How to Realize a 400% increase in your Cost Savings Project Value

Scientific Research Finds the Secret to Unlocking the Power of Employee Driven ideas
Scientific Research Finds the Secret to Unlocking the Power of Employee Driven ideas


Did I get your attention?  It wasn’t a gimmick to get you to click!

Here’s the facts.  Add up the value of all your LEAN, 6 Sigma and Innovation Engineering cost savings projects then multiply times 4 – that is the increase in savings you can realize if you implement a High Performance Idea system with your employees.

A 4X increase as a result of employee driven ideas is what happens when you install a High Performance Employee Idea System.  This finding comes from Dr. Dean Schroeder co-author of Idea Driven Organization Unlocking the Power in Bottom Up Ideas  and from our experience at the Innovation Engineering Institute building 3 generations of collaboration systems.    I’ve known Dean for 15 years.  Here’s a link to a webinar I did with him last week on the subject.

High Performance Idea Systems have a number of design traits that separate them from classic suggestion boxes and social media sharing systems:

  • Leadership Defines What’s VERY Important: When you ask for ideas with no direction you get ideas with no direction.  High Performance systems provide clear strategic direction of what Leadership of the company or department are looking for.  This means absolute clarity on: Mission, Narrative, Strategic Exclusions, Tactical Constraints and Exploration Areas.
  • Time, Resources, Policies:  When the employees are focused on what’s VERY Important then there is a willingness to provide support for the effort.  Successful programs provide employees with a couple hours a week – 30 Minutes in a weekly CREATE session and 90 Minutes working on creating and implementing ideas.  They also provide experts to help the process Innovation Engineering Black Belts or LEAN / 6 Sigma experts.  Lastly, they remove barriers to new ideas – providing small amounts of money for implementation and experimentation, setting rules for sharing ideas and challenges inside and outside the company.
  • Make it EASY to PRIVATELY Share Ideas & Drive out Fear:   Employee fear of getting in trouble, looking stupid, saying the wrong thing is at epidemic proportions.   The best way we know to address this is by providing systems that enable employees to create PRIVATE networks of collaboration and to allow them to make PRIVATE responses to company requests.
  • Educate Teams and Energize with Weekly Create Sessions:  Provide basic training in how to Create, Communicate and Commercialize ideas.   We do this through our Innovation Engineering Workshops.  Then, keep the stimulus coming.  Each week conduct a 30 minute CREATE session in each department or work group focused on igniting fresh ideas.  Educate employees through a Spark Deck and collaboration exercises.
  • Ignite INTRINSIC Motivation:  The research is clear that paying for ideas through contests and the like creates a short term energy that soon dies.  To create a sustained High Performance Idea System ignite intrinsic motivation through – personal Thank You’s – and celebrations of all those who participated in the effort each month.  Provide a stronger sense of belonging to those who participate then those who don’t.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? - You are thinking this seems like a lot of work.  It’s actually not.  We’ve  built these principles into the Innovation Engineering Labs 3.0 – Collaboration Cafe and education programs such that they work right out of the box – you will see an impact in 30 days.

And yes we are serious that when you get full employee engagement the impacts are incredible.  The initial goal for a High Performance Idea System is 12 Ideas Implemented Per Employee Per Year.  The upside potential companies have realized is 100 ideas implemented per employee per year.

It’s Not Just for Cost Savings:  You can use the same system with your field sales team or customer service teams for ideas for growth and service.  Basically, anywhere you have people with a mission you can multiply effectiveness through a High Performance Idea System.

Here is Dr. Deming’s way of articulating the power of enabling employees

”The result will in time be greater innovation, applied science, technology expansion of market, greater service, greater material reward for everyone. There will be joy in work, joy in learning. Anyone that enjoys work is a pleasure to work with. Everyone will win; no loser.”

Webinar today – how to 4X your Continuous Improvement

Today at 1:00 I will be doing a 1 hour webinar with Dean Schroeder co-author of The Idea Driven Organization.

We will be talking about how to create a high performance idea system to tap into every employee’s ability to create ideas for working smarter.

His research shows that the impact of ideas from front line employees is 4X greater than the cost savings, sales increases, etc. from structured projects.

One of the great challenges with High Performance Idea systems is the set up can be complex and difficult.

The new Innovation Engineering Labs 3.0 system makes it EASY to implement a high performance idea system.

This approach is a powerful addition to any LEAN or 6 Sigma effort.

It’s also a way to turn the dream of employee engagement into reality

To register for the webinar click here




Do you want to be controlled or enabled?

The innovation gap between companies is growing.

Today, if you’re not meaningfully unique you better be cheap.

There are two options for increasing innovation:

Option 1: You can install an Innovation CONTROL System.

Option 2: You can install A System that ENABLES Innovation.   

Option 1 – CONTROL:  Control systems are designed to inspect the work and prevent mistakes and waste from bad innovations.  They are usually implemented as a reaction to a failure.   They are usually implemented because management does not trust the workers to do the right thing.

NO THAT’S NOT THE REASON – The real reason that Control Systems are implemented is because management feels they need to so something and until recently there was no other validated option.

The following message from the website of a leading innovation management software system describes the situation well:

Our focus is on portfolio and resource management.  We help management achieve greater levels of control over their ever-changing environments by dynamically managing money and resources. Using a unique portfolio management discipline, we offer unprecedented, real-time visibility into the trade-offs involved in key business decisions.  We help management plan, manage, and analyze their product portfolio from idea to end of life.  Apply resources to the most valuable work and provide executives with the analytics necessary for smart decision making

This software is often combined with the humiliation of in person or on-line Shark Tank gate meetings. (Dragons Den in Canada/UK).   The theory is that if we simply do a better job controlling we will see a transformation in our innovation success.

The question we must ask ourselves is does this make sense.  What is our theory as to how centralized control create more employee engagement, more motivation, more speed to market and bigger, bolder ideas?

Option 2 – ENABLE: The other option is to enable innovation.  This is the focus of the Innovation Engineering movement – on campus, at Fortune 100 companies and small companies around the world.

Innovation Engineering sets off a simple chain reaction:

1) Leadership Enables – – – 2) Employees Engage – – –  3) Everyone Wins.  

Leadership enables by setting a clear Leadership Intent – a strategic vision for what is Very Important – for the organization to focus it’s limited time, energy  and money on.

Leadership enables by providing education to the employees on how to create, communicate and commercialize ideas with increased speed and decreased risk.

Leadership enables by providing system software that makes it easy to for employees to stay focused on what is Very Important for the organization,

Leadership enables employees by making it clear how to go from idea to reality – defining WHAT needs to be done but also WHY and HOW to accomplish the What.

Leadership enables employees to work smarter through a rhythm of learning every week through plan, do, study, act cycles.

Leadership enables by employees to run rapid research (in minutes not months).

Leadership enables employees to collaborate inside and outside the organization without fear of getting in trouble.

Leadership enables employees to use patents as a killer idea source and to painlessly turn their inventions into protectable intellectual property.

Bottom Line: Innovation Engineering is about replacing management with leadership and replacing control with enabling.  When we do this everyone wins.   

To be quantitative on What’s In It For You the Leadership  – speed to market increases up to 6x, risk decreases 30 to 80%, development success improves 250%.

The release this week of our third version of Education, Operating System work systems and software Enables Innovation like never before.  There is nothing else like it in the world.

To experience a free on-line demo of our system for ENABLING Innovation call us.

To fully experience our system for ENABLING Innovation attend the Innovation Engineering Executive Experience next week March 19 and 20 at the Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati Ohio.

Call 513 271-9911 or visit

Wicked Good Podcast On “Cool #$%@ that Matters”

Hi friends

Here’a link to the InVision team podcast on how to change your personal and professional life with the new mindset called Innovation Engineering.

It’s about engagement, involvement – and making work fun again.

The team is excited – zealots – crazed – over the top.  Their enthusiasm is infectious.

If you’re new to the movement listen to learn.

If you’re a part of the movement listen to get an energy booster shot

Click Here



Quotes that struck me…

I’m deep into book writing … in the process going through a collection of files… a few quotes really struck me this morning.

AG Lafley

Winning is pretty much the same in today’s business world as it has been for decades: Create new customers, new products, and new services that drive revenue growth and profits.  What’s different is ʼhow to do it. The acceleration of change today is unprecedented.  It creates opportunities as well as the threat of obsolescence. 

The best way to win in this world is through innovation.  But innovation has often been left to technical experts or perceived as serendipity or luck. Long geniuses working on their own have, indeed, created new industries or revolutionized existing ones.  But there is a problem.  You can’t wait for the lightbulb to go off in someone’s head.  The fruits of innovation — sustained and ever-improving organic revenue growth and profits – have to become integral to the way you run your business.  That means making innovation central to the goals, strategy, structure, systems, culture, leadership, and motivating purpose and values of your business.

Steve Jobs

I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life.


Jeff Bezos interview for the web site Business Insider

One of my jobs is to encourage people to be bold. It’s incredibly hard.  Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure. A few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work. Bold bets — Amazon Web Services, Kindle, Amazon Prime, our third-party seller business — all of those things are examples of bold bets that did work, and they pay for a lot of experiments.

I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Literally billions of dollars of failures. You might remember or It was like getting a root canal with no anesthesia. None of those things are fun. But they also don’t matter.

What really matters is, companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail. I don’t believe in bet-the-company bets. That’s when you’re desperate. That’s the last thing you can do.


“”Deming was once asked, at one of his seminars, how he would summarize his message in a few words. “I’m not sure,” he replied, “but it would have something to do with variation.” Later he said, “I said earlier that my message, in a few words, had to do with variation. I’ve given it some more thought, and I would say it has to do with pride of work.”


If people aren’t calling you crazy, you aren’t thinking big enough.

Richard Branson


In 2011, Jonathan Mildenhall, vice president of global advertising strategy and content excellence at the Coca-Cola Company, introduced his company’s new approach to investing in creative content. Coke is implementing a model they call the “70|20|10 investment principle,” an adaptation of the established 70|20|10 protocol for apportioning resources or investment.i Mildenhall explained that in its quest to double the size of its business by 2020, Coca-Cola would apportion its communications spend as follows:

• 70% would support low-risk, “bread-and-butter” content.

• 20% would be used to innovate based on what has worked in the past.

• 10% would fund high-risk content involving brand-new ideas.

We think this approach makes a lot of sense. It has worked for Google, where the company implemented it as a way to manage innovation, applying 70% of its workforce effort to core businesses, 20% to adjacent products, and 10% to highly experimental innovation for the long term.


“More than nine out of ten consumable products launched in the last ten years offered absolutely nothing new to the consumer.  More than eight out of ten new products fail.  You don’t need to be a statistician to relics there’s a correlation between the two numbers – Robert Mcmath


“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

- Mark Twain




Can someone help me understand this contradiction?

The other day I was working with a senior leadership team translating their business strategy to what we call Blue Cards – these are simple translations of the leaderships strategic intent.

We crafted a card about the need for growth – defined a highly motivating  narrative, set strategic exclusions and even tactical constraints.  In particular we made it clear that we were not interested in ideas that generated less than $10 Million (it was a very large company).

I then suggested we do the same for cost savings.  Define a narrative as to why it was important that we cut costs in a way that was motivating to the employees.   And also define the strategic exclusions – what areas did we not want to cut as they could be important in the future – and tactical constraints what was too small of a savings to invest time, energy and or money on chasing.

The leadership team looked at me like I was crazy.  They said “we need every savings we can get.” – “we have no constraints on savings.


I don’t get it.

Why are we very precious about how we invest for growth but not very concerned about how we invest to save.  Isn’t a dollar a dollar?

I pointed out that a client doing IE had done some quick calculations on a wide range of projects and found the average value was in the low, very low 5 digit range – and this for a multi-national.  It was estimated that if 100% of the projects were successful 100% it wouldn’t amount to a value that was noticeable at the corporate level.

The internal, departmental debate on cost savings versus growth needs to end.  It needs to be replaced as Dr. Deming would say with leadership.

Leadership needs to define where the company is going – on both the cost and revenue sides of the balance sheet.   Leadership needs to set the vision.  Every organization has limited Time, Energy and Money.  It’s up to the leadership to set the strategic direction appropriately.


Realistically Idealistic – what a beautiful Oxymoron

Our daughter Tori  just passed her Masters defense.   One of the members of her committee sent her a nice note of congratulations.

She concluded the note by saying “Best wishes in the journey to come. Continue to stay wise, safe and realistically idealistic – is there any better oxymoron?”

I thought about it … what a wonderful phrase

Realistically Idealistic

It got me thinking

Realistically Idealistic – a dreamer who does

Realistically Idealistic – a whole brain thinker to use the language of Ned Herrmann.

Realistically Idealistic – a 20 Something, 30 Something, 40 Something, 50 Something, 60 Something, 70 Something, 80 something or 90 something who hasn’t given up on changing the world – from small steps come great things.

Realistically Idealistic – someone who doesn’t believe in whining.

Key is to keep the two in balance…we don’t want too much realism or idealism – we need BOTH!



How to Help Leaders Find the Courage to “Do the right thing”

The classic “excuse” for the short term orientation of leadership is that the big boss, the shareholders, wall street, venture capitalists, or who ever – needs to see short term results.

There is only one way for a leader to find the courage to do the right thing – even if it is costly in the short term.

Courage is built from two parts.   Part one is having a plan – a clear strategic mission,  supported by meaningfully unique innovations designed to accomplish the mission.   AND – here’s the second pa part – they can only REALLY BELIEVE IN THE PLAN if they are CLOSE TO THE WORK.   It’s only if they have seen, felt, experienced the WOW of the strategic mission and the innovation that they can have real courage.     Courage is not built from providing comments to Power Point presentations or reviewing report from the front line in your office.

Courage to stand for what is right comes from feeling the customer/employee pain and experiencing the WOW of the new way.

In the best of worlds – the Leader  gets her/his hands dirty – investing 30 minutes a week as part of team meetings as a Management Coach, understanding the tradeoffs, the frustrations, the excitement.  When Leadership does this they develop a depth of courage, of commitment, that makes it possible to do what’s right for the long term even if it hurts in the short term.

Obviously, the CEO can’t and shouldn’t be a part of every project.  However, the reverse is also true – they can’t and shouldn’t be a part of NO PROJECTS.  The decision on where to invest their precious time is based on what is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT for the organization.

NOTE: Sadly, the root cause of many frustrations with leadership is that they don’t actually know what is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT.  Rather than leading – they are simply reacting to the market and proposals sent to them.  This is why the fastest growing part of Innovation Engineering is conducting Strategy Activation (Blue Card) sessions to help the leadership of departments, divisions of companies identify what is VERY IMPORTANT.

Bill Conway, the former CEO of Nashua Corporation, the first company to embrace the system thinking of Dr. Deming was very firm in the need for leadership getting close to the work.  He told me, that  one of the big problems with most companies is that the leadership has become separated from the real work of the company.  They don’t fully understand the reality of the challenges that workers face.  He advocates leaders spending time on the front lines learning the work. To quote Bill directly, “The bosses need to get close to the work.  The work of Sales. The work of Manufacturing.  The work of R&D.  They need to fully understand the causes of the worker’s challenges.” 

Over the years, I have found that getting leadership close to the work was a powerful way to educate them.   When I worked at Procter & Gamble my team would go to extraordinary lengths to create front line experiences.

I also do this in my charitable work.   With the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada – I jolted their board of directors by offering a donation for every board Member who would take one Bagpipe, Drumming and Dance class.   The impact was incredible.  The teaching became real.  The board had real depth of understanding of the heart and soul of the organization.

Conversely, years later I tried the same thing with a school in Cincinnati and most of the board members refused to participate – they matched my donation rather than spending time in the classroom.  After two attempts, I moved on.

I’ll end this blog post with Success Principle #1 that Bill Conway taught me.  This is an excerpt from my notes from the meeting.

Success Principle #1:  Working on the Right Things

Bill explained that the first role of leadership is to make sure everyone is working on the right things.   I explained that many companies are currently focused on cutting costs because their offerings were perceived by customers as commodities.   Bill’s response was clear and direct, “Then they are not working on the right things.  They have to stop working on reducing cost and start working on innovation.” 

I explained that it was hard to convince them of this.  His response was clear, firm and direct “then they’re stupid.”   

Hearing an 84 year old man say “then they’re stupid” in a loud and firm voice was a bit shocking – even if it was a true statement. I gently challenged him on his directness. He then went on to explain that Dr. Deming was very impatient and sorrowful.  Sorrowful that he was unable to save every company.  Sorrowful that he could not get through to every leader.   Impatient to get to those who he could convert as companies in the early 80’s were dying very fast.  Bill explained that they would explain the importance of focusing on quality/ continuous improvement twice and if the leader didn’t get it – and I quote Bill directly “then to Hell with them.”  Many CEO’s felt insulted by his and Dr. Deming’s directness (or rudely honest words) however, given their absolute conviction they moved on, without regrets, to those who were willing to learn and apply. 

TASK FOR TODAY - Get Up, Get Out and see, feel and experience the work of your employees, see the job from their perspective.  Don’t be an “undercover boss” be a proactive, listening, caring boss who is willing to get his/her hands dirty.

LEARN MORE… I’m doing a Webinar this Friday at 2:00 on how to accelerate development success.   This webinar is updated with the latest discoveries and tools from the Innovation Engineering Institute R&D efforts.

Click here to sign up

Enter Passcode PIZZA





Biggest Mistakes Companies Make with Innovation Engineering

I know it’s a great new year when mid way through January I’m already learning ….


Since January 1 I have had the honor of spending time with 4 different companies that have been using Innovation Engineering for multiple years.

In each case, the Innovation Leaders at the companies have FULLY embraced a culture of Confronting Reality and Never Ending Learning.  We have had honest, ego free, blame free conversations about what is working and what is not.


As quick background, the transformation from a cost cutting, command and control mindset to an entrepreneurial growth and innovation cultural mindset is hard.  It’s really hard.   As I reflect on all four conversations it’s clear that there are three clear “mistakes” that are important “watch outs.”

 1.  Lack of REAL Management Coaching Wisdom:  Project teams will waste time, create rework and mistakes without weekly coaching wisdom from someone who has: 1) Education in the tools and techniques 2) The bigger picture understanding of leadership’s vision, quirks and biases, 3) Broad understanding of capabilities across the organization, and 4) The self awareness to be able to admit that they don’d know, they need help and they make fail.     #4 is the one that is non negotiable.  If they have #4 then it makes up for weaknesses in #1, #2 and or #3.

The Innovation Engineering movement has made Management Coach education a priority – creating a new Innovation Engineering Blue Belt training and certification to aid development of the skills and wisdom needed.

2. Lack of Vertical “Strategy to Tactics” Alignment:  Without clarity of the leadership’s vision in a form and format that is easily understood by everyone – there will be massive waste of time, energy and money.

The Innovation Engineering movement provides a Strategy Activation workshop – that translates the strategic intent into a clear Mission, Project Narrative, Strategic Exclusions, Tactical Constraints and Focus Areas.

3. Lack of Horizontal “What, Why, How” Alignment:   Without clarity, across the departmental silos, on how ideas are made real i.e. WHAT we do, WHY we do it and HOW we do it…. there will be massive waste of time, energy and money.    The reality is most “burger flippers” at fast food restaurants have greater clarity on What, Why, How then corporate innovation teams.

The Innovation Engineering movement provides a Business Operating System through education, tools and mentoring to help companies define the WHAT, WHY, HOW – for complex projects, simple projects, new products/service, marketing projects, system improvement projects, etc.

What is NOT a problem!:  Interestingly,  what is NOT a problem is the workers. The project teams, leaders, front line workers and managers are HIGHLY MOTIVATED to create, communicate and commercialize wicked cool ideas.

As Dr. Deming, the founding philosopher that is at the heart of Innovation Engineering famously said, 94% of the problem is the system, 6% is the worker.   And only the management can change the system.

Without Active Management Engagement, Vertical and Horizontal Alignment – the organization’s return on it’s investment in education, tools and mentoring will be lower than it can be by an order of magnitude.  Sadly, it will still be “good” and in many cases the leadership will see it as being “good enough.”   What they don’t know is HOW HIGH IT CAN BE!

To learn more about the revolution that is underway in how companies are being managed and lead, join me tomorrow for a free webinar….Out of the Crisis II – How to Increase Speed to Market & Decrease Risk.  TOMORROW  at 1:00 EST.

It’s free if you enter the passcode PIZZA.  I selected Pizza as passcode because… well… it’s my favorite food.

SPECIAL WEBINAR BONUS :  During the Webinar I will be doing a LIVE Demo of some advanced (and yes patent pending) Innovation Tools for increasing speed and decreasing risk.

Here’s the link to sign up for the Webinar.


Special Opportunity:  We have updated our BOS Profiler (Business Operating System).  It’s a quick survey that quantifies the “pinch points” that SLOW Down Innovations and INCREASE Risk.

Click Here To Participate in the 2015 Survey.     Feel free to forward this blog to others as well.   The collective results of the 2015 Survey will be posted on this blog along with ideas and advice for how to confront the challenges of today.

If you’d like to have a private survey done of your organization,  to see where it stacks up versus over 100,000 other responses, then simply email me at to get a link.


Tired of Your Hamster Wheel?


Profitability is down because we’re a commodity (not meaningfully unique versus competition)… however we can’t innovate (to not be a commodity) because profits are down.

The fact is you are not alone.   The world has gone a little crazed :).

AND I know that because since the late 90’s we’ve been measuring companies and have found a steady decline in the courage to take action, the level of collaboration and the overall enjoyment of work.

Be A Part of the 2015 Research:  We have recently upgraded what we call our Business Operating System Profiler (BOS Profiler) with new questions and benchmark data from some experiments we’ve been conducting.

Click Here To Participate in the 2015 Survey.     Feel free to forward this blog to others as well.   The collective results of the 2015 Survey will be posted on this blog along with ideas and advice for how to confront the challenges of today.

If you’d like to have a private survey done of your organization,  to see where it stacks up versus over 100,000 other responses, then simply email me at to get a link.

FREE WEBINAR:  I’m giving a free webinar….Out of the Crisis II – How to Increase Speed to Market & Decrease Risk.  Friday January 23, 2015 at 1:00 EST.

It’s free if you enter the passcode PIZZA.  I selected Pizza as passcode because… well… it’s my favorite food.

Here’s the link to sign up.



To Change the World by enabling innovation by everyone, everywhere, every day resulting in increased speed to market and decreased risk.