Archive for the ‘Innovation – Creativity’ Category

Innovations: Lulumon’s “Stuff Your Bra II" sports bra … say, what?

July 13, 2015

In a CNBC round-up of analyst stock picks, one dude was high on Lulumon because of its product “innovations” like the “Stuff Your Bra”.

That caught my eye, of course.

At first, I thought this post was going to be about false advertising … not by Lulumon, by its customers.


Turns out that Lulumon’s “innovation” isn’t about faux-enhancement… it’s about practicality.


27 Questions to ask about an innovation …

August 18, 2014

Been The First Mile Mile  by Scott Anthony … a practical book re: how to ID practical innovations and launch them.

Anthony characterizes an innovation as having a combination of a deep customer need, a compelling solution, and a powerful economic model.

He argues that the first 2 items – a deep need and a compelling solution – are often overstated … and that the 3rd – the economic model – is often completely ignored.

So, as everybody know, most innovations fail in the marketplace.

To increase the odds of a innovation’s success (think new product or start-up company) he proposes a a process that borrows from the classical scientific method, discovery driven planning and the trendy “lean start-ups”.

Anthony acronyms his process DEFT: document, evaluate, focus, (test & adjust)





The first step in the DEFT process is to document the essence of an initiative … not voluminously, but insightfully … with an eye to separating facts from assumptions … and then concentrating on the assumptions that are least certain and most impactful.

Specifically, Anthony offers up 27 specific questions to answer when documenting an innovation …


Innovation: Gimme a bag of soup …

January 15, 2013

Excerpted from “Kicking The Can: Campbell’s CEO Bets On Soup-In-A-Bag For 20-Somethings”

Denise Morrison, Campbell’s new CEO, is determined to shake things up.

She was hired to stabilize the soup and simple meals businesses, expand internationally, grow faster in healthy beverages and baked snacks.

Dubbed “the savior of soup”, she’s driven Campbell’s innovators to launch more than 50 new products in her 1st year.

For example, Campbell’s launched Go Soups, a six-flavor line in plastic pouches meant to convey freshness while capturing millennials’ adventurous tastes.

campbells soup in a bag

Ken’s Take:


Big companies say: “Start me up” …

October 26, 2012

Punch line: There’s a quiet revolution happening in corporate America.

Big companies are applying startup strategies and tools to jump-start innovation and renovation.


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Excerpted from Fast Company’s, “4 Innovation Strategies From Big Companies That Act Like Startups”

Big companies that behave like small startups focus on two things. First, they accelerate the speed of innovation, just like a Silicon Valley incubator. Second, they give internal businesses and teams an outside-in perspective.

Here are four strategies that anyone can use to start-up … innovation:

  1. Follow customers home: Intuit’s innovation success is tied to a value for finding and savoring … unexpected insights about customer needs, problems, and desired experiences. That’s why the company does customer “follow-me-homes,” … [to] immerse themselves in the customer’s natural environment.
  2. Tap outside collaborators: Kimberly-Clark knows that insular thinking is the death knell of teams and organizations. That’s why they … recruit a small group of “thought leaders” to … deliver strategic and practical insight that would otherwise take months to gather.
  3. Stay small: Big innovations don’t necessarily have to begin by taking big risks. Intuit, for example, … [doesn’t wait] around for senior leadership to sponsor and fund the next big idea but rather rapidly tests ideas to identify the things teams can do to have the biggest impact.
  4. Use the best, invent the rest: Speed and agility come from realizing we don’t have to invent everything ourselves. The strategy is to use the best … and then adapt it or combine it with other approaches that work within the specific company context.

These big-company strategies aren’t about ivory-tower innovation departments … they’re focused on pushing entrepreneurial thinking and practices into the places they’re needed the most–inside established businesses.

Edit by JDC

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To spur innovation, hire people who agitate you …

September 10, 2012

Punch line: Nearly 66% of companies on the Fortune 100 list in 1990 are not on the list today.


It is largely because they didn’t innovate and open themselves up to their next market.

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Excerpted from Fast Company, “Why Hiring People Who Annoy You Helps You Innovate”

So are there ways for large, established companies to innovate?

Yes and here are some unconventional guidelines to follow.

1. Hire people who annoy you:


A lot of research shows that diverse teams tend to come up with a wider variety of answers, and, thus, are more likely to find the surprising winning idea.

This suggests a hiring strategy–hire people who annoy you.

As long as you’re ensuring they are smart, the people who annoy you represent the diversity you and your company require.

2. Don’t copy, remake:

There is an entire cottage industry devoted to teaching you how to be innovative.

Most answers are glib because they point to some surface feature of a behavior.

3. Don’t create, listen:

The purpose of innovation is not simply to build something new, but to win new customers, new markets, or new products …

If you want to find out what customers want, nix the focus groups and instead watch their behavior.

Edited by JDC
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Innovation is hot … especially in b-school mission statements.

May 31, 2012

The WSJ reports that:

An analysis by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an accrediting body, involving 733 member schools, found that 28% include the words “innovate,” “innovation” or “innovative” in their school mission statements.

Most use the terms to describe their own curricula.

Business schools have added research centers, classes and even full-fledged majors in innovation.

But some think the schools may be missing the mark, focusing too heavily on ideation and brainstorming while skimping on the practical aspects of turning ideas into concrete strategy and action.

“Innovation requires taking the great idea and doing something with it.”

So where does it all lead?

As schools race to add innovation to their offerings, they’re also trying to differentiate themselves from one another.

The goal at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley,  is to create managers who can foster innovation or oversee innovative organizations, not just come up with innovative ideas.

“It’s not about producing home-run hitters.”

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From birth to 9 years old in 2 minutes … man, do kids grow up fast.

May 1, 2012

TakeAway: In such a fast paced life, Danish filmmaker captures his children’s growth through weekly filmings.  This video provides a new spin on the phrase, “kids grow up so fast.”

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Excerpted from, “Filmmaker Creates Time-Lapse Videos Of His Kids Growing Up

Danish filmmaker, Frans Hofmeester, has a two-minute video that shows his son growing up from birth to nine years old.

He also has a similar video of his daughter where the clip starts off with her as a baby and ends with her at 12 years old.

The two time-lapse videos show the remarkable changes as the children transform from crying babies, to kids with expressive characteristics.

Hofmeester commented that he filmed his children every week. He began with his daughter when he“felt the need to document the way she looked to keep my memories intact.”

His two videos were uploaded last week and have gone viral with more than 4.3 million views combined.

Watch the video below to see Hofmeester’s daughter Lotte grow up from birth to 12 years old in under three minutes.

     click to view

Edit by KJM

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Innovate by Spending Less on R&D … huh?

November 1, 2011

TakeAway: Companies that spend more on R&D are rated less innovative than other companies that spread spending across divisions to grow innovation.

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Excerpt from WSJ: “Top ‘Innovators’ Rank Low in R&D Spending”

A report by consulting firm Booz & Co., says that few of the biggest R&D spenders crack the top 10 in terms of being considered “innovative” by their peers.

The most frequent pick for innovative was Apple — the 70th biggest research-and-development spender— followed by Google and 3M, also not among the top-20 spenders.

Health-care companies held four of the five top-spender spots, but none made the top 10 in terms of being deemed innovative.

Pfizer, which ranked second for R&D spending in the study and 16th for innovation, has for the past few years tried to spur creativity by inviting researchers to attend commercial meetings and encouraging employees on the commercial side to attend scientific reviews. The company also plans to cut its R&D budget, currently over $8 billion, to as low as $6.5 billion as it focuses on fewer, targeted disease areas.

3M, which spends relatively little money on its research and development, landing at number 86 on Booz’s spending list, allows employees to spend 15% of their time exploring side projects. It also offers seed “grants” to encourage innovation.

Edit by ARK

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Rewarding failure to spur innovation … say, what?

October 14, 2011

TakeAway: Companies are looking for a new way to be innovative by rewarding individuals on their failures.

The rewards for failures vary by company from statues to monetary awards with the hope of generating innovation.

Excerpted from WSJ: “Better Ideas Through Failure

Amid worries that we are becoming less innovative, some companies are rewarding employees for their mistakes or questionable risks.

The tactic is rooted in research showing that innovations are often accompanied by a high rate of failure.

“Failure, and how companies deal with failure, is a very big part of innovation,” …. Failures caused by sloppiness or laziness are bad. But “if employees try something that was worth trying and fail, and if they are open about it, and if they learn from that failure, that is a good thing.”

A unit of WPP’s Grey Group started handing out the “Heroic Failure” award because he was worried that fast growth at the agency was making employees “a little more conservative, maybe a little slower,”

Extracting lessons from foul-ups is the focal point of Michael Alter’s “Best New Mistake” awards at SurePayroll.

Only people who are trying to do a good job, make a mistake and learn from it are eligible for the $400 annual cash award.

Edited by ARK

Ken’s Take: I always scratch my head when I hear people say that companies punish risk takers.

If  GE and Black & Decker had given trophies for ‘nice tries’ that didn’t pan out, I’d need another wing on the house to hold them. 

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The unpredictability of innovation …

October 6, 2011

According to innovation guru Clayton Christensen:

Statistically, 93% of all innovations that have ultimately become successful started off in the wrong direction

The probability that you’ll get it right the first time out of the gate is very low.

Excerpted from MIT Sloan Review: Good Days for Disruptors – An Interview with Clayton Christensen Spring 2009

Bottom line: stay flexible, don’t get wedded to a concept …. constantly look for repurposing of the product or its technology.

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Wanna double shareholder returns? … Try "organic" growth through focused innovation.

November 25, 2009

HBR: Focus Intensely on a Few Great Innovation Ideas, by Georg von Krogh and Sebastian Raisch, Oct 2009

The global companies that are the most successful at achieving growth through innovation (as opposed to acquisitions) tend to devote their energies to a small number of breakthrough ideas. They select the initiatives with the greatest market potential and marshal their resources to develop them.

The organic-growth champions do more than focus on breakthrough ideas. They also put innovation at the top of the agenda, work across functional and divisional boundaries, and empower employees with an entrepreneurial mind-set.

Obviously, pursuing dozens of innovations is less expensive than developing thousands. But it also requires an intense focus on picking winners and commercializing them.

In a study of organic-growth champions— including GE, BMW, Nestlé, and Samsung— researchers at the Center for Organizational Excellence in Switzerland found that the firms’ shareholder returns were almost double those of the other Global 500 companies (which had lower rates of organic growth).

Procter & Gamble focuses its R&D on just eight to 10 core technologies, and Nestlé  … allocates large budgets to the 10 most promising innovations.


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“Adoption velocity” and abandonment: Here today, gone tomorrow …

November 17, 2009

TakeAway: Some research indicates that — counter-intuitively — products which catch on too quickly may end up being less successful overall.

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Excerpted from Knowledge@Emory, The Long-term Downside of Overnight Success,  September 16, 2009  

Marketers may dream of coming up with a product that skyrockets in popularity as soon as it is introduced to the public.

Research, however, indicates that products which catch on too quickly may end up being less successful overall.

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There are patterns in “cultural adoption and abandonment.” 

“We often see products, ideas and behaviors catch on and spread like wildfire. But we know less about why once-popular things become unpopular.”

“Most managers want their products to catch on faster, but our analysis suggests that this might not always be the best strategy. If something catches on too quickly, it might not only have a shorter lifespan, but may also end up being less successful overall. Faster adoption may hurt product success.”

Fads tend to be viewed negatively: “If people think that sharply increasing [popularity] will be short lived, they may avoid such items to avoid doing something that may later be seen as a flash in the pan.”

The research into the adoption and abandonment challenges some assumptions about the diffusion of a message and its saturation in the population, which is an important concept in marketing.

As a message spreads — or diffuses — through a population, it reaches more potential adopters. However, diffusion models typically assume a set target population size. But, a group may continually renew itself. Other factors, beyond diffusion and saturation, must be involved: “Adoption velocity is one such factor.”

Conventional wisdom would hold that if a message diffused through a population quickly, more potential adopters would be reached, improving the prospects for widespread adoption. “The effect of adoption velocity on the cumulative number adopters … shows that adoption velocity has a negative effect on the cumulative number of adopters.”

For example, in the music industry, new artists who bolt to the top of sales charts, often realize lower overall sales than those whose popularity grows more slowly. “This seemingly counterintuitive finding has important implications. One is that faster adoption is not only linked to faster abandonment, but may also hurt overall success.”

The research fits into the growing literature about “cultural dynamics.” By “more closely examining the psychological processes behind individual choice and cultural transmission, deeper insight can be gained into the relationship between individual (micro) behavior and collective (macro) outcomes such as cultural success.” 

Advertising might lead to fast adoption of a product, but the popularity of the product or service advertised might decline when that support dies off or switches to a substitute. “Importantly, though, results suggest that independently of its cause, a quick rise in popularity may have an accelerating effect on abandonment … as such, we anticipate that there will be an inherent tendency for items that have been adopted quickly to decline faster, even in cases where advertising persists.”

‘This is here today, gone tomorrow.'”

Full article:

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Q&D testing of "killer assumptions" … If you can’t GET the data, then CREATE it.

November 6, 2009

TakeAway: By becoming skilled at experimentation, innovators can gain a competitive edge.

STRATEGY & INNOVATION, Not-So-Risky Business, September 16, 2009

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By systematically attacking the most critical unknowns with tailored, low-cost experiments, innovators can systematically “de-risk” their strategies and thereby increase their chances of success while lowering the associated investment cost.

Systematically testing “killer assumptions” with quick experiments can create the data otherwise not available in market research reports but necessary to move forward to the next step, whether that step is doubling down, re-vectoring, or folding.

This type of approach is generally most critical when data doesn’t exist in market research or other reports, but rather exists in behavior that hasn’t yet happened or outcomes that can only be learned in market. In other words, if you can’t GET the data, then CREATE it through market experiments.

In other words, the goal is to run early experiments up front to gain critical pieces of information that can enable re-vectoring early and increase odds of success at a lower price tag.

“Test and learn” is the mantra. Invest a little and learn a lot is the approach.

And, the prizes over time come in the shape of lower investment costs, more innovation opportunities, and higher odds of success. Again, just remember “invest a little, learn a lot.”
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The first step is detailing “killer assumptions” by assessing risk, confidence, testability:

  • How important is it for this assumption to be true?
  • How confident are we in this assumption?
  • How easy would it be to test this assumption?

Then, start experimenting …

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The best experiments:

  • Isolate the variables being tested and keep it to one (or perhaps two) at a time
  • Keep the experimentation quick & dirty (Q&D) … not elaborate or expensive

Get out of the lab and office and into the “real world
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Armed with information from experiments, make one of three immediate choices:

  1. Double down and continue to the next assumption,
  2. Re-vector and accordingly re-assess the killer assumptions involved,
  3. Determine that it is time to cut your losses and fold.

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Full article

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