Archive | July 2014

Innovation Currency: Banking on the Wisdom of the Crowd

It’s the power of the crowd, facilitated by technology, that can help make innovation happen at scale across an entire organization.

As the banking sector undergoes continual reform, its leaders are bracing themselves for job cuts they suspect will occur over the next three years. Stakeholders will most likely be taking an introspective look at existing challenges, and trying to find new customer propositions that will improve digital banking and reinvent the customer experience.

Empowering the Front-Line

It is likely that most of this innovation will be led top-down, but there’s an interesting tension here: the difference between what leadership “thinks” will work, versus what the frontline staff see and hear directly from their customers. Frontline workers — the cashiers and customer service representatives — are likely to see issues that managers might prefer to ignore and that senior management aren’t aware of.

The big problem is the separation of decision makers from those who know what really needs to happen.

As Matteo Cassina at Saxo Bank writes in the Financial Times, banks will need to continue adapting their business models to cope with litigation risk, regulation, rising technology complexity and costs. Cassina mentions Joseph Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’ term — coined in the 1940s to denote the destruction of the old by the creation of the new — which is certainly something that rings true for today’s banks.

But if those who know what needs to change aren’t empowered to make those changes, how can this creative destruction take place? And if middle management is all about keeping things on an even keel (which could result in stopping change), the chance that anything significantly different will happen is quite low.

Embracing the Crowd

The answer, really, is that executives should be more courageous and willing to take risks. They need to include all levels of employees in the innovation process; by doing so, they may discover multiple ideas that could bring about profound revenue opportunities. They need to consider carefully how middle managers are rewarded, so that processes are not just about maintaining the status quo, but allowing the entire staff time to dream up new ideas.

In other words, it’s the power of the crowd, facilitated by technology, that can help make innovation happen at scale across an entire organization.

But even more than that, it is about the power of an executive to give permission for those who actually know what’s wrong to make useful stuff happen. The challenge is that branch managers are rated based on short queue times, and they may feel that granting their cashiers fifteen minutes a day to interact with innovation software may inhibit that. Once we overcome this cultural problem, we can begin working towards truly innovative ideas in the banking sector.

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (



How To Become A Top Business Thinker

Not every business leader is ready to embrace new thinking that challenges the status quo – but the ones that do will have a competitive advantage

The business world is changing fast, and companies need guidance to help them thrive. “Managers are looking more widely for bright ideas – anything that will give them a competitive advantage,” says Stuart Crainer, co-founder (along with Des Dearlove), of Thinkers50, a biennial ranking of the world’s top business thinkers. In the past year, the two have released a series of six Thinkers50 books highlighting the best new ideas in strategy, innovation, leadership, management, as well as volumes on Indian thought leaders and future business thinkers.

The task of identifying the top thinkers has gotten harder over the years, Crainer says, as channels have proliferated. “We look at blogs, we [find] people on Twitter  who have interesting ideas,” he says. “There are lots of alternative routes, whereas previously there were set routes – teaching at a business school, or writing a book. But now it’s a much more open marketplace.”

What makes for a top business thought leader? “The starting point has got to be the ability to communicate,” says Crainer. “The other elements are curiosity, diversity of thinking, and a willingness to embrace ideas no matter where they are.” If you aspire to have your ideas heard, here are three qualities the best business thinkers share, according to Crainer.

Embrace a global perspective. A disproportionate share of top thinkers have an early personal or career experience that is “either international or diverse in some way,” says Crainer. “There’s one very well-known American thinker whom we don’t include on Thinkers50 anymore because he won’t travel outside America…and we think a global perspective is critically important. And we heard another guru who gets a lot of money per speech who is based in California, and [according to him] the most exciting company in the world happens to be 50 miles from where he lived. You don’t have to be cynical to suggest that they’re probably not the most exciting company in the world, but simply a nearby company doing an interesting thing. We’re looking for thinkers that are actively curious…people who spend time with practitioners and are curious about the reality of doing business.”

Become a renaissance person. Ivory tower perspectives won’t cut it anymore, says Crainer. “If I were a CEO, I’d look for thinkers who have a portfolio of activities. They do teaching at B-schools with executives, and they’re people with an entrepreneurial side and sit on boards. We’re looking for thinkers who are much more well-rounded and independent.” Interesting past experiences help thinkers tap into new ways of looking at the world. Crainer cites the example of Wharton professor Adam Grant, who worked as a magician in his youth; Gianpiero Petriglieri at INSEAD, who trained as a psychiatrist; and Ellen MacArthur, a business thinker who gained renown for boating solo around the world. (Full disclosure: I was also interviewed for Crainer and Dearlove’s book onfuture thinkers.)

Make an impact One of the biggest positive changes Crainer has seen is the increased emphasis on social good.  “Twenty-five or 30 years ago when I started writing about business,” he says, “all the business people I talked to were interested in was increasing the profits of their company. That’s laudable, but not many people talked about making the world a better place: their parameters were very narrow.” Today, it’s a different story. Citing thinkers like Lee Newman of IE Business School, who focuses on mindfulness and positive leadership, Crainer says, “we’re increasingly looking for thinkers who want to change the world for the good.”

“The world is changing, and the world of business ideas is changing,” says Crainer. Not every business leader is ready to embrace new thinking that challenges the status quo – but the ones that do will have a competitive advantage, he says. “Managers have to be more curious to survive now.”

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and keynote speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future and the forthcoming Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It.





What does an astronaut know about facilitating business and fostering innovation?

The start of the space age hinged on uninhibited innovation, collaboration, leadership, and careful planning. Over the course of my career, the space program has grown tremendously, and what made that possible is applicable outside the industry.

These four things–innovation, collaboration, leadership, and careful planning–that were so essential for decades of exploration and inspiration are crucial to the success of any project, and the lack of any one of them could be detrimental to our success as a society in moving forward.

In today’s world, we are constantly readjusting and tinkering with the bounds of what is possible. I’m a huge advocate of people coming together to exchange ideas–whether it’s for personal interests or to act on a larger agenda. The ease of communication today makes this almost effortless.

Talented, creative thinkers and skilled doers spread across vast distances can now come together instantly to advance projects and speed the process of innovation in virtually every industry.

In education, for example, communications and collaboration technologies help children experience the world in ways that were unimaginable decades ago. To sustain our innovative thinking into the future, we need to continue developing technologies that provide future generations with a well-rounded education in science, math, technology, and the arts.

It is important to remember, however, that without strong leadership and the support of a large number of people who will drive the integration of ideas and follow through needed to transform ideas into real progress, we can very easily end up in a standstill.

Gaps in innovation, gaps in education, even gaps in inspiration–that comes from a failure of leadership. Time and time again I see that organizations–not just the space program–need competent, open-minded leaders at all levels to encourage collaboration across departments, agencies, cultures, and industries in order to carry out an objective.

As a society we expect things to progress or we move on to alternate methods towards the same or similar objectives. Progress requires an inspiring and committed leadership that can anticipate our most long-term goals and take steps to help us fulfill them. We need to look to the future and commit to developing new technologies.

I’ve seen far too many projects fail because the execution and commitment to move true innovation forward takes a long time. For many organizations, this requires them to free themselves from the bureaucratic details and measurements. Short-term planning and maintaining the status quo, to put it simply, stifle innovation so we need to consciously commit to making the big push for the big gain for long-term objectives.

This failure to appreciate the bigger picture can exist among businesses just as much as it can in the government, so let’s put a stop to it. From cutting the space program because of disagreement over budget to sacrificing R&D programs or lacking the necessary commitment to collaboration because of a need to increase shareholder value now, these actions significantly damage our ability to create and innovate.

If, as a country, we are ready to move into the future, inspire our young people, and enliven space exploration with a mission to Mars, let’s commit to coming together regardless of hurdles, exchange ideas, and put a plan in place to move those ideas forward. After all, the hardest challenges have the most satisfying rewards.

Buzz Aldrin is a former American astronaut and the second man to walk on the moon. In 2011 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, along with the other Apollo 11 crew members, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, and Mercury Seven astronaut, John Glenn. Dr. Aldrin is an author of eight books including his New York Times best selling autobiography entitled, “Magnificent Desolation” which was released in 2009 just before the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo XI moon landing.

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (


What Is The Timeline of Emerging Science And Technology For Future Innovation?

The Timeline of Emerging Science And Technology For Future Innovation

Click on the image to enlarge and zoom in.



Is the “Lone Genius” Finally Dead?

Keith Sawyer

The lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network. The evidence that collaboration drives creativity is overwhelming.

Posted by keith sawyer, July 21, 2014

In 2007, I published Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, where I argued that collaboration is the most important driver of creativity. I called the book “group genius” because all of the research showed that the “lone genius” was a misleading myth. But what about those stories you’ve heard about solitary geniuses coming up with great ideas? Archimedes in the bathtub shouting Eureka, or Coleridge coming up with a poem in an opium-induced daze? These two stories, and others like them, are completely untrue. (As historians have known for many years.) When you scratch beneath the surface of any story about a big creative insight, you can easily find that the real story is one of collaboration and conversation.

I quickly learned that my one book wouldn’t be enough to kill the lone genius myth. The most powerful evidence of this appeared in 2012, when Susan Cain published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain’s claim that solitude enhanced creativity fed directly in to our deeply held beliefs about the solitary genius, and her book sold incredibly well. Since then, in 2013 and 2014, I’ve read many more stories in magazines and newspapers, all based on the belief that creativity is driven by geniuses–what makes someone a genius, what we can do to be more like them, and how we can help our children realize their genius potential.

I’m delighted that we now have another book presenting the overwhelming evidence in favor of group genius: Josh Shenk’s new book Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Pairs, excerpted July 20, 2014 in the New York Times in an article titled “The end of genius.” Shenk makes many of the same points, and cites some of the same research and stories, that I did in my 2007 book. Many of his stories also appeared in an influential 2006 book by Professor Vera John-Steiner called Creative Collaboration. (All creativity researchers know that creativity is always based in collaboration.) But the lone genius myth is still alive and well. Shenk attacks the myth right up front:

The lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: The creative network…or the real heart of creativity–the intimate exchange of the creative pair.

I show in my 2012 book Explaining Creativity that the myth of the genius is relatively recent: it emerged during the Romantic period. And pretty much all of the people we think of as natural, solitary geniuses were in fact deeply collaborative in their work: Shenk mentions Shakespeare, Freud, Picasso, and Einstein. For example, how many people know that Einstein did not discover the formula e=mc squared? It was well known to physicists already, years before Einstein’s 1905 paper about the formula, but the mathematical proof hadn’t been developed. It turns out that Einstein was a pretty bad mathematician, and he made lots of errors, and his proof wasn’t valid. (He often worked together with mathematician colleagues for that very reason.)  It wasn’t until 1911 that another physicist, Max von Laue, developed a full and correct proof. (Click here for more on this story.)

The evidence that collaboration drives creativity is overwhelming. Of course, some collaborations are ineffective and actually block creativity. To make sure your collaborations are the creative kind, it helps to read a book like Group Genius–where I draw out key lessons from decades of research–to help you make sure your collaborations are the creative kind.

I highly recommend Shenk’s new book Powers of Two. Given my own recent experience, publishing a similar argument that collaboration drives creativity, I am not that optimistic that Shenk’s book will kill the lone genius myth. But I hope so.

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (


87% of the companies on the Fortune 500 in 1955 no longer exist!

4 Ways To Beat Disruptive Innovation

These days, every business needs to innovate.  While many in the past assumed that they could get by running the same old business the same old way, the fact is that 87% of the companies on the Fortune 500 in 1955 no longer exist.

So clearly, today’s firms can’t stand still and must pursue a variety of innovation strategies.  Some invest heavily in R&D, others use advanced technologies to improve existing products and others create open innovation partnerships to solve tough problems.

Yet even if a business diligently pursues these efforts, it’s still vulnerable to disruptive innovations.  These are especially challenging because they require a change in business model and aren’t profitable for incumbents to pursue.  However, while competing with a new disruptive competitor is difficult, it can be done.  Here are 4 ways to approach it.

1. Acquisition

Disruptive innovations don’t mint money from day one.  They focus on new markets, made up of light or even non-consumers of the category and require a new business model.  That takes lots of sweat, tears and, most of all, time.  So, in the early stages, there are always opportunities for incumbent businesses to acquire the disruptor.

Certainly this is true in the tech industry.  Apple routinely uses acquisitions to launch new innovations like Siri and other companies, such as Cisco and Microsoft, have made hundreds of small acquisitions over the years.  Not all of these were disruptive companies, but a lot of them were.

Yet acquisitions are not a panacea.  The important thing to remember about a disruptive innovation is that it’s not the technology that makes it disruptive, but the business model.  So acquiring a disruptive startup and then pushing them to embrace your business model will only defeat the purpose.

This is a persistent problem in the marketing communications industry.  The big agency holding companies routinely buy agile new agencies, but almost as soon as they do, they push them—through the “earn out” structure and other ways— to generate margins.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the upstarts quickly begin operating like their agency brethren.

And the death spiral continues.

2. Co-Option

You don’t have to actually acquire a disruptive startup, you can simply co-opt it.  Disney did a masterful job of this when it offered Pixar a distribution deal.  Consequently, Pixar never learned how to do distribution and became so dependent on Disney that they eventually merged.   These days, Pixar actually runs Disney animation.

Steve Jobs was behind both deals (distribution and acquisition), which shouldn’t be surprising.  He was a master of co-option.  In the late 90’s, MP3’s terrified the music industry.  Jobs co-opted the technology, linked it to his existing Mac computers through iTunes and saved the music industry, while generating enormous profits for himself.

Co-option, in many ways, is a more viable strategy than acquisition.  It’s certainly less resource intensive and can often be more effective.

3. Spin Off

In 1980, IBM had already been a victim to disruptive innovation.  As the dominant player in mainframes, it had largely missed out on the minicomputer revolution.  Its management saw personal computers as an even greater threat to its business model and were determined to not be left behind again.

But instead of throwing the full heft of IBM’s corporate resources behind the new venture, they chose a different path.  They sent a small team to Boca Raton, Florida, away from the prying eyes of corporate headquarters in upstate NY to develop a completely new product.  A year later, the IBM PC became a success story for the ages.

Others have taken a similar approach.  Google formed Google X to develop promising new technologies that don’t fit with its core business.  Facebook has made high profile acquisitions like InstagramWhatsApp and Oculus VR, but vowed to keep their operations separate.

Spinning off disruptive innovations, if done right, can offer the best of both worlds, the independence of a startup and the resources of an industry giant.

4. Bayesian Strategy

There is no “right” way to respond to a disruptive innovation.  Incumbent firms have a variety of options and the success of any approach is highly contextual.  The one crucial element is that you have to know it’s going on.  All too often, managers want to be faithful to their business model and do not appreciate the danger until it’s too late.

We can no longer treat strategy as a game of chess, in which we sit in conference rooms and plan out a punctuated series of moves and countermoves.  Instead, we need to take a more Bayesian approach to strategy, in which we are not so much trying to get it right, but to become less wrong over time.

That’s easier said than done because we need to effectively change the software in our organizations to become more sensitive to changes in the marketplace and adaptable.  This transformation starts with data, which needs to be made not only more accessible, but more easily combined with analytic resources to become actionable.

But most of all, it requires a change in perspective.  We can’t wait for emerging trends to become salient, by then it’s often to late.  Rather, we must focus on emerging platforms and build the skills we need to integrate with them.

As Rita Gunther McGrath has put it, planning needs to become discovery driven, rather than knowledge driven.  In other words, we need to focus on how we can learn, not what we think we know.


The World is My Coffee Shop

abundance300 years ago, during the Age of Enlightenment, the Coffee House became the center of innovation.

Back then, most people went from drinking beer to consuming coffee (i.e. from being tipsy to being wired) and ideas started exploding.

The details of this story are important (and fun) one for anyone passionate about innovation…

I wrote about this very phenomenon in Abundance, and offer the excerpt below.

Read, enjoy and pass it on to all the coffee-lovers (and innovators) in your life.

The World is My Coffee Shop, an excerpt from Abundance

In his excellent book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, author Steven Johnson explores the impact of coffeehouses on the Enlightenment culture of the eighteenth century. “It’s no accident,” he says, “that the age of reason accompanies the rise of caffeinated beverages.” There are two main drivers at work here. The first is that before the discovery of coffee, much of the world was intoxicated much of the day. This was mostly a health issue. Water was too polluted to drink, so beer was the beverage of choice. In his New Yorker essay “Java Man,” Malcolm Gladwell explains it this way: “Until the eighteenth century, it must be remembered, many Westerners drank beer almost continuously, even beginning their day with something called ‘beer soup.’ Now they begin each day with a strong cup of coffee. One way to explain the industrial revolution is as the inevitable consequence of a world where people suddenly preferred being jittery to being drunk.”

But equally important to the Enlightenment was the coffeehouse as a hub for information sharing. These new establishments drew people from all walks of life. Suddenly the rabble could party alongside the royals, and this allowed all sorts of novel notions to begin to meet and mingle and, as Matt Ridley says, “have sex.” In his book London Coffee Houses, Bryant Lillywhite explains it this way:

The London coffee-houses provided a gathering place where, for a penny admission charge, any man who was reasonably dressed could smoke his long, clay pipe, sip a dish of coffee, read the newsletters of the day, or enter into conversation with other patrons. At the period when journalism was in its infancy and the postal system was unorganized and irregular, the coffee-house provided a centre of communication for news and information . . . Naturally, this dissemination of news led to the dissemination of ideas, and the coffee-house served as a forum for their discussion.

But researchers in recent years have recognized that the coffeeshop phenomenon is actually just a mirror of what occurs within cities. Two-thirds of all growth takes place in cities because, by simple fact of population density, our urban spaces are perfect innovation labs. The modern metropolis is jam-packed. People are living atop one another; their ideas are as well. So notions bump into hunches bump into offhanded comments bump into concrete theories bump into absolute madness, and the results pave the way forward. And the more complicated, multilingual, multicultural, wildly diverse the city, the greater its output of new ideas. “What drives a city’s innovation engine, then — and thus its wealth engine — is its multitude of differences,” says Stewart Brand. In fact, Santa Fe Institute, physicist Geoffrey West found that when a city’s population doubles, there is a 15 percent increase in income, wealth, and innovation. (He measured innovation by counting the number of new patents.)

But just as the coffeehouse is a pale comparison to the city; the city is a pale comparison to the World Wide Web. The net is allowing us to turn ourselves into a giant, collective meta-intelligence. And this meta-intelligence continues to grow as more and more people come online. Think about this for a moment: by 2020, nearly three billion people will be added to the Internet’s community. That’s three billion new minds about to join the global brain. The world is going to gain access to intelligence, wisdom, creativity, insight, and experiences that have, until very recently, been permanently out of reach.

The upside of this surge is immeasurable. Never before in history has the global marketplace touched so many consumers and provided access to so many producers. The opportunities for collaborative thinking are also growing exponentially, and since progress is cumulative, the resulting innovations are going to grow exponentially as well. For the first time ever, the rising billion will have the remarkable power to identify, solve, and implement their own abundance solutions. And thanks to the net, those solutions aren’t going to stay balkanized in the developing world.

Perhaps most importantly, the developing world is the perfect incubator for the technologies that are the keys to sustainable growth. “Indeed,” writes Stuart Hart, “new technologies — including renewable energy, distributed generation, biomaterials, point-of-use water purification, wireless information technologies, sustainable agriculture, and nanotechnology — could hold the keys to addressing environmental challenges from the top to the base of the economic pyramid.”

However, he adds, “Because green technologies are frequently ‘disruptive’ in character (that is, they threaten incumbents in existing markets), the BoP may be the most appropriate socioeconomic segment upon which to focus initial commercialization attention . . . If such a strategy were widely embraced, the developing economies of the world become the breeding ground for tomorrow’s sustainable industries and companies, with the benefits — both economic and environmental — ultimately ‘trickling up’ to the wealthy at the top of the pyramid.”

Thus this influx of intellect from the rising billion may turn out to be the saving grace of the entire planet. Please, please, please, let the bootstrapping begin.

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (