As I blogged about awhile back, this week, Perry Klebhan, Alex Kazaks,Huggy Rao and I are running rather intense executive program called Customer-Focused Innovation. As you can see from the schedule, we are keeping the 21 executives in the program mighty busy. We kicked off with a tire-changing exercise led by Andy Papa, who among other things leads the pit crews at Hendrick's Motor Sports, where one team established the all time CFI speed record, changing in a tire on a NASCAR racing car in under 13 seconds. Yesterday, the group spent the day at the Tesla dealer in Menlo Park talking to owners, potential customers, people in sales and marketing at Tesla, and people who didn't like the idea of owning a Tesla at all. In the picture above, the two executives on the left are interviewing George Kembel, the d.school's executive director (he is the tall guy facing the camera) and the group on the right is interviewing one of the Tesla salespeople (the woman in black with sunglasses in her hair).
The idea is to use their observations, empathy for others, and identified needs to develop prototype solutions to improve the Tesla car ownership experience. The group focuses on cases, theories, and models in the mornings, and applying design thinking in the Tesla project in the afternoon. It is a lively and motivated group, and we all are very curious to see the suggestions and prototypes they offer to Tesla executives on Thursday.
Huggy Rao and I kicked off yesterday morning by doing case discussions and a bit of lecture on the hallmarks of innovative organizations. As part of that session, I put together the list below for the executives. I've also included links for anyone who wants to dig into the subject a bit further. I will add a few more ideas and links during the course of the week. I would love to hear some additional ways that great bosses spark innovation and comments -- and extensions -- on the ideas below.
Leading Innovation: 21 Things that Great Bosses Believe and Do
1. Creativity means doing new things with old ideas.
2. Treat innovation as an import-export business. Keep trying to bring in ideas from outside your group or organization, keep trying to show and tell others about your ideas, and blend them all together.
3. Look for and build “intersections” places where people with diverse ideas gather together. And when you go there, talk to the people you don’t know, who have ideas you know nothing about, and ideas you find weird, don’t like, or useless.
4. Treat your beliefs as “strong opinions, weakly held.”
5. Learn how to listen, watch, and keep your mouth shut.
6. Say “I don’t know” on a regular basis.
7. Have the courage to act on what you know, and the humility to doubt your beliefs and actions.
8. Reward success and (intelligent) failure, but punish inaction.
9. Make it safe for people to take risky actions and “fail forward,” by developing a “forgive and remember culture.”
10. Encourage people to learn from others’ failures – it is faster, easier, and less painful.
11. Eliminate hiring and reward practices that reinforce cultures where “the best you can be is a perfect imitation of those who came before you.”
12. Hire people who make your squirm.
13. Create teams composed of both experts and novices.
14. Make it safe for people to fight as if they are right, and listen as if they wrong.
15. Encourage your people to be “happy worriers.”
16. Sometimes, the best management is no management at all. Know when and how to get out of the way.
17. Have the confidence and resolve to make tough decisions, stop your people from whining about the decisions made, and to get on with implementing them.
18. Kill a lot of ideas, including a lot of good ideas.
19. Innovation entails creativity + implementation. Developing or finding a great idea is useless if you can't implement it or sell it to someone who believes they can.
Remember Rao’s Recipe for Innovation: Will +Ideas + Tools.
21. Innovation requires selling your ideas. The greatest innovators, from Edison to Jobs, are gifted at generating excitement and sales. If you can't or won't sell, team-up with someone who can.
As I edited this list a bit, I realized it is important to remind people that there is a lot about innovation that sucks. Yes, it is necessary, but innovator beware, it is an inefficient and distressing process plagued by a high failure rate -- and a lot of self-delusion. And that is when you are doing it right!