This is one of the more left-field validations we’ve had for the Total Innovation theory written by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff and originally published in Harvard Business Review. In a Bloomberg Businessweek story, movie star Matt Damon explains the investment thinking at Water.org, a company he co-founded to provide clean water and sanitation to everyone on earth: “Harvard Business Review just put out an article about this that actually broke it down,” he said. “You want 70 percent to be your core business, 20 percent to be adjacencies to that and 10 percent to be highest risk. Funnily enough, they say it pays off exactly inverse to that.”
[Read the full article here]
Larry Keeley is quoted in this article in the New York Times, in which columnist Joe Nocera wonders if the Cupertino-based technology giant is heading for a fall. One of the issues, explains Larry, is that business models become a “gilded cage,” hampering continued success by getting in the way of the constant evolution needed for ongoing innovation. It’s a super interesting read.
If Steve Jobs were still alive, would the new map application on the iPhone 5 be such an unmitigated disaster? Interesting question, isn’t it?
Apple’s chief executive, Jobs was a perfectionist. He had no tolerance for corner-cutting or mediocre products. The last time Apple released a truly substandard product — MobileMe, in 2008 — Jobs gathered the team into an auditorium, berated them mercilessly and then got rid of the team leader in front of everybody, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. The three devices that made Apple the most valuable company in America — the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad — were all genuine innovations that forced every other technology company to play catch-up.
[Read the rest of the article here.]
by Larry Keeley
published as the foreword in The Mobile Frontier by Rachel Hinman
So here’s a little fact that feels surprising: Today on our small blue planet, more people have access to cell phones than to working plumbing. Think about that. Primitive plumbing has been around for over a thousand years. Modern working plumbing has been around for at least 200 years longer than the fleeting few years since 1984 when Motorola first ripped the phone off the wall and allowed us to carry it around. Most people find plumbing useful. Apparently, many millions more find cellular phones indispensible. Whenever big parts of modern life—the Internet, video games, search engines, smartphones, iPads, social networking systems, digital wallet payment systems—are so useful that we can no longer imagine life without them, we act as if they will forever be the way they are now. This childlike instinct has its charms, but it is always wrong and particularly dangerous for designers. People who think deeply about the built world necessarily must view it as fungible, not fixed. It is the job of thoughtful designers to notice the petty annoyances that accumulate when we use even devices we love—to stand in the future and think of ways to make it more elegantly functional, less intrusive, more natural, far more compelling. In the best such cases, designers need to surprise us—by radically altering what we think is possible. To create the futures we cannot even yet imagine.
by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff
published in HBR.org
Harvard Business Review’s blog excerpts the lead feature of its May issue, which happened to be an article by our own Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff. For those who haven’t yet wrapped their heads around the theory of Total Innovation, this is the bite-size introduction:
Management knows it and so does Wall Street: The year-to-year viability of a company depends on its ability to innovate. Yet many companies have not yet learned to manage innovation strategically. The companies we’ve found to have the strongest innovation track records do things differently: Rather than hoping that their future will emerge from a collection of ad hoc, stand-alone efforts that compete with one another for time, money, attention, and prestige, they manage for “total innovation.”
Read the rest of the article at HBR.org.
by Bansi Nagji and Helen Walters
published in Rotman Magazine
“These problems are too big for us to solve alone. We need to collaborate like we never have before.”
The person responsible for these words might surprise you: Beth Comstock is the chief marketing officer at General Electric-–a company that no one would accuse of having a free-wheeling or laissez-faire culture. Yet Comstock, along with GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt and fellow senior executives, have embraced the fact that the challenges they face—in areas from healthcare to energy to transportation—are too ‘wicked’ to be solved by GE alone.
Instead, they have learned to seek help from many different places, and to apply the disparate insights collected from myriad sources to try to jointly solve the complex problems they—and the world—are facing.
Read a PDF of the rest of the article.
by Melissa Quinn
published in Fast Co.Design
This year marks the third anniversary of the Rotman Design Challenge. It started out as a commendable experiment by the school’s Business Design Club to expose MBAs at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management to the value of design methods in business problem solving. This year, the competition drew teams from a few other MBA schools and some of the best design schools in North America. As a final-round judge, I had a front-row seat to the five best solutions to the competition’s challenge: To help TD Bank foster lifelong customer relationships with students and recent graduates while encouraging healthy financial behaviors.
Both this year and last—the two years that Rotman invited other schools to participate—business school students were slaughtered by the design school students. Of the 12 Rotman teams this year, not one of them made the final round. And while only seven of the 23 competing teams were from design schools (including California College of Arts, Ontario College of Art and Design, and the University of Cincinnati), design teams scooped the top three places in the competition, doing significantly better than their MBA counterparts. So what does this tell us?
by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon
published in Design Management Review
The chief marketing officer (CMO) of a large, diversified consumer electronics company knew that he had to change the process for allocating marketing spend across four different product divisions, but wasn’t sure how.
The market landscape was shifting dramatically, along several dimensions. People were moving their online and media lives to tablets and mobile phones much faster than expected. Meanwhile, social networking campaigns—after being hyped for years—were now seriously competing with traditional advertising channels for resources. The CMO needed to make some big decisions at a time of budget constraints and moving targets.
In prior years, the CMO had collected individual budgets from each division—which were inevitably too high—and then tried to strike a compromise. This process “worked”, in a way, but allowed little space for the big strategic issues, resulted in incremental changes, and left everyone dissatisfied.
In this situation, the CMO faced several challenges at once: a competitive challenge, an analytic challenge, a foresight challenge, a political challenge, a leadership challenge, a learning challenge—and more—all rolled into one.
But is it a design challenge?
by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff
published in Harvard Business Review
Management knows it and so does Wall Street: The year-to-year viability of a company depends on its ability to innovate. Given today’s market expectations, global competitive pressures, and the extent and pace of structural change, this is truer than ever. But chief executives struggle to make the case to the Street that their managerial actions can be relied on to yield a stream of successful new offerings. Many admit to being unsure and frustrated. Typically they are aware of a tremendous amount of innovation going on inside their enterprises but don’t feel they have a grasp on all the dispersed initiatives. The pursuit of the new feels haphazard and episodic, and they suspect that the returns on the company’s total innovation investment are too low.
Making matters worse, executives tend to respond with dramatic interventions and vacillating strategies. Take the example of a consumer goods company we know. Attuned to the need to keep its brands fresh in retailers’ and consumers’ minds, it introduced frequent improvements and variations on its core offerings. Most of those earned their keep with respectable uptake by the market and decent margins. Over time, however, it became clear that all this product proliferation, while splitting the revenue pie into ever-smaller slices, wasn’t actually growing the pie. Eager to achieve a much higher return, management lurched toward a new strategy aimed at breakthrough product development—at transformational rather than incremental innovations.
Read a PDF of the full article.
by Erik Kiaer
published in Innopreneur: 101 Chronicles on How Circumstance, Preparation and Brilliance Advance Innovation
One of our clients was trying to reinvigorate its building materials business in a recent project. The initial work focus centered on potential levels for innovation. The executives considered developing a more flexible manufacturing process, or possibly increasing the effectiveness of their distributors, or even reducing package sizes if that might meaningfully change the economics of their business. They argued that growth had to come through the existing business system. It was entirely rational, yet it entirely missed the mark.
In taking this focus, the executives were more concerned about their own business practices and not thinking about why people bought their products. It wasn’t because customers woke up in the morning with a burning desire to buy lumber, but because a homeowner dreamed of achieving a better life in a better home. By taking a step back, our client realized that the market didn’t want hammers and nails; it wanted walls and rooms.
by Larry Keeley
published in Steelcase 100
Most people think of the United States as a very young country. Given the childlike way we often act this is a natural enough impulse, but they are wrong. The U.S. is the oldest participative democracy on our small blue planet.
So consider this: perhaps countries have a natural life span, and we are at the end of ours. I am not a Chicken Little alarmist saying we will suffer the inevitable decline of all empires before us. Instead my message is positive and deeply focused on innovation: let’s reinvent participative democracy for the 21st Century.
And not just for the U.S. This reinvention should be a gift to the world – equally valuable in any land and for any people; useful at any scale: team, firm, town, city, state, province, region, country, and continent. To live up to its own promise, the U.S. should create it and should adopt it first but, hey, it’s an election year, so the odds that our “leaders” will do anything useful and path-breaking during this period of national embarrassment verges on zero.
How might we do it? Three revolutions, elegantly integrated: