Posts Tagged 'innovation'

Innovation through Fusionomics

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One avenue to strategic innovation is to slam together separate technologies or methodologies and see what you get. I call this “Fusionomics.” Think about Tex-Mex food and the mobile phone. Fusionomics is about to happen again. Get ready to have your iPod or iPhone be your game controller. One will be able to wave their iPod or iPhone like a motion controller for game consoles, similar to the Nintendo Wii technology. Social Gaming Network (SGN) has risen in visibility as a result of its iPhone and Facebook games. Now they are fusing web gaming and the iPhone in the iFun technology, and releasing its first free cross-platform game, iGolf. SGN CEO Shervin Pishevar describes their innovation as “the first time the mobile world, the Web world and social gaming have united liked this. This is like having a Wii on the go or a Wii in your hand.”

In my book, Corporate Imagination—Plus, published by The Free Press imprint of Simon & Schuster, I explained several strategic innovation techniques. One method I detailed was “seeking combinations.” Fusion is a classic approach to creativity; things that already exist are linked together, in a marriage of thoughts.

In the food industry, in which I do extensive work, consider the examples of wine coolers, toaster waffles, milkshake breakfasts, chunky soups, and all of the “lite” foods. Additionally, years ago Procter & Gamble created an innovative new laundry product from two existing but separate products, a combination of detergent and fabric softener, named Bold 3. The products were commonly used together when washing clothes already, but required the purchase of two separate products; they just combined them in one product for a compelling marketing hook. How did the rest of their competitors miss this obvious combination?

Seeking effective combinations of existing products, yields innovative concepts and  powerful marketing niches; think cross-promotion sales and merchandising, retailer branded credit cards, and cross-over vehicles.

Examples abound. From a technological perspective, the key to relational databases, the fastest growing segment of the software industry, is the power of the programs to relate two different files of data, so long as they have some element in common.  Ever hear of a company that broke ground seeking combinations in this area named Oracle? Larry Ellison, the company’s driven CEO, is a remarkable breakthrough leader.

On a personal note, my thirteen year old twin boys, Eric and Ryan, and their two friends conceived the germ of the Wii concept six years ago in our family room when they were seven years old. I walked in one day and found them lined up watching Star Wars and in unison replicating the laser sword battle scenes with their toy light sabers. I asked them if they’d like to do this with their Sony Playstation, and they asked how. I said it would take a few years. In my next leadership development training session at the largest computer game publisher in the world, I offered the idea for free, and I recommended they partner with Sony and develop it. I repeatedly voiced the idea in each annual session with this company. For whatever reason, no action was taken on the idea and three years later, near-dead Nintendo launched the Wii, and subsequently screamed to the top of the computer game console industry, right past Sony. It broke my strategic heart.


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Outliers and the Story of Success

 

Writer and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell familiarized the public with the terms “the tipping point,” and “blink.” With the release of his newest book this week he is about to popularize a less-than-common word: “outlier.”

In Outlier: The Story of Success, Gladwell describes an outlier as “the person who doesn’t fit into our normal understanding of achievement.” In essence, he says that outliers out-work the rest of us, and spend 10,000 hours doing it—what he calls the 10,000-hour rule—because greatness requires enormous time. His examples include Bill Gates, the Beatles and many others who worked enormously hard and put in the time before making it to the big time.

In Lean Six Sigma, one of the approaches that I utilize as a consultant to help organizations around the world achieve breakthrough financial results, an “outlier” is a data point that is beyond the three-sigma lines on a statistical process control (SPC) graph. W. Edwards Deming, Walter Shewhart, and their colleagues brought SPC graphs and outliers to the world in the 1940s. And, In the 1950s they brought them to the Japanese, who in turn used Deming’s philosophy, methods, and SPC graphs to kick our industrial butts in the 1960s. And they still do today.

Technically, an outlier is data point with a 99.7% chance of not happening. So if one happens, you can say with huge confidence, “something has changed.” You should do a root cause analysis on all outliers, good and bad. For example, if you rack up a horrendous golf score compared to your handicap, or previous average and range, ask yourself what the root cause is so you can correct it. Do the same for an amazing score. Rather than just buying everyone in your foursome a drink when you have an “exceptional” day, make the exception the rule by analyzing what worked. This is called a best practice.

I completely agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s assessment of the distinguishing characteristic of greatness. But if I may be so bold, I’d like to add an underlying characteristic. AMPLITUDE. On one extreme, great performers go to the positive extreme, where they think big and idealistically, and push themselves and their organizations to achieve uncompromising quality. Additionally, winners in all walks of life employ huge, constructively negative amplitude in order to spot unmet market needs, as well as brutally evaluate themselves. This enables them to be overachievers in practicing their art, science or sport, and fuels them. Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice, Dianna Ross, Madonna, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and every other winner does this. They are often accused of being perfectionists, and for good reason. They are.

Coincidentally, I believe I fit Malcolm’s 10,000-hour rule in that I have presented what I have discovered to be the ONE THING that distinguishes great leaders (and all other winners) from just the good ones. It’s “Amplitude,” and I intend to make the word famous. (Remember where you heard it first!) I have shared it in keynote speeches and workshops around the world with 10,000 people over the last 15 years, receiving 99.9% confirmation it’s the real deal.

Or, if you would like to see how to apply amplitude to your business strategy, innovation, marketing, finance, operations, organization, acquisitions, and other areas, read my first book, Corporate Imagination—Plus. It was the first book to detail how to put innovation into strategy.