Reward Defiance and Heroic Failure

Actions speak louder than words.  If you want to change a corporate culture which is comfortable and risk averse into one which is adventurous and entrepreneurial then fine words are not enough.  The leader needs to send some powerful signals through deeds. A famous incident in the history of HP concerns the awarding of a ‘Medal of Defiance.’  In 1982 the co-founder of the company and... Read More--


We Need Leaders who can Admit that they were Wrong

For large companies to innovate they often have to face the fact that their current products and business model need to change. Think of Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster Video. What’s more when they try something new, very often the innovation does not work. The organisation has to learn fast and adapt. First however, the leader has to admit that they were wrong. For proud, successful senior people... Read More--


What Hollywood can teach us about Innovation and Longevity

Universal Pictures was founded in 1912, Warner Brothers in 1923, Walt Disney Studios in 1923 and Columbia Pictures in 1924. How have they survived and prospered for so long in such a competitive and volatile business? Movie-making is one of the few American industries which has dominated the global market over an extended period and shrugged off competition. US TV and film exports are worth around... Read More--


Moral Values can be a Source of Innovation and Differentiation

In 1959 Nils Bohlin, an engineer at the Swedish Car Manufacturer Volvo, invented the first three point safety belt. It was much more effective than the standard lap belt (as still used on airplanes). Volvo, realising the importance of this invention, chose not to patent it but to share the idea with other vehicle manufacturers. They may have lost some revenues but their action undoubtedly saved... Read More--


An Innovation Lesson from Walt Disney – Ignore the Doubters

Walt DisneyAs a young man Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” It was an inauspicious start for a man who went on to be one of America’s most innovative leaders. In 1921, he founded his first animation company in Kansas City. It failed. He had to dissolve his company. He could not pay the rent and it is said that he was... Read More--


The Innovation Process at Tesco

Angela Maurer, Head of Tesco Labs, spoke on Innovation at Tesco at the recent CIO Summit in London.  She said that they start with two sources of input – customer needs and future forces.  Customer needs include those of internal departments and stores as well as shoppers.  Future forces include technical, societal, fashion and demographic trends.  Using insights from these two areas they brainstorm... Read More--


Great Innovators are Relentless Rule Breakers

The song Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Freddie Mercury for Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. It broke all the rules for a popular music single release. At a time when most pop songs were simple and formulaic Mercury’s song was a complex mixture of different styles and tempos. It had six separate sections – a close harmony a capella introduction, a ballad, a guitar solo, an opera parody,... Read More--


Look for Positive Deviancy within your Community

Positive Deviance (PD) is an idea which is based on the observed principle that in any community there are people who adopt unusual and successful approaches to problems that beset the whole community. These people are the ‘positive deviants.’ The PD approach was developed by Jerry and Monique Sternin with the charity Save the Children in Vietnam in the 1990s. They worked in villages where 64%... Read More--


The Chinese Takeaway Lesson – Repetition gives Clarity

Speaking at the Chief Innovation Officers Summit in London, Chris Loughlan, Head of Innovation at the National Health Service, told a story about a quality improvement technique borrowed from a strange source but now adopted in hospitals.  Say you go to a Chinese takeaway restaurant and order two spring rolls, one duck in ginger and an egg fried rice.  The Chinese assistant will repeat the order... Read More--


Put Your Very Best People on Innovation Projects

Many businesses make the mistake of giving innovation projects to junior executives. It seems natural to hand innovation opportunities to enthusiastic and promising upstarts. But generally it is the experienced heavyweights who can overcome all the process and political obstacles that will occur. In September 1999 Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM, read a line buried deep in a report which said that current... Read More--