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 Amazon.com. Literally billions of dollars of failures. You might remember Pets.com or Kosmo.com. 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 research@innovationengineering.org 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 research@innovationengineering.org 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.




Why Burger Flippers are more RELIABLE than Innovation Managers

If you want to increase speed to market and decrease risk you need to drive out variation in your innovation system.

One of the best ways to do that is to upgrade from ” management by objective”  to management coaching of WHAT, WHY & HOW. 


Think about it –

  • You local fast food restaurant provides education and documentation for how to make a great hamburger.
  • However the leader of your “BIG INNOVATION” is given no guidance other than it needs to be X Million in sales.

You company has a check list of Management by Objective METRICS that are required at each development GATE where money is allocated.

However, unlike the Burger Flipper – there is no documentation of WHAT, WHY and HOW to develop the BIG INNOVATION.   Each manager does it their own way… the result is innovation is a random dice roll.

What we are learning from our latest Innovation Engineering Institute research is that when you document….WHAT, WHY and HOW for your development milestones then reliability skyrockets… speed to market increases and risk decreases.   What’s needed is clarity on….

WHAT the milestone actually is  – explained in a way that everyone on the project team can easily understand it.

WHY the milestone is very important to the organization and the project as this generates buy in and support.

HOW to accomplish the milestone – with links to people, education, tools, etc. as this reduces rework and brings even greater reliability to you system.

When you have real documentation – then it’s also possible to GET SMARTER  – to improve your SYSTEM…   Without clarity of WHAT, WHY and HOW all you can do is try to “Beat the Workers” to work harder … hoping for a miracle this time. 

This new research finding is so important that we recently completed a BEST PRACTICES audit of Phase Gate check lists to help create a FULL  best practices list detailing WHAT, WHY and HOW to achieve each of the important milestones from idea to the marketplace.

TO LEARN MORE – to compare your check lists versus our Best Practices  Check Lists call me at +1 513 271 9911 or email me at research@InnovationEngineering.org.

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.  Here’s the link to sign up.



Call for Papers & Presenters for Innovation Engineering Conference

The 2015  Innovation Engineering International Conference will be held June 21 to 23 at the Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati Ohio.

There will also be a  one day Pre Conference session for IE Network Members on Saturday June 20th.

The theme this year is “Making the LEAP to LEAP Innovations!” 

Seating at the actual conference will be limited – the Internet Broadcast will not be.   The registration policy will be announced April 1, 2015.   The one SURE WAY to get a seat at the conference itself is to provide a written paper and or do a presentation :).

FORMAL CALL for presentations and papers for the 2015 Innovation Engineering International Conference.  

The conference committee has announced the topics of interest for the 2015 conference.   Presentations can be on tools, systems or real world case studies on your organization’s journey with with “Making the LEAP to LEAP Innovations!” 

 Note, we respect that what is a CORE versus a LEAP innovation is different for each organization.  Presentations should deal with how you and or your organization stretched to a new level of LEAP then ever before.

Your presentation can be based on what you’ve learned as you went from raw idea to SHIPPING.

It can be based on what you learned in your journey getting others engaged in the Innovation Engineering mindset.

It can be based on what you’ve learned, studied, discovered on how to Educate, Collaborate, Fail FAST Fail CHEAP,  Navigate Patents, Gain Vertical Alignment (strategy to tactics) or Gain Horizontal Alignment (Across Departments).

The submission of presentation proposals should be in the format of a Yellow Card in sufficient detail that we can fully understand your proposal.  Those interested in being considered for presenting should e-mail them to Doug at the Eureka! Ranch for review by the Innovation Engineering Institute eduction curriculum team at the Eureka! Ranch and University of Maine.  Deadline for submissions is April 1, 2015.

Presentation options include a written paper for distribution to the community or a formal and or a formal short form or long form presentation to the world wide audience at the conference and connected up via internet video broadcast. .

Call for  Spark Deck Presenters:  We are also looking for Innovation Engineering Black Belts to give 6 slide spark deck presentations on the future of Innovation for the Tuesday CREATE Session.   The slides can be on  Wisdom, Patent, Insight, Market, Future, Unrelated mining or a combination.  They should be “Disruptive and Divergent” in keeping with the teachings in CREATE 3.0.



My New Years Eve toast to you is from a Very Special Bottle from Scotland

Good Morning Pioneers,

I just returned from Scotland where I spent time with some good friends at Edrington – makers of some of the world’s greatest spirits.

I brought back a very special bottle,  to open on New Years Eve.  The bottle is not a special bottling of  Highland Park  – or even the world’s most precious and meaningfully unique of Whisky’s The Macallan .

This year I brought back a bottle of Anchor Gin from Cutty Sark.   What makes this bottle so special is the message on the bottle.  A message so important that it is in the glass itself….

“Our ACTIONS DEFINE who we are.”   


While everyone can agree with the words  “Our ACTIONS DEFINE who we are!”  Living the words takes energy.  And in today’s digital, hyper compressed world it’s hard to find the energy to take action.  It’s far easier to sit, ponder, complain and even whine about what is not happening in our company, our community or our world.

Our ACTIONS DEFINE who we are is a statement that defines Innovation & Leadership… Innovation is about taking action.  It’s about being proactive not reactive.  It’s about leading your company, community, department and yes yourself.     Leadership is about action.   And great leaders know that the only place to lead is from the front…. and yes that means being the “get your hands dirty”  as project leader on a challenge that is VERY Important!

I’m currently rereading – Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden.   His lessons are as true today as they were 161 years ago.   I’ve listed below a few excerpts…. (The book is long in the Public Domain and can be downloaded on your iPad, etc. at no cost)

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country.   A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed.

When we consider what is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left.  But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.

What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.   

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Things do not change; we change.

And a few more Thoreau Quotes – not from Walden – to reflect on as the calendar prepares to flip over…

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

“be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” 

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” 

So where ever you are – what ever your beliefs… on New Years Eve  I will open the bottle of Anchor Gin and drink a toast to you … Here’s to the Innovation Pioneers, the Dreamers and Doers, may we all find the energy and passion in 2015 to make all of our ACTIONS DEFINE who we are!

See you next year…




Where are you? Where are you going?

Good Morning Pioneers

I’m sitting at the house of an Innovation Engineering Blue Belt who is on the path to Black Belt.

We are reviewing the output from a Blue Card session that he held.  For those not aware.. Blue Cards are about Strategy Activation.  They set the direction … the vision… for where you are going next.

The conversation makes me realize how valuable it is to stop and think.   It is critical to  think about the bigger picture… where are you and where are you going.  This applies to your business and your life.

The ideas happening this morning… are mind blowing.  Part of that is frankly the people I’m with.  A small part of it is the lingering effects of last evening :)…..

The real source though… the real source of  the ideas however is the MINDSET… as the Blue Belt said at the start of the morning … “I’m not interested in good or great… I’m interested in a higher level of thinking… we need to change the world….”

So as the calendar prepares to turn over… stop, think, where are YOU going.   What are YOU going to do to Change The World… to change the part of the world that you feel passionate about.

Get Up! Get Out! Get Going!





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