platforms, there are multiple speakers engaged in a potentially more extended interaction. People often have different accents, speaking styles, and background noises. The technology doesn't handle complicated conversations effectively.

In 2010, we started transcribing the Killer Innovations show using an offshore transcribing service. Even though a human was transcribing it, they couldn't get it right. Human involved transcribing required a lot of effort to go back and clean up the mistakes on my team's part. After a while, we stopped using this service for the show.

For Sam, he realized this was a problem when he always forgot things from meetings. Eventually, he brought a team together to find a solution to this problem. He surveyed the top transcribing technologies of the day and was disappointed by their low quality.  The survey opened up an opportunity for his team to create something better.

Transcribing your Brainstorm

I am a customer of Otter.ai and am impressed with the transcription accuracy no matter the environment. I use it while in my studio as well as on my phone for capturing notes. Otter offers a system that adapts to people's natural speaking styles automatically. It works in the background no matter how many people are speaking or the speed of their words. Many people use Otter when they are in restaurants, driving a car, or walking their dog. Otter.ai has created a new feature that allows the software to hook up to Zoom when used automatically.

When using the software, you can highlight important things that were said to remember them. For those wanting to skip meetings but still get the information, Otter offers that chance as well. The software also identifies the speakers at the end of the session to connect them with what was said. Otter has released a product that allows people to experience it for free. There are also pro and business versions of Otter for those interested in regular usage.

Moving forward

From what I've observed, people these days are hesitant when being recorded. As being recorded becomes more common, I believe the issue of concern will go away. I predict that it will get to the point where it will be rare not transcribing every meeting. The future of work is going to be through virtual meeting systems such as Zoom.

Currently, Otter is working on a lot of things both on the technology and product side. Different words, names, terminologies, and acronyms are a big focus at the moment. On top of that, they are working on better understanding conversations and their context.

About our Guest: Sam Liang

Sam Liang is the CEO and Founder of Otter.ai, an AI-powered live transcription and collaboration app. Before founding Otter.ai, Sam became CEO and Founder of Alohar Mobile in Palo Alto, which Autonavi and Alibaba acquired in 2013. Before that, Sam led the location platform team at Google on the patent for the "blue dot" in Google Maps. Sam has a Ph.D. from Stanford in Electrical Engineering and studied under Professor David Cheriton (first investor in Google and VMware).

 

Direct download: Transcribing_Your_Brainstorm_with_Otter_ai__Interview_with_Sam_Liang.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT