Building a Culture and Climate of Innovation

October 29th, 2013 by Rob Berman 1 comment »

'Haenam: Where nature meets history, culture' photo (c) 2010, USAG- Humphreys - license: Jatin Desai, the author of the book Innovation Engine – Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results shared with me thoughts on Building a Culture and Climate of Innovation.  Read my post about Jatin’s observations on Building Your Own Innovation Engine here.  You can read my review of the book here.

1.     How can a company build culture of innovation? (in other words, how can they foster innovation?)

Great question, but very tough to answer in a few sentences. In order to build appropriate culture, one must understand underlying elements that created the current culture. Typically, these elements are: leadership style, style of decision making, organizational structure (span of control for managers), regulatory environment, current customer base, current use of technology and automation, current depth of knowledge and expertise, and organizational orthodoxies (invisible rules). All of these elements have to be fine-tuned for innovation. In fact, there are 15 such elements and 45 factors all together that have to be adjusted to build a culture of innovation.

2.     What does a company need to do to build strong leaders for innovation?

Strong leaders for innovation requires four important elements:

  • Current leaders at the top must role model what other leaders below should do regarding innovation. Leaders cannot ‘demand innovation’ from others. They must demonstrate how to drive innovation through their own personal stories.
  • Leaders at the top must identify huge challenges that must be solved by their best people. This will create excitement for the best employees to volunteer for such difficult challenges.
  • Provide freedom to experiment and learn. Leaders must create a safe environment for internal entrepreneurs (intrapreneurs) to succeed.
  • Provide appropriate levels of resources for discovering new innovations. In the first few years, don’t ask P&L owners to innovate using their own current budget and then penalize them if they exceed it.

3.     How does a company teach innovation and coach others?

Once an organization has developed an innovation strategy and linked it to business strategy, they must build internal capability for innovation processes, tools, and methods.

One ideal step is to develop dedicated resources for innovation – at the corporate level or at the business unit level. Innovation must be treated as a program at the start. After a few years, once innovation as a competency is programmed into the business systems, it does not need to be managed as a program.

When starting an innovation program, we highly recommend developing innovation green belts and black belts. These ranks can be achieved through an internal certification process, or an innovation college, like the education program my firm, DeSai Group, (link) offers.  Promote green belts to black belts when these certified individuals help deliver new innovations to the market numerous times.

4.     How does a firm promote and build innovation teams, especially across silos?

The best way to accomplish the task is to create a daunting challenge that needs a solution. Bring the (cross-functional) team members together to work on the challenge.  Assign a professional innovation expert to design and facilitate the meetings. A good innovation expert will facilitate a focused outcome but will also teach team members what it takes to achieve extraordinary results. The team will have to achieve ‘break-down’ before they will achieve ‘breakthrough.

5.     How do you make innovation a daily habit for everyone at all levels in a company?

Anything can become a habit if practiced repeatedly. In order to make innovation a daily habit, one must come up with new ideas daily. We have identified 11 practical methods for anyone and everyone to help find new ideas everyday:

a)    Think when you are not thinking. For example, going on a run or a walk, cooking at home, cleaning the house, doing the yard work, etc.  Ask questions to stimulate curiosity and creativity.

Who? (Actor or Agent)

What? (Act)

When? (Time or Timing)

Where? (Scene or Source)

Why? (Purpose)

How? (Agency or Method)

b)    Listen to Classical music. Recent studies revealed a molecular basis for the “Mozart Effect”, but not any other music. Mozart, can relieve stress, improve communication and increase efficiency. Creativity scores soar when listening to Mozart.

c)     Read Periodicals you would not typically read – a scientific magazine, for example, if you are more interested in business; or books outside your typical genre. These activities generate “Diverse Thinking” which has proven to be a critical competency in the creative process.

d)    Attend a conference or a meeting outside your field. The knowledge eventually helps you to connect to other ‘dots’ in your life. Being ‘away’ from your daily routine is a sure bet to help find creative solutions to your existing challenges.

e)    Surround yourself with creative thinkers.  So, find some creative thinkers who are comfortable looking at things through a different lens, or are not afraid to challenge assumptions, or who naturally love to explore ‘newness’ in everything.  Find people who love to doodle, draw often, or who are exceptional storytellers.

f)     Immerse yourself in a ‘real’ problem. Ask the right questions, investigate possible outcomes. Write the current challenge; in an open-ended question format. Restate the question in as many different ways as you can.  At the end of the process you can experience much greater clarity of your ‘problem statement’ than before. Once the problem is clear and concise, then dive in.

g)    Keep an idea journal. An idea journal is accomplished when we take the time to commit our ideas to paper or electronic note pad. Throughout the course of any given day countless ideas come and go our way – even though many of them may appear to be unrealistic to us at the time. For most of us, we simply discard them as a passing thought. The problem with that approach is that what we previously believed to be unachievable can change drastically as our minds are expanded with each new success that comes our way.

h)    Take a course to learn a new language or some other skills outside your expertise.  These build confidence and provide the lead over others in the global multicultural working environment.

i)     Be curious and experiment. Leaders value people who display a never-ending curiosity for the many facets of the business. Similarly, successful employees such as intrapreneurs display a never-ending curiosity that emerges as “passion” in a meeting room filled with people. Be curious about everything with everyone, and in every part of your life.

j)      Articulate your idea, seek feedback from co-creatives or other people you trust. Real innovation ideas are those that solve an unmet need in the market. So, it is not about having a new idea or not, but it is about getting them out there first and fast. If you have an idea, quickly test it within your network, with customers or with people who are not current customers.

k)    Create a Greenhouse for your ideas. The four primary negative forces designed to kill your ideas immediately are: time, money, people around you and yourself. For each force identify how to reduce the negative influence on the fresh ideas that desperately need ‘Greenhousing.’  Greenhousing means keeping the ideas safe, then growing them naturally by being more curious, researching the elements and finding possibilities for impact.

The Takeaway

Your organization can build a culture and climate of innovation through a concerted effort to break down silos, teach innovation skills and coach intrapreneurs.

Over to you.  That is the interview. Please comment below.

  1. How does your organization build a culture and climate of innovation?
  2.  How does your organization identify employees to teach and learn about innovation?
  3. How do you find your break through ideas?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

You Can Build Your Own Innovation Engine

October 22nd, 2013 by Rob Berman No comments »

'Innovation' photo (c) 2010, Seth Waite - license: I read Jatin Desai’s book Innovation Engine – Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results and loved it.  You can read my review of the book here.  I wanted to learn more.  Therefore, I interviewed Jatin about different aspects of Innovation.  Jatin shared a plethora of great information so I am spreading the interview across two posts.  Stay tuned for part two next week.

1.    What is innovation?

Innovation is the conversion of knowledge and ideas into a benefit for some or all stakeholders, which may be for commercial use or for the public good. Incremental innovation is when there is an incremental benefit and incremental behavior change for the consumer of your products and services.

Innovation is considered a breakthrough when your product/service significantly benefits the consumer and there is a significant positive change in the behavior of the customer/consumer you serve (saving of time, ease of use, cost, productivity, etc.)

2.    Can innovation be measured? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. Some of the DeSai Group’s best customers have implemented an innovation scorecard and innovation index. These are tools that can measure innovativeness at a project level, at a customer level, at a departmental level, at a business unit level and at the corporate level.

In order to measure innovation, you have to measure the input, process, and output parameters of your innovation activities.

  1. Input parameters are all investments you are making for the innovation program. Examples include training, dedicated resources, number of people certified, technology and other resources required to build your internal capability for innovation.
  2. Process parameters are the activities dedicated to bringing ideas to implementation. Examples include 1) investment for prototyping and testing ideas and 2) research costs for ideas, equipment and various technologies.
  3. Output parameters are activities that show implementation and success. Examples are revenue growth, profit growth, customer acquisition rate, customer satisfaction levels, and reduction in cost, etc.

3.    Besides product innovation, where else can a company innovate?

Most companies focus all of their innovation efforts on product or service innovations. Unfortunately, these are the easiest type of innovation that can be duplicated in the market. Therefore, ROI for such innovations tends to be the smallest compared to other types of innovations The surest way to outcompete is by innovating in other areas.

There are 10 types of innovation areas that company can innovate in (based on research from The Doblin Group).

  1. Business Model – how the company makes money
  2. Networks and alliances – strategic partnerships
  3. Core processes- processes that touch the customers
  4. Enabling processes – processes that enable core processes
  5. Product – performance, features, and value of your offerings
  6. Product Systems – how you package some or all of your products to create new offerings
  7. Channel – how you deliver your products and service to end customers
  8. Service – quality and process of service to your customers
  9. Branding – emotional feelings about your offerings by customers
  10. Customer experience – how customers interacts with your offerings

4.    How does a company link innovation to their current business strategy?

Each company must have a business strategy. Often, they are declared, but in smaller firms, it may not be well articulated. Every business, independent of their size, uses one of handful business strategies:

  1. Pioneering – first to market with new product or service
  2. Fast follower – Wait for the offensive leader to introduce a product first, monitor the elements of the business model, identify shortcomings, and then introduce a better product that corrects errors made by the pioneer.
  3. Imitative – firms of this type prefer to produce a clone of the pioneers’ products. They have no intention being the first or to leapfrog the pioneer. These players have unique execution capabilities, such as low‐cost labor, inexpensive raw materials, or low‐cost manufacturing.

Next, the company must evaluate the current business cycle and design the innovation strategy match to it.  A company will be in one of these phases ‘start-up’, or growth, or mature, or decline.

  1. In a start-up phase, you need innovation strategy that allows lot so experimentation and risk taking. You cannot afford to invest in permanent resources (large building, big IT infrastructure, etc.) until your business model is stable. In this phase, focus should be on finding the first few customers, defining a new business model and implementing new product or service innovations. Focus is ‘experimentation’.
  2. In a growth phase, the focus is on execution. Business needs to be scaled. Therefore, innovation strategy should be to invest in process innovations, or delivery innovations, or customer experience innovations, and less on developing new radical product/services. Investments should be to create proper infrastructure to scale and execute fast before the market window closes up. Focus is ‘execution’.
  3. In the mature phase, there is tremendous competitive pressure, customers are not happy, margins are declining, customers are leaving, and vendors are screaming. The best innovation strategy here should be to protect the business and not overspend. Manage competition closely. Assure your best customers are extremely happy. The focus should be on ‘protection’.
  4. When an organization reaches the decline phase, it is very difficult to turn the business around organically, but it can be done. Typically, the valuation of the business is negative, and much harder to find investment funds. It is not recommended to invest in new innovation unless there is a significant untapped internal intellectual property available within the company. Best options are changing the leadership at the top, drastically restructuring business, merging or selling the business, or planning for divestiture.

In summary, depending on the business strategy, and the business cycle, an appropriate innovation strategy must be developed and implemented.

5.    How can a company innovate together with their customers?

In today’s dynamic world, market shifts occur at breakthrough speed. Knowing even the slightest movement of customer preferences is becoming increasingly important as more competition enters your market segment, especially from India and China.

Therefore, engaging your best or all customers all the time has become a critical strategy. Organizations like Xerox and GE have set up ‘Customer Interaction Centers’ and ‘Garages’ to allow customers to directly interact with products, services, and the know-how of these firms. Customers are allowed to bring their problems, in hope, they can find solution. During the engagement process, these companies are helping to solve real customer needs, as well as, learning deep customer preferences about how their products work in the hands of their customers.

Cognizant, India’s second largest IT company, has created a ‘Customer Innovation Index’ that promotes discovery of new innovations for their customers by their on-site and off-shore teams. These innovations can be small or radical. Each idea is cataloged immediately, monitored, developed, implemented and shared in real-time.

Procter and Gamble spends millions of dollars on ‘ethnographic research’.  The special market insight process is utilized to learn how customers interact with P&G’s products. By observing customers in their own environment instead of a shopping mall, P&G is able to find a plethora of new insights for current product enhancements or develop completely new products.

The Takeaway

Company mindsets about “Product Development” need to evolve into an Innovation Engine to keep up with the competition.

Over to you.  Share your innovation insights below.  Please comment.

  1. Is your Innovation Engine driven solely by products and services?
  2. How do you innovate with your customers?
  3. How does your organization define Innovation?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Expanding the Geographic Scope of Your Business

October 15th, 2013 by Rob Berman No comments »

'Metro Route 48 Strip Map' photo (c) 2008, Oran Viriyincy - license: businesses operate in a fairly small concentric circle around their business address. In that trading area they try to maximize their opportunities. How do they do that? By taking prospects through the sales funnel.

Often, the traditional sales funnel can be shortened by making it easy and obvious to do business with you. Even if it is easy, the prospects must find you first.

Make sure you are listed in appropriate directories.

Google Local

Yahoo! Local

Bing Local


Yellow Pages


In addition, the old standbys like direct mail, coupon packs, ads in local papers and flyers in mailboxes still work when properly executed.

Let me share two examples that were not well done.

  • Century Buffet: The coupon insert says, “Chinese, American & Japanese Restaurant”. Then on the side they start talking about Mongolian Grill BBQ.  So, what kind of food are they specializing in?  Do I have to wait for the “cook” to prepare my food or can I pick it up at the buffet table?  Even funnier is how they cannot tell time. I remember working with my kids when they were first graders about telling time with the big and little hands. The ad says lunch is served “11 AM till 3:15 PM”. Then, dinner starts at 3:20pm. Where did the 5 minutes go—to the twilight zone?
  • Snow removal et aI: I received a ½ sheet of paper in my mailbox. The firm seemed to have typed up a short ad. However, with all the snow we receive in New England, they expanded the ad. They poorly handwrote some other services. Mixed in were runs to the dump and cleanouts.

The additional info was taped onto the original ad and photocopied.  How do I know? I can see the lines where it was copied.  Why would I do business with what looks like a fly-by-night company? What if they fell off of my roof while raking snow off of it?

The Takeaway

Many of us would like to support our local businesses. Make it easy to be found and look and act professional when we find you

 Over to you. Those are the ideas. Please comment below.

  1. How do you make sure you are found by potential customers?
  2. Would you eat at the restaurant or use the services of the roof raking company?
  3. How do you like to find local companies?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Rev Your Innovation Engine

October 9th, 2013 by Rob Berman No comments »

Jatin Desai  is a master at Innovation.  For over 25 years he has been a practitioner in the Innovation space.  I interviewed him a couple of years ago about Innovation for the Propelling Marketing Ideas blog.  Those Posts were well received.  Innovation: An Introduction, Innovation: The Process, Innovation: Where Can I Find It? and Innovation: A Look at the Global Picture.

I recently caught up to Jatin with the goal to write a new post about what was topical in innovation.  To my delight, he shared his book Innovation Engine  with me.

Innovation Engine Book Review

I highly recommend reading the Innovation Engine because it shows you how to prepare and grow your organization in a hyperdynamic and globally connected environment, through foresight and strategic innovation.

Jatin liberally uses numbered lists, charts, graphs and call out boxes to demonstrate many techniques and lessons.  The advice is doled out in digestible pieces for the reader.  His writing style is informative and like that of a trusted advisor or favorite educator.  The case studies are informative, global and span numerous industries.  Each chapter ends with a Notes Section where the reader can further explore a topic.

The Doblin Group outlined 10 types of innovation areas where a company can innovate.   Innovation Engine takes you beyond the typical product innovation mindset to explore the other nine areas.  Product Development transforms into Innovation Excellence.

10 Informative Chapters Spread Across Three Parts

The 10 engaging chapters are divided into three parts that allows the reader to move down the road of innovation.  Part I covers linking innovation to business strategy.  Part II helps you develop your “Innovation Playbook.”  Meanwhile, Part III teaches how to implement and execute.  The capstone of Part III is the “One Secret.” The whole book builds to the climax of learning the “One Secret.”  Are you ready to learn it?  If so, keep reading to discover what else you will learn once you dive into the Innovation Engine.

Learn How To…

Packed with actionable ideas, references and resources in each chapter so you can easily explore the concepts and ideas immediately, Innovation Engine shows you how to:

  • Link innovation to business strategy
  • Develop clear innovation intent
  • Assess organizational readiness for innovation
  • Create a short-term and long-term road map
  • Build momentum
  • Implement and execute
  • Structure for innovation
  • Implement a formal management process
  • Develop high-performing innovators
  • Source radical ideas
  • Innovate year after year

I believe that Innovation Engine can help rewire your organization’s DNA to include innovation as a distinct core competence.

About Jatin Desai

Jatin Desai, cofounder and chief executive officer, The DeSai Group, is a seasoned business executive, strategic advisor, and coach for senior leadership teams.  He has extensive experience in the areas of strategy alignment, corporate innovation, talent management, large-scale change, culture transformation, and information technology.

The Takeaway

The Mechanical Engine must be coupled with the Innovation Engine to truly move the enterprise forward in growth and profit.

Over to you.  Share your thoughts.  Please comment below.

  1. What books on Innovation do you recommend?
  2. Is your organization ready to jumpstart its innovation process?
  3. If you have read Innovation Engine, please share your thoughts.

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Not Your Father’s Press Release

October 1st, 2013 by Rob Berman 1 comment »

'Free Press Release Submission and Distribution with integrated Linkbuilding and Directory Listing - For Free.' photo (c) 2010, Heidi Mueller - license: Those of us who have been around a while know the value of Press Releases. There are many reasons to issue them.  If you work with a Publicist they are likely to tell you about Online Press Releases.

Why would I want to put my Press Release Online?

  • build links back to your site
  • build your online brand
  • help position you or your company as experts
  • searchable on news wire services forever
  • the content is indexed by search engines
  • published within hours of submission
  • can embed links, videos, podcasts
  • show pictures in the document javascript and HTML feeds
  • RSS can spread the release for and wide
  • Allows you to include the keywords that you are focusing on

There are many Online Press Release Services available. 

Michael Hartzell, a blogger compiled a list of over 60 press release websites online.

Tips for writing The Online Press Release

  • determine what your key words are
  • use photos, video, etc
  • have a hook in the story to grab attention
  • focus on one message for each release
  • know your audience – speak to them in the right language and tone
  • be relevant – your content should be relevant and timely
  • satisfy customer demand – create content on hot topics for those viewing the Press Release.
  • alt tag all images to make them searchable
  • include a link to your website home page
  • include a link to the product or service page that you talked about in the release
  • include a link to a blog post that is relevant to the topic
  • put key words in the URL string

The Takeaway

Online press releases should be part of your marketing mix. They reach a different and broader audience than your offline press releases.

That is the information. What do you think? Please comment below.

1. Do you use online press releases?

2. How effective have you found them to be?

3. What other advice would you add?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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