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Boundaries, Blockers, and Overcoming the Limits of Innovation March 11, 2020

Boundaries, Blockers, and Overcoming the Limits of Innovation

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Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard

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Organizations find there are significant headwinds to realizing the value of innovation and transformation efforts. This Innovation Leader master class webcast, co-presented by George White (Chief Innovation Officer, Cantina) and David Crean (VP of Innovation, BCBSMA), relates methods for recognizing the boundaries and blockers to innovation practices, and shows how to work around them to thrive in the market.

David Crean and George White during their Innovation Leader Webcast
David Crean (left) and George White (right) during their live Innovation Leader Webcast.

Let’s just say that–in this conversation–you’ll learn a new word or two (exaptation, anyone?), AND see how innovation relates to both Inigo Montoya and Stretch Armstrong. You won’t want to miss it.

Download slides from the presentation here.

Watch the full video:

Have innovation questions? Interested in chatting about:

  • Metrics and measurement
  • Scaling
  • Buy-in in your organization
  • Or, making it stick?

Reach out to us. We would love to continue this innovation conversation.

Full Transcript

Scott Kirsner 0:05
All right. Good afternoon and welcome, everyone, to today’s master class. I’m Scott Kirsner, CEO and Co-Founder of Innovation Leader. We’re thrilled to have you join us today. For those of you joining us for the first time, I want to say welcome to Innovation Leader. We always say we’re relentlessly focused on providing resources that large companies can use to improve their innovation programs, understand the latest strategies, and compare their approach and performance with other corporate innovation executives. Our resources include webcasts like this one today, as well as research reports, downloadable templates, case studies, roundtables, and exclusive visits to corporate innovation labs, where you can see how other companies are pursuing innovation and you can check out all those resources at [Now for] our two speakers today. First, I’ll introduce George White, who is Chief Innovation Officer at Cantina: a firm in Boston that helps companies ranging from high-growth startups to Fortune 500s innovate, design, and build meaningful products and services. George is responsible for guiding Cantina’s innovation efforts as well as working with clients on building game-changing products. And, some of his recent projects he’s worked on at Cantina include the FundVisualizer for Putnam Investments and helping Link AKC launch its first consumer connected product. Before Cantina, George was at McGraw Hill and Thompson. Joining George at Cantina’s office in Boston, as a special guest, is David Crean, VP of Innovation at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, who was kind enough to host an Innovation Leader visit last fall. David was previously an innovation leader at Anthem in Atlanta, and a GM of customer engagement solutions at Thomson Reuters. George and David, thanks so much for joining us, and I’ll turn things over to you.

George White 1:54
Thanks, Scott. Hi, everyone. We’ll go ahead and get started. We’ll be talking today about Boundaries, Blockers, and Overcoming the Limits of Innovation. I want to start by painting a picture of where we’re going to go. Then we’ll talk a little bit about some of the possible solutions to some of the challenges that we face in achieving the innovations that we want to. As Scott mentioned, I’m George White, Chief Innovation Officer at Cantina. We are a strategy, design, development firm. I’m joined by David.

David Crean 2:20
Hey, it’s great to be here with you all, I always enjoy sharing experiences, learnings with fellow corporate innovators. Thanks for having me.

George White 2:29
One of the things we want to do, [which] Scott mentioned at the top of the webinar, is that there’s a question interface, I would really encourage you to ask questions. If there’s something that we’re saying that you would like either clarification on or there’s something you’d like to go deeper on. Please go ahead and send questions, and Scott will go ahead and let us know what they are. Let’s talk about where we are in terms of boundaries, blockers, and limitations. I’m gonna start with this guy. I’m sure that almost all of you know who this is. This is Clayton Christensen. The recently, unfortunately departed, great thinker about disruptive innovation. Clay was a wonderful inspiration to a lot of us. I know he was involved with Innovation Leader for many, many years. But the reason I put him up here is not because he was a great thinker, but because he said something in an interview a few years ago in 2014, that both chills me to my bones, but also rings true for me. What he said was, when he was asked about this question about innovation leaders within big businesses and what was going to happen with them, he said something should shake all us, he said, his sense was that almost all of them appear to be wasting their time, and almost all of them will fail. Now, that’s a pretty big and broad statement. And it should be concerning to all of us. It’s an indictment to some extent, it’s also a rallying cry. Now, Clay’s reasons for saying this came down to a few things: one, innovation leaders within organizations often don’t have the full, total buy-in they need to achieve the goals that they want to have. Two, there’s not always necessarily the right kinds of investment, right places. We’ll talk about that later. And, three, at the depth of all of this, this is a very hard thing to do. Here’s the guy who came up with this amazing theory, and, when asked, “Would you ever be a Chief Innovation Officer?” his response was, “I would not”. Let’s go from there and see how we can figure out how to beat Clay’s challenge. Alright, the next thing I want to throw out here is this idea that 70% of change projects fail. This is a number that gets thrown around a lot. It’s one that we should take with a grain of salt, but we should also consider. First off, there are some problems with the statement in that, one: Failure is hard to define, right? I tend to change this to 70% of change projects don’t deliver the value that they expected to deliver. That’s often because of the expectations at the front of the project very quickly don’t get met by the end of the project. There’s a bunch of reasons for that, which will, again, get into. But this is something where I think that we should be worried about the idea that we’re making large investments quite often in trying to make a change and trying to make transformation trying to make disruption. But if you think about it, if this number’s right, or even close to right, we’re better off flipping a coin. Right? A 50/50 chance on what we should do strategically would be as good or better than these conscious efforts we’re making, if this number is right. Now, I think it’s actually an untested assumption. I think that far more value is delivered than we think is delivered, even when we fail. The definition of failure is a problematic thing inside of business. One of the actual blockers to innovation is that we don’t allow for failure, which actually is a form of “testing to learn”. But this is definitely one of those concerns that we should have, which is there’s a broader feeling that we’re not making headway that we want to run innovation. David, anything you want to add about that?

David Crean 5:57
Yeah, I just like the words you just used, “testing to learn”, and I tend not to use the words “failing fast” or “failing”. “Taking chances” and “testing to learn” are the behaviors that we’re advocating for to implement organizationally. When people say, “What does failure mean?” A lot of times they mean, “Did it deliver an ROI in the expected time frame?” They’re applying current business operational metrics to value and failure, and maybe overlooking some of the value that’s delivered. For example, if an initiative failed to deliver ROI, but: We learned. We gained insights. We tried new things. We instigated new approaches across the organization. We tested out new and different technologies. We established partnerships that we otherwise would have established. We challenged the status quo. Aren’t all those things valuable?

George White 7:07

David Crean
Even when something fails on its face value of financial return, it doesn’t mean it’s been an entire failure to have spent the time doing it.

George White
Especially if we’re doing it in ways that are rapid. I saw something interesting in a comment from Star Simpson yesterday where she was talking about prototypes and the idea that prototypes shouldn’t be cheap, but they also shouldn’t be expensive. They shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive. Prototypes are meant to test and learn, not meant to prove out that you can do something cheaply or cost-efficiently. They’re meant to show you whether or not you understand the scale and scope of the problem you’re trying to build and whether or not it fits the problem that you want.

I’m going to do my little bit of some fan service for Innovation Leader. The next couple of slides are sourced from Innovation Leader’s benchmark Innovation Impact, both 2018, 2019, and 2020. This is a great resource by the way. If you haven’t used this report, I highly recommend you do. It has a bunch of information, a lot of the same things we’re talking about today are covered in there. It will help you understand where your peers are, how to benchmark yourself against your innovation efforts, and also where you might go next. The reason I brought this one up is I want to talk about what’s blocking us. If you look at it, this is kind of stunning, right? the very top thing, the thing is, number one is: politics, turf wars, and no alignment. We’re gonna talk about agreement versus alignment a little bit later. But that should be stunning. I’m curious to know if anyone in the audience disagrees with this ordering. But at the bottom, on the other hand, we have a lack of CEO support as the least likely thing of these top several considerations for the block against innovation. That’s interesting, because on the one hand, the person who’s in primary leadership usually isn’t the person blocking us and yet, that’s the person who’s primarily responsible for how we set up our culture and how we set up our alignment. There’s an interesting story here, about the idea that something’s happening, it’s a disconnect between those two and Dave and I will talk a little bit later, who’s responsible and who thinks about what in terms of innovation, but turf wars, number one, culture issues, number two, this is also stunning to me. But it also implies something about where innovation sits in the organization. We’ll talk about connection later. Because if culture is a key blocker to innovation, it means that we’re not diffusing things correctly. We’re not spreading things out.

Scott Kirsner 9:22
Let me jump in here and add some comments from the participants. Ann says, “Certainly, the CEO doesn’t show enough support to overcome the politics.” Eric says, “Absolutely, the CEO controls the politics.” It’s interesting that some of our participants are tying in, you know, the CEO’s attitude can either help you overcome those turf wars and politics and lack of alignment or potentially perpetuate it and have it kind of continue to be an obstacle.

George White 9:51
Absolutely right, that’s a great point. The CEO support that’s implied in this chart is they support the innovation team in a broad sense. They may be giving them budget and maybe giving them headway to try and make progress. But they’re not building the communication structures across the whole organization to tie in with it, what the team is doing. All of those little turf wars are people who live in a particular territory, a particular part of the business. Essentially, when innovation starts to show up, you have a thump. Things start to fall apart there. This chart is great because it tells us that even though most people reported that lack of CEO support was not as big of an issue as some of these others, it is implied there’s a bigger issue that is here. As we look at some of these others: lack of strategy and vision, the CEO and the rest of the C team, generally speaking, and lack of budget is an interesting one. This has to do with alignment problem again, in that we’re not necessarily aligned, the innovation budget’s against the rest of the business, lack of executive support. Again, lots of problems here, but generally speaking, we can see that there are some key issues but the number one issue is around how we structure our business and organization.

I pulled this up, this is a chart that’s from the 2020 report. What I wanted to point out was that many of the elements that you’re seeing here, even though the chart’s formatted differently, are very much the same. With only a couple of exceptions, all of these are ranked the same. Now, some of them have slightly lower numbers, which we could say is within the realm of statistical variance (7.9% reporting versus 10%), but generally speaking, the order is largely the same. But there is one I want to point out that has risen overall, which is recruiting and not enough of high-demand skill sets. This is something, David, I wanted to get your thoughts on. But the idea that one of the things that is starting to see is more and more consideration is [that] it’s harder and harder to find the right people to help you with your innovation efforts. This is something a lot of businesses are struggling with, either because of lack of budget, not being able to pay the rates they need to, or simply the markets dried up for the people who can do the skills sets that we need.

David Crean 12:03
Yeah, it’s true, it is harder and harder to find the people. Part of that’s because more and more people have innovation functions. The pure number of people that are available is not growing as fast as the demand for building corporate innovation functions. But also, the types of people you need to be successful with corporate innovation need to be directly tied to what we’re going to talk about in a little while. That is the flavor, or flavors, of innovation that your organization is pursuing. Because I could say, hey, the flavor of innovation I want to pursue is fostering a culture of innovation and empowering all of my employees to be innovative. But I might be staffing it with the people that would be needed to explore emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, and blockchain for example, who are not well-suited towards the flavor of innovation that my company thinks I’m supposed to be doing. It’s important to make sure that the hard-to-come-by talent is the type of talent you need to do the type of innovation work that you have chosen as an organization today.

George White 13:11
That’s perfect. Then, David, also, when we think about this, recruiting implies that I’m going outside. That I need to find somebody. That the resources I need aren’t in-house. How do you think about the fact that this should be something that’s spread more across the organization? That maybe we should be thinking a little bit out of the box in terms of who is the right person to succeed in doing innovation.

David Crean 13:30
Yeah, it’s a good question. There are a few ways that we’ve found have worked well over time in terms of identifying people or leaders throughout the organization that could potentially champion innovation efforts. One is when you offer innovation classes or human-centered design, design thinking classes, and you offer those to individuals throughout your organization. You’ll get people signing up for those that have a desire to be innovative. That’s a good signal that that person might be somebody that you could groom as a catalyst in the organization to help you. If you offer engagement with business leaders or teams of people that are trying to solve challenges and innovative ways, you typically get your more innovative leaders surfacing, saying, “Hey, I want my team to come work with you on such and such problem or such and such challenge”. That’s a great way to surface leaders in the organization that have a willingness to challenge the status quo or have an innovation bent to their perspective. Those are a couple of things that we do to surface the types of people. Then, kind of cultivating those people is, I find, learning by doing and engaging with them in collaborative ways on initiatives is the best way for them to experience firsthand how innovation can take hold. And, when it takes hold with them, it will take hold throughout the organization.

George White 15:00
Scott, now is a good time to do our first poll. It’s a good place to go ahead and throw it up if you’d like.

Scott Kirsner 15:07
Okay, great. You’d like to launch the poll about who’s responsible for innovation in your organization? Correct?

George White 15:14
That’s right.

Scott Kirsner 15:16
All right. We always like to try to get 70 to 75% turnout for our polls in these webcasts. We’d like to do better than most primaries, caucuses, and general elections, in terms of voter turnout. We’ll give you a second. There was a question a minute ago from Jose who wanted to ask about what “role models” means here. There was a second column on that last slide where we asked participants in that survey (there are about 200-plus participants), we asked them to classify themselves based on the sophistication or maturity level of the innovation program and their company and we looked at the higher end of that spectrum as the role-model companies, self-identified as such. That second column kind of shows what their obstacles were as opposed to the overall respondents. The interesting thing that George was alluding to is, you start to notice that they get over some of the issues around culture and politics. But for them, budget and recruiting, the right skill sets, rise as big challenges.

We’re right about 71% voter turnout here. If you haven’t gotten a chance to vote, please do. If you have comments or feel like there isn’t a good option here that you’d like to select, feel free to use the question interface. We will share the results here. You should be able to see the results on your screen.

Let’s see. Layla was asking, “Responsible for innovation is an ambiguous thing.” There’s a named innovation team at her company, but all we do is facilitate. The businesses are responsible for innovating their business areas. That’s an interesting point.

George White 17:12
There’s a great article, Scott, in Harvard Business Review from a few years ago called the “Four Types of Corporate Intrapreneurship”. It talks about innovation models. There’s the sort of the ground-up loner who finds a manager who will agree to fund their thing, and off they run and something happens. There is an organization like what Layla just described, which is an organization that is funded, but it’s largely proselytizing innovation in their organization. They’re not directly doing it. They’re primarily there as shepherds of it. There’s also sort of the open innovation plans like Google has, where 20% of your time you essentially give resources to the entire company. Nobody’s shepherding it, but resources are available. Adobe’s got a similar thing with Red Box and so on. Then there’s this model where you have a full team that’s fully dedicated, they can actually go, create new products, roll them out, work with business units. But all four of those models appear in all businesses. It’s fascinating to me when someone has a business where they say: “Well, our job or our innovation team is to, to proselytize it, but not necessarily to do it,” which sometimes works, but sometimes there’s a bit of a disconnect between those two.

Scott Kirsner 18:21
Let me read a couple of comments and then we’ll go back to your slide deck, George. Sabrina says, “For us, one department has a dedicated innovation team, but other business units go about it in different ways.” Ann points out, “If everyone was responsible for innovation, no one is.” There was one point earlier, Manjit said, “Having an innovation team often gives the rest of the business an excuse not to have to worry about innovation. It works better if the innovation team acts as an innovation support function rather than be responsible for innovating for the whole business.” I’ll let you guys chime in and I’ll bring the slides back up here.

George White 19:00
Those are some great points. First off, I agree that the “everyone/no one” thing is always an issue, right? Somebody has to be the owner of this function, someone has to take it in stride. Dave and I will talk a bit later about the idea that ideally, a business would operate innovation at all levels. Now, of course, we’re about to talk about this, the definition of what that means is imprecise, and this is something that we should be thinking about. But, you know, in terms of that last point about innovation teams shepherding innovation, or, being there as a driver of it, that’s a key point, which is, even when you have all the resources to build on your own, unless your job is more aligned with, say, corporate venture, where you’re going in and rolling out new businesses out of what you’re doing, you’re going to need to be tied into the rest of the organization. You have to know what their needs are. We have a client that we were talking to a few years ago, we were talking to someone in one of their business units and they had a centralized innovation function. It was doing some cool product work, we were embedded with them. We were talking to this person in the business unit about that dedicated function and they said: “Oh, they’re great, they’re awesome, they’re amazing. They do all sorts of cool stuff. We’ll never use them. Because they never know what our problems are. They never understand what we’re doing”. So, even though there was a group there was there to be dedicated, focused and dealing with it, they weren’t doing their job of being tied back into the business units and that business unit was going to go make a new investment, create its own team, which is its own form of blocker, because now you have multiple investments in innovation that are hard to track and you’re building up full teams each time. David, any thoughts on this point before we move on?

David Crean 20:43
The point that I would make here is that having an innovation team that works with the business on things that are important to the business, is the important thing. Whatever form you need to take to ensure that happens is the form you take. That might be different when working with one business area than it is with another. You have to have the flexibility in the way you stand up your innovation capability to be able to accommodate different levels of engagement from the business for different types of initiatives.

George White 21:23
I absolutely agree with that.

Scott Kirsner 21:25
Before we go on, there was one question. Someone wanted to see the results again, so I’ll pop those up. There’s also a question about innovation in a government agency. I don’t know if that’s something that either of you have experience with in terms of maybe how that tends to be structured?

George White 21:45
That’s a tricky question. One, because it’s not my area of expertise, but two, I do know a bit about this broadly from my own study of the practice. Government innovation is all over the place, right? There’s ARPA and ARPA-E, or also DARPA, within the bounds of the federal government specifically focused on innovation practice. They’ve generated all sorts of ways of doing things including Google X and Google ATAP which were spun out from the practices that ARPA and DARPA put in place. Plus other groups have other practices. The CDC is a current example, has a very different way of looking at innovation and practice than other government agencies. But honestly, it’s not my area of expertise so I can’t speak to it. David, you have anything you want to add?

David Crean 22:36
No, not really.

George White 22:37
I’d love to follow up and get sort of more detail, Scott, on what that question is, at some point, maybe later when we do more Q&A that would be good to come back to.

Alright, here’s my friend, Inigo Montoya. Alright, hazy definition of innovation. If you like The Princess Bride, and hope you all do, the character Inigo Montoya, among other things, besides the fact that he’s on an incredible quest to find the man who killed his father and take his revenge, he also worked for a guy named Vizzini. Vizzini keeps using the word “inconceivable” whenever an act occurs. At one point Inigo turns him and says: “I do not think it means what you think it means”. This is something we see over and over and over again, innovation. We use that word a lot. I’m always bugged by it because, at some point, innovation went from being an actual thing, you know – a buggy whip was innovation at some point, the electric engine was an innovation – to being a process. We took the word “innovating” and made it “innovation” and that bugs me. But, broadly speaking, it’s very unclear when someone means when they say innovation, we should talk about that a little bit.

If we look at Wikipedia, our friend, there’s a nice little quip in here, which shows that in 2014, a survey of literature found that there were over 40 different definitions of innovation. That’s a lot. That’s just in the “expertise.” I’m sure there are more. If I was to go and poll each of you, and we put them in a box, we’d find that for the 90 plus people on this call, there are 90 different definitions of innovation and there’s nuance and subtlety to all of them. The OECD has an interesting thing where they have within the Oslo manual, they have this precise definition that they use. There’s product innovation, and process innovation, and marketing innovation, and organizational innovation. But I’m willing to bet that if we were looking at this, that their definition still doesn’t quite fit what your organization does. There’s some disconnect between this and the way that you think about and approach innovation would be different than the way they think about it. One of the things that we’re dealing with when we talk about this, about what a blocker to innovation is, one of them is that we don’t even have an agreed-upon way to define what we’re talking about. That’s a huge problem. If you do a survey of titles, you’ll find places where the CMO is also the head of innovation, or in other places, it’s the CTO or it’s an independent function, or it’s never quite aligned to a specific role. David, you want to talk a little bit about that?

David Crean 25:12
There’s a lot of different definitions as you pointed out. The important thing is to understand what it means to individuals that are going to be involved in decision-making and execution in your organization. What I found, and it’s not necessarily always the case, role by role, but, for example, you might ask your leader of human resources, what innovation means, and they might say, it’s fostering culture change and empowering associates in our organization to be innovative. You ask your CTO what innovation means and they might say, “Oh, it’s about exploring new technologies like Blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning”. You ask another leader in the organization, maybe somebody over at operations or product, and they might say, “Oh, it’s about delivering the next new product, or pursuing the next new market”. Someone else might say, “Oh, it’s about generating lots of new ideas from inside and outside the company”. Trust me, for every single executive in your C-suite, there is probably a different thing that they’re envisioning in their head and when they hear the word innovation. The challenge is: do you create one form of innovation and then ask everybody to change their opinion on what innovation is? Or, do you allow everybody to have their own perspective on what innovation is and you try to be something to everybody? Or, is there – and the way I found to be somewhat effective – is, you get your executives in a room and you take them through an activity that forces them to get out of their head and onto the table in front of everybody what they mean by innovation, so at least there’s an understanding across the C-suite and leadership, that we all might have different perspectives on innovation and then you can collectively drive them towards which flavor or flavors do we want to take on as an organization, given that everybody thinks somewhat differently about it. My main point is, everybody thinks about it differently and getting those perspectives out on the table and transparent will help you make sense of what you’re trying to do to the rest of the organization.

George White 27:40
We’ll talk more about the flavors of innovation a bit later, but that’s a great point. I love the fact that you talked about the idea that the best way to do this is: regardless of what the definition needs to be, it’s getting people in a room and letting them have a conversation, right? Guide them through that process of saying, “Well, your definition isn’t the same as yours”, and they need to hear that. They need to say it out loud. It’s important to me, it’s not just said in that room for the leaders, it has to be said across the whole business. Your entire organization needs to hear what the business means when it says innovation. It’s key that we find a way to make sure that that definition is aligned top to bottom and that it’s clear that we’re all trying to operate on whatever priorities we have, we know what they are and that they’re well defined for us. Because again, the assumptions are broad and wide and it’s valid. It’s a vague and sort of cloudy field and so it’s not surprising that people have a lot of definitions.

Scott Kirsner 28:38
Let’s launch this next poll here about whether there is a definition. This is a quick one. Is the definition of innovation clear within your organization? Let’s define that as: “clear to people outside of the innovation team, not necessarily to everyone in the organization but to some constituencies, whether it’s senior leadership and the business units, the HR group, employees and product development.”

Let me get to a couple of comments and questions that came up as we were talking about Inigo Montoya. Dennis McGrath, one of our editorial advisors, mentions: “I found it a useful thing to define innovation at the enterprise level, to define it by categories such as: incremental innovation, experimental innovation, and breakthrough. It’s also important to define what is not innovation. Many times what is called innovation is really continuous improvement,” Dennis says, I don’t know if you have a quick comment or thoughts on that, and then we’ll bring some other questions and comments in.

George White 29:43
Dennis is prefigured in our next slide, which is about the sort of H1, H2, H3 model: incremental, adjacent, and transformational innovations. This is key. There’s a big thing that we need to be figuring out in addition to the definition of innovation, it’s which type of innovation are you doing right now and who’s doing it? This is a continuing problem. I’m watching the poll come in and I’m fascinated by the results that we have. If we’re good, I’d love to have to pop them up because they’re instructive.

David Crean 30:23
I’d like to make a comment about what Dennis said, and that is, the idea of incremental innovation versus disruptive or transformational. In the end it’s definitions you’re applying after the fact. They’re not definite definitions that can be effectively applied ahead of time. It’s a range of innovativeness. I would say, going into it trying to solve problems in novel new ways, is the way you go into it and what you get out of it might be something that’s disruptive to the industry, it might be disruptive to your company, it might be viewed as somewhat incremental or adjacent. But those are definitions you apply after you’ve done what you’re doing. I don’t think they’re necessarily definitions you can apply ahead of time and say, “We’re only doing disruptive innovation”. How do you even know where to start? If you’ve set the bar that it has to be disruptive, in the end. You’re trying to tackle problems in novel ways. I’ve struggled a lot with that because I’ve tried to present before, “Hey, this part of my organization is going to focus on disruptive stuff and this part of my organization is going to focus on incremental stuff.” Then it turns out the most disruptive thing came from the group that was focused with the business on the incremental thing, but they became too disruptive because they worked on a problem that the business cared about, but they push the envelope so far, that it became something disruptive, that at its face value when we embarked on it would have been considered incremental at best.

George White 32:00
I love the point you’re making here. The next slide kind of talks about this a little bit, at a pretty high level, those three categories. But it has some problems. I want to talk about these problems, both in terms of why I think this was useful, but also to David’s point, it’s hard to apply upfront. For me, with incremental, adjacent transformational innovations really boil down to three things: I’m trying in some way to make something I already do better. There’s that aspect of it. We call it incremental innovation, we put in the H1 one bucket, but that’s wrong. That it’s not truly incremental and I don’t think it’s “horizon one”. It’s not necessarily our primary concern. To David’s point, those things may turn out to be things that hit on a far horizon. We may learn things. We’re doing innovation, right? We’re testing, learning, and adapting as we go. To David’s point, if you’re trying to do incremental innovation, you suddenly realize that you’ve totally disrupted things or you’ve got a transformational thing. Is that bad? Is it good? It’s the consequence of…

David Crean 32:57
Do you give it to someone else because it’s too disruptive to your incremental group?

George White 33:02
Exactly. Mind blown. I can’t do this thing. It’s helpful to, in the broadest sense, to think about: are you trying to understand and modify a thing that you’re currently delivering on? Are you trying to adapt that thing to work in some new context? Or, are you trying to do something that’s completely new to you or to the market? It’s not useful necessarily, to say, I’m going to do transformational disruption. The reason 70% of change projects fail is in part because people expect that they’re going to disrupt the entire world. Clayton Christiansen did us all a favor by talking about disruptive innovation. But then we all misread what he said, right? What he meant by disruptive innovation wasn’t transformational change. Although that’s a side effect of it. What he meant was: when you take something very complex and very hard, and you turn it into something simple and easy to deliver, that’s what he meant by disruptive innovation. That can apply to all of these categories. To David’s point, being incremental might take something that was previously really, really difficult and it might disrupt what you’re doing. The same thing is true if you set out to be transformational. But, I do think it’s useful to think about sort of where we are, and where we’re starting from.

Scott Kirsner 34:15
We have a request to get to the poll results, I think we’ve left people hanging too long here on this. This is interesting and pretty surprising. 66% said, “No”, they don’t have a definite clear definition.

George White 34:32
And 22% said “Maybe”. [laughs] I was watching this come in, and I’m fascinated by these results. This is a very simple, very straightforward question. I’m not surprised by the results. But I’d love to hear comments about this, maybe when we do the Q&A later unless people have got comments right now. I’m curious about why people say ‘No’. I’m curious about what the driver is for them individually. For me, it often comes down to something we’re going to talk about in a minute, which is sort of disagreement versus alignment. The idea that not everybody’s spending enough time getting aligned on what it is that they’re trying to do. Therefore, there’s never a definition to put pen to paper to create the “Here’s what we mean by innovation: Here. Now.” Which might be adjusted later, but that doesn’t happen.

Scott Kirsner 35:22
Our friend Eric, in Boston, says, “For me, ‘Maybe’ means somewhat. There’s a somewhat agreed-upon definition of innovation.” A couple of other comments here. Bruce says, “Any idea our executives have is what’s defined as innovative in his company.” Let’s continue, so we make sure we get to the rest of your slides, George, and more Q&A and more polls.

George White 35:55
This goes back to the Innovation Leader report, the most recent one. It looks at role models versus all respondents. Generally speaking, what your peers are doing, a lot of them are looking at incremental innovation. They’re looking at modifying and performing on the things that they do now, versus looking at adjacencies, trying to find new places to deal with the things they’re working on and those transformational innovations. To David’s earlier point, this chart both is interesting to me, and slightly disheartening to me because, to my mind, if you’re seeking transformational innovation, that’s kind of like you’re trying to make a leapfrog. Those things almost never happen, right? How many Einsteins are there in a given century? How many major changes to a business model occur? We’re going to talk later about some research that shows that incremental innovation can be just as powerful as those brand new patentable kinds of things that you’re trying to do. This is fascinating to me that we have these sorts of breakdowns.

This was one that Innovation Leader teased, which is “the four dirty words of innovation”. Ironically, I probably have said all of these words in this presentation so far, but I cringe whenever I hear these: innovation, transformation, disruption, and change. I cringe because when people say these things, they’re looking for some huge leapfrog. They’re looking to get ahead of the competition in ways that nobody has in 15 or 20 years. They’re looking to create something that nobody’s created. What it ends up being is, frankly, innovation theater. It ends up being about: “What’s the distance we can get to, or, what’s the big lever we can pull?” Although it’s arguable sometimes that we look at small-scale innovations, and we don’t see them for what they are, or we call some things that are “small scale” “continuous improvement” innovation when it shouldn’t be. I think we should be suspect when we hear these words. We should be careful and cautious about the idea that someone’s coming in saying, “We need to be innovative, transformative or disruptive”, or “We have to change”. This is all true. But, we should be watching out for it. We should also be watching for the pressures that it puts on our organization because quite often, these words can be triggers to panic action: “Something’s gone wrong, we had better throw a team on it and get moving”. David, you have any thoughts on these?

David Crean 38:31
[No,] other than to agree that words like these quickly become overused, and they tend to take on a lot of different meanings. Ultimately, they become meaningless because nobody’s talking about the same thing. It kind of goes back to the flavors of innovation we talked about. It’s hard to find a sentence in the business world that does not have one of these words in it. It’s important to understand what you do mean, or what the leaders in your organization mean, to get it out on the table.

George White 39:02
Exactly. These words can be dangerous in a job title. The average tenure for a person with the term innovation is like three years, in any given job, you don’t last very long. Partly it goes back to that culture issue that was highlighted in the innovation research earlier, which is: it creates a turf war. It’s a very dangerous thing to say, “I own innovation and you do not”. If I’m in the line of business, and I hear that, that’s a turn-off for me. I don’t want to work with you. I also feel slighted. I feel like “I don’t have good ideas? I don’t have things I can push forward?” We should be very careful when we use these terms and know that they’re loaded within an organization and can be part of that problem with the turf war.

Agreement versus alignment. This is a huge one for me. I honestly feel like I had an epiphany about this a couple of years ago when it occurred to me that it’s easy to get agreement from people. It’s simple to go and sit down with a bunch of people and say we should do a thing. Everyone will agree, and then they’ll walk out of the room, and they won’t know what they meant by that. Nor who was supposed to do it, or how it was supposed to be done. A quick example of most of our lives, you can probably sit down with three or four of your friends and say, “We should all go to dinner”. I guarantee you, within a couple of seconds, you’ll probably all agree, either yes, or no, you shouldn’t. But then you start talking about: Where should you go? When should you go? Who does eat meat? Who doesn’t eat meat? Who likes this cuisine? Who likes that cuisine? What neighborhood should you be in? What month should you be in? That can take time and the back and forth that exists in those small interpersonal relationships, they exist in the business world as well. We see just as much of that. Focusing on this problem of “Are you really aligned?” is key. David, do you want to add anything there?

David Crean 40:54
I would add my strong agreement that alignment is critical and sometimes the way to tell if somebody’s agreeing with you or willing to align with you has to do with their actual willingness to commit resources, their actual willingness to be mutually accountable for success, their willingness for them to have metrics related to the success applied to their own compensation. Those sorts of things are proof points of alignment that you can use to make sure that you don’t have a passive agreement, but that you have a level of commitment.

Scott Kirsner 41:34
A couple of questions here, David. Maybe I’ll take a quick swing at some of these. Craig wants to know, “If innovation is a dirty word, how do you communicate within the organization?” Kind of: What do you mean? What do you want without using innovation?

David Crean 41:51
I’m not personally sure I would call it a dirty word. I want to emphasize that it means different things to different people. Unless you get out on the table what people mean, it’s going to be hard for you to be successful innovating when nobody agrees what innovation even is. I don’t think it’s necessarily a dirty word in the places I’ve been a part of. But it has been confusing for a period of time until we force some dialogue to happen about what it means to people individually, especially people in senior leadership roles with decision-making authority. In the end, when everybody gets their opinions out on the table of what it means, I have yet to see an organization that can effectively fund the staff and execute on every flavor of innovation that exists out there. There are choices that have to be made based on the funding commitment and the staffing that you have in order to achieve some success with some flavor of innovation. There are going to be people whose personal definition of innovation isn’t going to be pursued at least in the near term. But at least they’ll go into it now understanding the flavors of innovation that are going to be pursued so that they can at least be aware and supportive of success in those areas, even if it wasn’t their personal passion area.

George White 43:30
I’ll quickly add, I think of those dirty words in the same way that George Carlin thought of the “Seven Dirty Words”, which is they’re only dirty in that they might be maligned in public, but they’re useful. I don’t think you don’t say them. There’s some interesting research that shows that when we curse, we’re being truthful. That’s the same thing here. You can still use them but you should be sure that you know, why you’re using them and what they’re for and what they’re going to trigger in people.

Scott Kirsner 43:58
One more question here before we talk about Stretch. Veronica wants to ask, “How do you see getting alignment between the different types of innovation?” Presumably, she wants to know about alignment between different groups that might be working on incremental, adjacent, and transformational work?

George White 44:19
That’s a great question. We’ll talk about it a little bit more. I want to keep moving a little bit, but we’ll talk about that a bit more. David hit on it earlier, which is don’t presuppose that that’s what you’re doing. Assume that the result of innovation in any group can be one of those things. That said, there’s a point that has been made about what’s effective innovation, and that is bringing as many parties as possible and making sure that if someone is incrementally, innovating inside of a product line, make sure that they’re still well connected to the other parts of the organization. Make sure they’re connected to your finance team. Make sure they’re connected to your corporate venture group. Make sure they’re connected to your innovation team. Make sure they’re connected to your IT team. Make sure there’s interconnection between those groups and that everyone is aware of what’s happening and can identify possible benefits. Because they’re keeping an eye on what’s going on.

David Crean 45:12
I haven’t personally been in an organization that has carved out a huge budget and set aside an innovation team that is totally separate from the business so I can’t speak to that world. But what I do know is true when an innovation function has some level of dependency on funding, and prioritization, and decision making from existing leaders in the current business, that tends to require engagement and understanding of what those people believe innovation is and needs to be.

George White 45:50
I’m not going to belabor Stretch very long, but this is one of my favorite things that we talk about sometimes here. Stretch Armstrong was this toy from the 1970s. It was an action figure filled with corn syrup, and you could pull his arms and his legs any way you wanted. You could tie him in knots. The crazy thing about Stretch is when you let him go, he would go right back to being Stretch Armstrong. His little arms to pull back and everything else. This is an analogy for how organizations work. It’s a huge innovation blocker, which is that if we think back to those turf wars and support for innovation and culture change, making culture changes is the single hardest thing organizations can do. Technology is hard. Finding new customers is hard. But culture change is something that over and over and over again, we’ve encountered with many businesses, it’s almost impossible to make it stick without serious concerted effort. Innovation lives on the back of culture change. It lives on the back of changing your organization to fit new shapes. Think about Conway’s Law, which talks about the idea that communication structures and organizations are mirrored in the products and services you create. If you don’t make those changes, you will not get something new coming out of it. It’s hard to sit there and you know, fight against that push and pull you get with Stretch Armstrong. One of the things that we’re doing with Innovation Leader is trying to keep the new shape that we’ve created and not let it fall back to where it was.

We made it through the challenges. Let’s talk about some of our successes or how we can get here. One of the big ones is storytelling. We talked a lot about agreement and alignment. Something that we did with Blue Cross when we worked with them was to figure out how to tell stories about the future that help everyone in the organization to say, “Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what we meant. That’s how we got to the terms that we want to have. That’s how we see the goals that we wanted to have. It tells us that we’ll be able to find a way to get to the future that we’re looking for”. By telling stories to people, being able to inform them about what you want and have a shared vision can arise from being able to transmit this information. David, do you have any thoughts about that one?

David Crean 47:55
Yes, the center of human-centered design is about truly understanding the underlying problem or needs of a person and empathizing with that person. Half of the equation is understanding the problem and empathizing. But the other half of what you want to be able to articulate is if that problem were to be solved, what would the world look like in that universe and paint that picture, in the form of a story, an aspirational kind of story or future state that people can grasp on to. In addition to immersing themselves in the problem, they also have that North Star of collective imagination of what the world will be like if that problem would be solved.

George White 48:43
It’s important when you’re telling stories, make sure you pick a good storyteller. One of the exercises we did was to write two articles from the Boston Globe as Scott and presented the client with these two future versions and it was an interesting thing to see the reaction to which world they wanted to live in. The one where Scott gave them maybe a little bit of a ding for what they were doing, and one where he praised everything. What voice you want to tell your stories in is important.

Diversity. This is one I want to spend a couple minutes on. Diversity is a driver of innovation. There’s tons and tons and tons of research on this. Doesn’t matter where you look, it doesn’t matter what type of diversity you’re talking about. But broadly speaking, brain diversity in your organization, expanding your horizons, increasing your chances of finding an answer is key. You need to figure out how to bring as many voices into the room as possible. That does not mean that your innovation team needs to represent every possible viewpoint, but it needs to have practices and processes for going out and reaching out to people. David mentioned human-centered design. This is one of the key ways to do it. Doing research, observational research, interviews, all these things is a way to bring diversity in, but also make sure your team itself is diverse, that has a diverse representation. That’s gender, race, ethnicity, language, experience, age. There are many dimensions, but you should be thinking about as many of them as possible as often as you can. David, do you want to add anything?

David Crean 50:04
I would echo what George said. If you focus on making sure you have diverse perspectives, diverse experiences, and diverse skill sets, you will find that the other more traditional definitions of diversity, related to age and gender and language and nationality and cultural background and sexual orientation and those sorts of things, will automatically happen. If you make sure that you’re getting diverse perspectives, experience, and skill sets in everything that you do. When I say everything that you do, a lot of people think of diversity as, “Oh well, we’ve got to make sure that we have one of every type of person on our team”. That’s one place you want to have diversity in the makeup of your team. But you also want to have diversity, as George pointed out, in the people, or the consumers, who you’re testing your solutions with. You also want to have a diversity in terms of the stakeholders that you’re bringing together when you’re solutioning. Having diversity in your team, having diversity amongst your stakeholders, and having diversity among consumers that you’re testing your solutions with are all places that diversity can help you.

George White 51:11
I want to spend a couple of seconds on measurement and metrics. It’s important that we understand that the metrics that we follow are not only a way for us to understand what’s happening, but they shape what we see as a project and how we go about it. There’s one quick thing I want to point out, and this goes back to the point David was making before about test and learn. Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose, I either win or I learn”. That’s the right mindset for innovation leaders, is to have that thought of: I’m not losing, I’m not failing, I’m learning, or I’m winning. Winning is great, but learning is also better. I’d argue learning is sometimes more valuable than winning. But when we think about the measurements that we have, we want to be careful about making sure that we’re thinking about both financial and nonfinancial indicators. Obviously things like the rate of return is important, or revenue if your product is in market. These are all things that matter but also think of the nonfinancial indicators. One of the key points is that you want to be looking at your nonfinancial indicators as much about external as internal. Innovation often talks about the initial soft metrics, which then leads to hard metrics. Hard metrics are usually financial ones, the soft metrics, usually activity-oriented. Those activity-oriented ones are great, but they’re not enough. Knowing that you’ve got a number of participants in your organization or knowing you’ve accepted a certain number of projects is a fuzzy way of how successful you are. The best place and the best way to figure out whether you’re doing this is to have nonfinancial indicators that look outside your organization. Validate, validate, validate. Do research, do questionnaires, do NPS if that’s what works for you. Do anything you can to get the outside view on what it is that you’re doing from a measurement perspective. David, any additional thoughts?

David Crean 52:58
I would add that in different corporate innovation functions and maturity levels, sometimes early on, you can’t measure some of the things that you know you’re going to want to measure later on. You might want to measure later on the ROI of your solution at scale. You can’t measure the ROI of your solution at scale, when you’re ideating what that solution might be, or when you’re incubating it, or even when you’re piloting it. Measuring what you are able to measure and measuring what’s important are the two things to keep in mind. A couple of years in, you’re going to measure the ROI at scale of the thing that you created two years before. A combination of volume metrics for things like: ideas generated, solutions piloted, and things like that are good ways to measure your progress. You shouldn’t be ashamed of having measurement metrics that are nonfinancial. But knowing that, for most organizations, they’re expecting a financial metric at some point, whether that metric is the ROI like we’ve talked about, or whether there is some financial ROIs like: if you’re functioning as an accelerator for your organization, well, how much money did you save by accelerating initiative that probably would have taken two years to get to market because you helped get it to market in six months? There are some financial metrics you can use in terms of the process, speed, and throughput and efficiency gains as well as the end ROI of the solution in the market as well.

Scott Kirsner 54:44
Let me note that we have about five minutes left. I’d love to let the participants lob in any last questions that they’d like you two to address, but you may have another slide or two that you want to share here before we go to Q&A?

George White 54:58
We’ve beaten “definition” into the ground. We’ve talked about this one quite a bit. I want to talk to you about this one. This is the “flavors of innovation”. David, you talked a little bit earlier about the idea that there are different viewpoints for different parts of the organization. Can you talk a little bit about your thoughts on how you get those folks aligned? Or what their concerns are?

David Crean 55:19
We talked about the different meanings of innovation that are in the minds of our leaders. Then there’s the, “What form does innovation take within your organization”? If somebody feels like “exploration of emerging technologies” is their definition of innovation, what form of innovation should that take within your company? Should it be an R&D arm, whose total focus is experimentation with advanced technologies that are likely to make a difference in coming years or decades? If fostering a “culture of innovation” is the idea that’s in your leader’s head in terms of their meaning of innovation, what forms should that take? Should it be a human-centered Design Center of Excellence? Should it be a training curriculum for associates? Should it be ideation challenges? Should it be design thinking boot camps? I recommend that whatever form of innovation takes with your organization, ensure that it’s aligned with the thoughtful determination of how you’re defining innovation.

George White 56:40
A couple of other quick things: diffusion of innovation across your organization. It’s important that there is a central innovation function in some way someone needs to be shepherding or guiding. But, if at all possible, get as much of the innovation practice and the participation across your entire organization. It’s important to make sure that we reach down in and say, “Hey, everyone has the possibility of innovative ideas, everyone should be participating, and they should understand what the outcome should be from this”. Don’t close it off and make it a siloed function. If you do, that’s almost certainly a ticket to disaster.

Human-centered design, let’s talk about this for a second. David mentioned this before, this is important. There’s a great blend between human-centered design and innovation work. Having design thinking in your organization is a great way to do what we talked about in terms of diffusion, getting everyone interested and available through the practice of creating the new. This is a wonderful way to do it. I know at Blue Cross, David, you guys have used this a lot in your practice. Is that right?

David Crean 57:45
Yep. I send every single one of my innovation directors to Stanford’s to get immersed in human-centered design. It pays for itself many times over when they come back to the organization and become a champion.

George White
The last one, I’m going to do is talking about exaptation, which is a concept in biology, where a trait is reused for a new purpose. Think about feathers on birds. Originally, this is body insulation in dinosaurs. It was later on adapted to the idea of flight, a key part of how birds fly, helps them to control what they do, and everything else. Organizations should be looking for opportunities to exapt. We talked before about the idea that there’s incremental innovation. There’s also a form of transformational innovation, where you look very carefully at the things that you’re doing inside and see if there’s a way to lever that and change what it is, make it the basis for something totally new. In the case of birds, feathers were a way to keep warm, and then over the last 65 million years, they’ve been a wonderful way to get around. Make sure that your organization’s looking for those types of innovations as well.

Scott Kirsner 58:55
George, I know you have a few more slides and we’ll definitely share the full deck with everybody who participated, so they can see the remaining slides. I’d love to see if we can get to one or two quick questions here, if that’s okay with you two? Barbara wants to know, “How do you balance what you’re innovating on? Emerging technologies versus innovative business products, or business models?” She’s kind of interested in how do you achieve the right balance?

David Crean 59:25
That’s an after-the-fact measurement, because what I’m focused on is solving problems in new and innovative ways. So saying ahead of time that it needs to be a machine learning solution is not the approach we’re taking. If my mission were to be “experimentation with emerging technologies”, and then figuring out use cases that might apply to my organization, I could see that needing to be something that I do. But my mission is to understand the biggest problems and challenges in my industry and my organization and try and attempt to solve them in innovative ways. We start with the problem, empathizing with the user. Our solutions come later in the process, not in advance of the process.

George White 1:00:29
Absolutely. We often see this in our work that there’s confusion between whether you’re exploring the problem space or the solution space. One of the big things for innovators is making sure that we’re pushing back into that problem space. That’s another reason to think about human-centered design and design thinking, because, it tries to first reveal what needs to be known (in other words, what “is”) before you start talking about what could be, what should be, what can be, what will be. I think that will help you to balance it out.

Scott Kirsner 1:01:01
Let’s get one more question. So two things. Sabrina suggests, “We’d love to do a future topic about defining metrics and different ways people create metrics, dashboards and reports.” I love that idea, so if you’re on this webcast, and you’d love to join and maybe share some of how you define that metrics dashboard, email me at, and we’ll try to get that scheduled real quick.

Nick wants to know if there’s going to be a recording available of the rest of the slides. If you guys have time, maybe we can go through a couple more slides even though I know folks may have to log off.

One last question because it’s a small question. “How do you overcome that number one blocker, the politics and/or lack of CEO championship?” Just a small question, Eric says. (laugh) Can you take a quick pass at that? I know folks may need to log off but, George, if you and David want to go through the rest of the slides for the sake of folks who can stick around or the recording, that’d be great.

George White 1:02:12
That’s not a problem. I have a simple answer to that. The simple answer is: connect with all the people in your organization, both one-on-one and in groups, and have conversations about what you’re doing. We’ve found that, in working with our clients, sometimes people won’t talk to each other. Find somebody who’s a relatively neutral party, who can go in and ask those questions. We had a client we worked with where there were multiple differing views and a lot of uncertainty. Again, that agreement thing. They all agreed that they needed to do certain things. But, they hadn’t aligned on what they needed to do. You have to have those individual conversations and you have to point out and be able to say, “I think there’s going to be a turf problem here”. Then, how do we get people in the room to have that conversation? If you can’t do that, the rest of it doesn’t matter. You’ll never overcome that.

David Crean 1:03:00
To throw back to 60s music, love the one you’re with. Let that love be a shining example to the rest about how love can be, and what love can do. You are going to have, I guarantee you, somebody at a senior level in the organization that wants to work with you and that is willing to view you as an innovation extension of their organization. Work with them, get some quick wins, and the rest of the organization will start being jealous of the work you’ve done and want to do the same. You don’t have to get buy-in from every single person on day one in order to be effective. Choose an area of the organization that wants to work with you. Work with them effectively, have some success, and let the rest of the world see it and you will have people lined up outside your door.

George White 1:03:57
To add, don’t close yourself to working with anyone. Never, never say, “Well, I’m not working with them.” Make sure that you’re always open to work with everybody. I’m going to back up real quickly, Scott, on a couple of slides so we can take a quick moment on them.

Scott Kirsner 1:04:13
Let’s do this, like pecha kucha style. 30 seconds or so per slide so we can try to touch on all of the rest of them.

George White 1:04:23
We talked about diffusing innovation, and the idea that you need to connect to the rest of your organization: share your changes, exchange your methods and practices. You need to be sure that people are aligned and understand what it is you’re doing. A lot of the work that we do, people see it as weird and fuzzy, and they think it’s not process-oriented, because it’s innovation or change. All of this stuff has practices and processes. A lot of it is about communication structures. Let people know what you’re doing. Show them what you’re doing, invite them in. To David’s point, make sure that they can see what’s happening there. And, go out to the market together! Do research together, have conversations, do–you know–all sorts of activities that you can bring others from outside in, but do them together. Don’t have the innovation team be the filter between you and your customer.

Seeing around corners. I want to talk about inflection points. By the way, if you haven’t read it, Rita McGrath has a new book called “Seeing Around Corners”. It’s an excellent book. It follows on from Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation but she talks a lot about what organizations must do, and the shape this must take, a lot of stuff that we didn’t get the detail about here. If you want to see somebody who’s describing in detail how organizations must change. For instance, she spends a lot of time talking about diversity. She makes a great point about bringing in new types of folks to parts of the organization, because they will help you to see the inflection points, they will help you to get a broader view of what’s happening. It’s key that we understand what inflection points are, and that we’re waiting for them, we’re ready for them, and we know where they’re going to happen. What ends up [happening] with businesses is that they’ll be ready for change, but the wrong change, because they weren’t absorbing the right thing. Learning how to know that change is coming and being ahead of it is key. We don’t have enough time to go into all the ways you can do that here. But it’s something that is vital to organizations.

We talked about human-centered design. Bring design thinking to your organization. Get a design partner. If you don’t have in-house design, get them tightly tied to your innovation team if they’re not your innovation team. Train your innovation team on how to do design thinking. David said it. He sends his folks to the; it’s a great idea. This will help you to build understanding. I’m not going to use empathy as the key thing you’re looking for. Because I don’t think it’s empathy. It’s understanding. You wanted to be able to directly observe, categorize, analyze, and then act on the things that you learn. Human-centered design as a key way to do that.

The last one is around building networks and connections. The map that you see here is generated from work done at Penn State. They wanted to look at this key question of whether or not big innovations came out of big cities. It’s a common thing that the concentration of people who live in a big city is a key driver to innovation. What they found was that when they started looking at it, there was a lot of incremental innovation. Not patent generation or new big ideas, but change in business. Businesses transforming what they do, being driven in lots of areas and that you wouldn’t expect it to happen. What’s occurring is a lot of inter-corporate communication. It’s building out networks where an adaptation or something that’s not necessarily novel in one business proves to be an advantageous novelty in another business. I started out as a biologist, I like to think about the idea of gene transfer. This is gene transfer for businesses, where something happens on one side and then that trait is then picked up by another group. This is a key way to do this, build your networks, federate yourselves in some ways. One of the things we’re finding is if you think about the idea, the fact is that big companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google have limitless resources compared to the rest of us. The best thing we can do is to build networks and connections to partner with them, but also partner with everybody that we can, make as many friends as you can, and that will help you to grow.

George White 1:08:44
To conclude: Use stories to inform and align. It’s diversity. Be careful what you measure. Clarify your definitions and ensure alignment. Know the flavors of innovation and which are your priorities right now. Diffuse innovation across your organization. Learn to see around corners. Get human-centered and bring design closer to innovation. Encourage exaptation. And, build networks and connections. Those are the things that we believe will help you to overcome the boundaries, and the blockers and limitations to achieving the innovations that you want in your organization.

I want to thank everybody for joining us and for staying for a few extra minutes. If you want to follow up with us, Dave and I are both available [ and]. As Scott said, we’ll make all the slides available. We’ll both love to have conversations with anybody who wants to talk to us about any of this. Thank you again.

Scott Kirsner 1:09:28
Thanks, George. Thanks, David. I love the idea of following up and doing something separate on metrics. Maybe we can also talk a little bit about Well-B and what you’ve been doing in a sequel webcast. I want to thank the two of you for the time and for answering all these questions today. It was fantastic. Thanks to all of our participants for their questions.

Before you sign off, I want to mention our next Master Class is coming up soon on March 11. It’s going to cover “Eight Practices to Fire Up Your Innovation Culture.” You can register for that and and click on webcasts and calls.

Thanks again for joining us. We hope to see you either virtually or in person soon and have a great rest of the day.

Thanks, George. Thanks, David.



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