Innovation has lately become a more democratic process for many businesses; ideas can now come from anywhere and anyone in the organization, and still be recognized as valuable, regardless of an employee’s role in the company. Most startups and entrepreneurs understand this, and remain open to ideas and suggestions on how to improve innovation processes. However, many of them find the task of graduating these ideas towards execution — and making innovation repeatable — to be overwhelmingly challenging.
The solution, however, is a simple one: the key to helping small and medium businesses find their place in the world of innovation and compete with big, established players is a robust and flexible innovation platform.
The Right Kind of Leverage
An innovation platform brings various internal and external stakeholders together, and allows them to share experiences and discuss ideas revolving around a central topic or theme. However, it is important to ensure that the platform is used properly, so that it doesn’t stifle the innovation process or discourage participation.
Below are a few ways to use an innovation platform effectively within your organization:
- Develop a genuine community within the platform, and encourage users to participate voluntarily. This is much more likely to result in participation than forcing the platform on your workforce as a reporting mechanism.
- Explain the full range of features and functionality within the platform, and train members where appropriate for transparency.
- Find a platform with robust capabilities, such as built-in game mechanics, advanced engagement, workflow management, and virtual market functionality to cater to an effective and organized crowdsourcing environment .
- Learn the different ways you can use the platform so you can have the features sync with your innovation needs, instead of just using the software by the book, which might not be beneficial for your organization.
- Gather the opinions of each stakeholder, and learn their needs and requirements for the innovation platform. Incorporate as many of these as possible. This will help increase ownership of the platform and encourage participation. The ideal way to launch an innovation platform is to precede it with open, creative sessions on the components of the platform — especially regarding what needs to be incorporated. For instance, questions such as whether all participants need to see all ideas submitted, or whether voting is required on a submitted idea.
A Better Process
Having a robust and flexible platform is one thing, but implementing it effectively is another. Innovation platforms need to be strategically integrated into the the workplace in order to be accepted and regularly used by your team. For instance, one use of the innovation platform is to crowdsource ideas. An effective strategy for facilitating this is by organizing competitions, and the innovation platform then becomes the vehicle to implement the tactics of this strategy. A recent success story is the British government, which endorsed the British Innovation Gateway program (BIG) that was launched to support, recognize, and reward excellence in small business innovation.
This program succeeded in unearthing some of the UK’s most innovative startups and small/ medium enterprises. Using the SpigitEngine innovation platform, CISCO, who ran the program, whittled down 300+ entries to 20 semi-finalists to six finalists, who finally competed in an exciting “Dragons’ Den”-style live pitch.
A good innovation platform adds value. It helps contributors gather new ideas and inspiration from their team to provide organizational benefits. Regardless of how you use the platform, the end goal should always be to drive innovation and creativity within your business, and never at the expense of a collaborative, open company culture.
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Welcome to Conspire’s Fun Friday Links, a weekly collection of interesting discoveries from around the Web. Most of the time, the goal is to get you thinking differently about innovation, collaboration, business culture, and life in general. Other times, we may toss an infographic or fun video your way. Submissions are welcome, and you can send them to email@example.com for consideration.
Coming Home to the Inbox Miracle
The phenomenon of ‘Inbox Zero’ is an unattainable goal for millions of emailing employees around the world, and that’s just on a daily basis. Coming back from a vacation — even if it’s just a few days — where you’ve determinedly avoided checking messages can be a veritable nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. From WorldWide101:
“Auto-responders are both good and bad. They’re good because they’re a way to let business contacts know that 1) you’ve gone radio silent; 2) you’ll be gone for a set period of time; 3) they can expect a response by a certain date; and 4) there’s an alternate contact if they have an urgent need or request.
On the downside, the thought of an unanswered inbox, piling up day after day with work-related emails, will be a source of stress throughout your vacation. Your mind won’t let you relax when it’s worrying about what if. And when you’re on vacation, the last thing you should be doing is letting work stress you out. The whole purpose of being away is to refresh and rejuvenate.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. An auto-responder doesn’t resolve the problem of thousands of emails accumulating in your inbox. An auto-responder doesn’t answer your emails for you. And when you get home, and wade through those emails (and everything they entail) you’ll probably need another vacation!”
Using Neuroscience to Remain Calm Under Pressure
Ever wanted to know what the secret to calming down an anxious, stressed out brain truly is? As it turns out, it’s…your brain. At least, the study of it and how understanding the mechanics of brain function can help you control it a bit better. From Inc.:
“To calm yourself and remain calm, you need to interrupt that feedback loop…the fight or flight reaction begins in the amygdalae, which is where your brain processes memory, interprets emotions, and makes what are often (inappropriately) called ‘gut decisions.’
It’s now understood that you can reduce the “fight or flight” signals from your amygdalae if you assign names or labels to the emotions that you’re experiencing at the time. As Jon Pratlett, a pioneer in using neuroscience in leadership training, says, ‘Reflecting on your feelings and labeling them may assist in calming the amygdalae, allowing you to move out of the fight/flight mode and free up energy allowing [you] to think more clearly about the issue at hand, rather than worrying.’”
7 Ways Working Less Will Help You Work Better
As we head into the weekend, most of us are primed to work a whole lot less, if at all. And wouldn’t it be nice if an extended break — preferably once a week — was the secret to increased productivity and higher quality of work? Well, it just might be. From Contently:
“We tend to get caught up in our way of doing things without questioning how efficient our methods really are. Yet asking tough questions is very important to managing time: What kind of work are you doing? Is it challenging enough? Are you connecting with sources that can help you improve? In essence, it is similar to spending time feeling productive with pseudo-work.
“If I had followed the program director’s advice and pumped experts for feedback, I would have learned about what you absolutely need for a fundable proposal,” Newport wrote. “I avoided this step, I think, because some part of me didn’t want these answers. By writing my grant in isolation, I could ensure an optimal experience, where I had to put in focused hours, but never really challenge myself too much. This was fulfilling. But it was also a recipe for failure.”
Don’t go through the motions. Instead of rushing to solve problems you’ve seen before, take a step back to reflect. Develop a plan to tackle what will challenge you the most. This research could save you a lot of time in the future.”
Connecting with consumers on a basic level through newsletters, email campaigns, and social media is a standard business tactic that sits squarely in the box. It’s important, but a given, and primarily used for sharing content, promotions, and company updates. But, in addition to being a run-of-the-mill approach, it’s one-sided, frequently spammy and sales-centric, and is more informative that innovative. It leaves virtually no room for gathering customer feedback, and no way to start a valuable conversation.
However, opening up the gates and involving users in your internal innovation processes allows you to ideate, create, and innovate alongside them, and develop products and services that not only meet their needs, but fully exceed their expectations. Here are 3 great ways to turn your customers into innovation resources.
1. Go Beyond the Product
If company leaders ever get into the mindset that they only have one thing to offer their customers — i.e., their product or service — they’re sorely mistaken. If what you’re selling lives up to the hype, the clients who only care about getting it and getting out are going to do so with relatively little prompting. Save the heavy advertising for prospects, and focus on building a customer-based innovation culture. Inviting your customers to participate in events, content creation, webinars, blog posts, social media discussions, and product sneak previews can rapidly open up the innovation network way beyond your internal team, providing an expanse of new ideas and true, front-line suggestions from the people who know your product best.
Says the team over at the Stanford Graduate School of Business: “The processes organizations use to pursue innovation can actually erode their capability to innovate. Systems built on stages and reviews simply bureaucratize the process and deflect attention from the user experience. Then, by limiting responsibility for innovation to a specific department, these organizations actually under-utilize the creative capabilities of other employees. Companies must create a culture of innovation that harnesses the creativity of its customers, users, and employees.”
2. Make it Worth Their While
Incentives are an obvious go-to when trying to ramp up voluntary participation in activities and events, but beware: not all payment needs to be, or even should be, monetary.
While gift cards and the like are both convenient and well-received, valuable customer engagement is more often a result of something more — like asking your users for feedback that you actually intend to consider. This isn’t about traditional surveys, which are great for capturing numerical and demographic data, but pretty awful at deriving meaningful insight into what your customers want. Crowdsourcing ideas from your market, through existing users or targeted prospects, allows you to collect information about what’s really working and what isn’t, and what you need to do to fix it — rather than whether or not someone is simply satisfied, dissatisfied, or indifferent. That kind of feedback doesn’t provide any of the details necessary to drive change.
Entrepreneur’s Michael Morton offers this example: “The idea is that my company looks at a large number of user experiences and strategically decides which issues should be resolved first to benefit the greatest number of community members. This process of automatically and dynamically collecting information requires no effort from users but provides them with value. With this form of crowdsourcing, the greater the number of users and the longer they use the system, the greater the insight that can be gained.”
3. Be Truly Transparent
A lot of the time, company stakeholders cringe at the thought of sharing proprietary information with their customers, fearing that doing so will weaken their market position or result in data leaks. But it is possible to be transparent without over-sharing, and there are several benefits of cultivating an open, communicative relationship with your users. Namely, they’ll trust your organization a lot more, feel confident that their needs are being internalized, and believe in your product and its longevity. This type of loyalty is an excellent foundation for bringing customers into the fold of internal innovation programs, because dedicated advocates truly care about what’s going on with your company. They not only have great ideas and unique perspectives on products and services, but they want to see the organization do well.
“It seems simple, but it’s not,” says Inc.’s Dave Kerpens. “There is a difference between honesty (tell the truth) and transparency (tell everyone everything). Transparency is one of hardest values to approach in business, as many people are stuck on secrecy and fear. [But] customers want to give their business to transparent companies, and great talent wants to work at transparent companies. The moment you…embrace transparency is the moment you gain that advantage over companies that haven’t.”
“Many companies have the fear of being criticized publicly or getting bad reviews. Having customer feedback and third-party product reviews right on your site is a radical approach for many,” writes Teemu Arina of Megasignals. “[However] unpredictable and risky it might seem, the benefits of doing this are the tremendous cost savings in finding early about wrong pricing models, defective products, usability issues, and unnecessary features. If you are honest, transparent, and let people to see that you are serious about getting their feedback, they will increase their trust, engagement, and eventually you will gain greater reputation and profits.”
The bottom line? Understanding customer needs in detail dramatically improves your chances of innovating successfully, and there’s no better resource to turn to than the very people you’re trying to help. And, being able to collect and analyze large amounts of customer data straight from the source results in major strategic opportunities to turn individual ideas into breakthrough innovations.
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Swaying a bit from general commentary on the concept of thought leadership, this week’s roundup is all about application: how limitations can actually increase productivity, company culture myths to avoid, and how to manage your boss.
7 Ways Limitations Can Boost Your Content Creation Productivity
From the Content Marketing Institute:
“The key to boosting your content marketing productivity involves leveraging the Paradox of Limits. Although “more” is usually viewed as an advantage, there are times when “less” is better, achieved by reframing or rescheduling a project or reducing your options.
Just like the supermarket shoppers who, when faced with too many choices end up not buying anything, giving your content marketing team too much freedom can torpedo even the best content marketing ideas and intentions. This is why it’s essential to set limitations on your content creation, to keep you focused on your top priorities — and keep you from getting burned out.”
Our take: Though people — especially creative types — tend to balk at restriction, setting boundaries and structure is absolutely essential for managing and executing projects in an organized, timely way. This certainly isn’t in support of micromanagement, or even planning to say no to ideas that push limits; more so, it’s a matter of building a flexible but strong infrastructure in order to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
11 Stubborn Myths About Company Culture
“Culture is a manifestation of your company’s values, and it impacts everything from talent recruiting to innovation. Unfortunately, some founders and CEOs, especially at early-stage startups, confuse culture with perks or, worse, believe that defining a company’s culture is a task best left up to someone else. Eleven founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) call out the most persistent culture myths — and what you can do to overcome them.”
Our take: Perhaps the most dangerous thing about thought leadership and entrepreneurship is that, because the challenge of being truly unique and knowledgeable about something is so difficult, it’s easy to take what’s already been done and customize it for originality’s sake. But when what you’re swallowing as gospel is completely false, you end up not only perpetuating bad habits, but basing your entire approach on what is, at best, shaky and uncommon.
12 Easy Ways To Manage Your Boss
“It would be wonderful if success rested purely upon your ability to do your job, but that’s less than half the picture. Raises, promotions, and other perks often depend directly on whether you can manage your manager rather than whether your manager is good at managing you.
Fortunately, keep your boss happy and helpful isn’t all that difficult, if you follow these simple rules.”
Our take:To be clear, nothing about ‘managing your boss’ is in support of insubordination. Rather, it’s about helping the people who lead you do the best they can to give you what you need, so you can do your best. With that in mind, it’s extremely beneficial to think of your working relationship with your manager as a collaborative one in which both parties are not only stakeholders in projects and outcomes, but in engagement as well.
Innovation often entails disruption of existing paradigms and transformative breakthroughs. This has traditionally been resisted in the conservative and highly regulated insurance industry, where the integrity of the business is measured in terms of adherence to set procedures.
However, with customer needs changing at a fast pace, and with multiple options available to manage risks, insurance companies may have no choice but to innovate and adapt their business structure to address the fast changing needs of their customers.
While the exact nature of innovative practices varies, what is important is to encourage innovation and creative thought within the organization. Here is a three-step path for successful innovation in the insurance industry.
1. Capture Ideas
A company’s workforce, being in the midst of business activity and having firsthand experience with everyday operations, would invariably have great ideas on how to improve product delivery, service offerings, and other critical business deliverables. The challenge lies in devising a scalable system to capture these ideas, share them across the organization and grow them as actionable projects. Ad hoc measures, such as one-to-one meetings, have limitations.
Innovators need to identify people who are naturally curious, support their inquisitiveness, provide them opportunities to follow trends outside the company and even outside the insurance industry and, then, encourage them to question why they do a process or procedure the way they do it or what is lacking.
2. Use Big Data Analytics.
Big data is increasingly viewed as a business imperative across all sectors, and the insurance sector is no different. Big data has the potential to offer solutions that not only transform processes, but also resolve long-standing business challenges. For insurance companies, churning the actuarial, financial, risk, consumer, producer/wholesaler, claims, and other types of data offer rich insights to understand customers, markets, products, regulations, distribution channels, competitors, employees, and other key elements better. These insights could be the primary fuel that sparks innovation.
The insurance industry has always captured and analyzed structured information associated with their products and policyholders. IBM’s 2012 New Intelligent Enterprise Global Executive Study and Research Collaboration reports 74 percent of insurance companies use information (including big data) and analytics to create a competitive advantage for their organizations. To make a difference, innovators need to extract value from unstructured and semi-structured information that remains largely untapped.
3. Adopt the right approach.
The best approach at driving innovation in the insurance industry where every change has to be given a lot thought and filtered through regulatory or other compliance channels is a consulting approach. This focuses on collaboration with an internal business partner, and crowdsourcing ideas specifically focused on a problem.
Direct distribution, predictive analytics, portals, mobile apps, and cutting costs through overseas outsourcing of policy evaluation are just a few examples of successful innovations recently adopted by insurance companies. Behind every such successful innovation is invariably a highly intuitive and flexible platform, backed by a process to define innovation and engage employees in this task. AllState Insurance, for instance, has used our Spigit innovation platform to successfully run its WhiteSpace innovation effort, which has, among other achievements, reduced the product development cycle by eight weeks, helped successfully launch a social media video campaign, and even launch a new insurance product.
Do you work in an industry that is resistant to innovation or change? How can you use these principles within your organization? Tell us about it in the comments, below.
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With great innovation there often comes a great deal of collaboration, and that’s why we’re excited to invite you to our next big innovation event, taking place in just one week!
Join Mindjet, along with co-hosts Sprint and Cambia Health Solutions, at our next Innovation Forum on Tuesday, August 19th at the Hotel ZaZa in Dallas, Texas.
The Dallas Innovation Forum
This seminar brings together a robust network of creative thinkers who look beyond the borders of their organizations to drive innovation further than ever before. All you need to bring is your unique viewpoint, a fresh perspective, and the enthusiasm to help stimulate the discussion! From speed networking to discussing the creation of systematic innovation programs and repeatable ROI, this event will play host to a wealth of inspiration, new ideation, and out-of-the-box strategic discussion.
Past enterprise hosts include the BlueCross BlueShield Association, Fidelity Investments, DPR Construction, UnitedHealth Group, Travelport, Qualcomm, and many more.
Click here to register for the next Mindjet Innovation Forum. We look forward to seeing you there!
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As we continue to explore the global effects of innovation, idea management, crowdsourcing, and data science, it’s beneficial to keep an eye on developments and shifting trends in regions all over the world — especially in relationship to the considerable impact innovation has on economics, politics, and emerging industries.
This year’s Global Innovation Index, an annual report that uses a wealth of data to rank world economies’ innovation capabilities and results, focuses on these aspects of innovation through the lens of human contributions on the individual and team level.
Functions and Findings
The topic of innovation, both theoretically and applicably, is a matter of the utmost importance to today’s competitive companies. Fully understanding how each piece of the process connects and interacts is critical when organizations create policies that are intended to drive economic development and build environments that are more ‘innovation-prone’. Because the GII recognizes innovation’s crucial role in these actions, the annual report is designed to capture and predict trends while demonstrating the implications of where different economies are — and where they’re headed. From the report:
“Statistically capturing this human contribution to innovation is a daunting challenge. Even more complex are the challenges faced by all those who try to properly nurture the human factor in innovation.
The GII recognizes the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and well-being. It aims to capture the multi-dimensional facets of innovation and to be applicable to developed and emerging economies alike. In doing so, it helps policy makers and business leaders move beyond one-dimensional innovation metrics towards a more holistic analysis of innovation drivers and outcomes. [We] like to think of the GII as a ‘tool for action’ for decision makers with the goal of improving countries’ innovation performances. Numerous workshops in different countries have brought innovation actors together around the GII results with the aim of improv- ing data availability, boosting the country’s innovation performance, and designing fresh policy actions that are targeted for effective impact. These exchanges on the ground also generate feedback that, in turn, improves the GII.”
A Framework for Innovation
With these things in mind, the GII carefully crafted a framework with which to obtain and analyze massive amounts of data from all over the world. They explain:
“For this seventh edition, the Global Innovation Index 2014 (GII) covers 143 economies, accounting for 92.9% of the world’s population and 98.3% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (in US Dollars).
Global Innovation Index 2014 (GII) relies on two sub-indices, the Innovation Input Sub-Index and the Innovation Output Sub-Index, each built around key pillars.
Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication. Two output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs.”
Welcome to Conspire’s Fun Friday Links, a weekly collection of interesting discoveries from around the Web. Most of the time, the goal is to get you thinking differently about innovation, collaboration, business culture, and life in general. Other times, we may toss an infographic or fun video your way. Submissions are welcome, and you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Dashing, Starting, and Stopping: 3 Methods for Beating Procrastination
While it’s true that the heavy pressure of a looming deadline can be an excellent motivator, more often than not procrastination is just really, really bad for your blood pressure. So, it’s a good idea to keep your heart healthy and your mind sane by starting, not stalling. From Contently:
“I’ve wrestled with procrastination in the past. It’s worth pointing out sometimes procrastination can be beneficial to certain types of productivity. Other times, not so much.
I may not be a psychologist, but I’ve done more than enough research to know we procrastinate for many reasons. Some of us are bored with work. Some of us attach external importance to what we do and let our egos prevent us from starting a task. Others are just intimidated.
Regardless of the cause, every freelancer should be familiar with the Zeigarnik effect: It suggests once we start a task and leave it unfinished, we remember it clearer and more frequently than completed tasks. So the challenge then becomes learning how to get started on something so we can clear it from our mental docket. Fortunately, there are a few helpful solutions.”
Social Media’s Biggest Turn-Offs
So much of a person’s influence these days rests on their ability to engage an audience through social media, whether they’re using it for business or not. But anyone who’s spent a decent amount of time on one of the major platforms — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram — knows that there are certain, often unspoken rules of conduct that can be the difference between blowing up your following and getting blocked.
In this visual presentation from Forbes, you’ll learn what not to do — things like ignoring grammatical mistakes, oversharing, and saying the same thing over and over and over again. Common sense? Maybe — but if it were really that common, this article probably wouldn’t exist.
Leonard Shlain on Integrating Wonder and Wisdom
The concepts of art and data are about as different from each other as two things can be; one is rooted in the translation of inspiration, the other in the understanding and communication of complex systems. But, like many things that appear to exist on completely opposite ends of a spectrum, these two ways of interpreting the world are not only connected, but interdependent. And, because the human powers of ideation are a byproduct of both, understanding the necessary balance between these two modes of perception is a critical factor of personal and professional success. From Brainpickings:
“Concepts such as “justice,” “freedom” or “economics” can be turned over in the mind without ever resorting to mental pictures. While there is never final resolution between word and image, we are a species dependent on the abstractions of language and in the main, the word eventually supplants the image.
When we reflect, ruminate, reminisce, muse and imagine, generally we revert to the visual mode. But in order to perform the brain’s highest function, abstract thinking, we abandon the use of images and are able to carry on without resorting to them. It is with great precision that we call this type of thinking, “abstract.” This is the majesty and the tyranny of language. To affix a name to something is the beginning of control over it…Words, more than strength or speed, became the weapons that humans have used to subdue nature.
[Because] the erosion of images by words occurs at such an early age, we forget that in order to learn something radically new, we need first to imagine it.”
A good friend of mine works in national media where the focus is generating creative ideas on episodes about creativity. The sad irony, though, is that they work in a fear-driven atmosphere where failure is avoided at all costs. As a result, the team’s creativity is stifled rather than fostered; it’s not only eroding the series, but truly debilitating the team.
Weekly ideation meetings start off with a sigh, and work begins with finding successes across other mediums that proved popular. The team, which is well-paid and was assembled because of their creativity, is unhappy and unmotivated. Meetings often go from light and snarky to downright angry and unproductive. Even the best creatives require an atmosphere that actually fosters creativity — in fact, they may even need it more.
The Origins of Stifling Creativity
If I look back on my education, I can’t help but remember how even the most meaningful, credible, and motivated educators sometimes stifled my creativity. Class after class of papers and tests marked with negative points, coupled with remarks on what I did wrong and what I needed to improve, tainted the passion and inspiration I originally felt for the subject matter. I’m curious as to why educators don’t abandon traditional red-pen-grading and, instead, use green ink for making positive comments on work that stands out from the crowd. Rather than feeling supported and creative, I always felt like I needed to be part of the herd — especially because those students that best reflected the herd were rewarded with honors.
Move forward to my career and I was blessed to experience leadership that fostered creativity. I had several managers who saw what made me excited about my work and encouraged my growth in a specific direction. This is how I took the unconventional path from Industrial Electrician to Online Marketer. It sounds strange, but my job as a newspaper plant electrician began requiring more and more programming knowledge, from programmable logic controllers through to Intranet production sites. I was lucky enough to work at a newspaper where the intersection of database marketing and the Internet came to fruition just as I displayed my prowess at analytics and troubleshooting. We swapped the equipment databases with behavioral and demographic databases about subscribers, and my work went from targeting production issues to targeting marketing issues.
An online marketer was born.
The leadership at the newspaper I worked in was quite different than most, though. We developed coaches rather than managers, and our job wasn’t to fix people, it was to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and move them away from those weaknesses and towards their strengths. The system naturally developed a creative culture within the organization, because it focused on the rewarding positives instead of punishing negatives.
Here are 4 Surefire Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Organization
- Pet Projects. Institute time and resources for employees to fund and work on pet projects. This is time spent away from teams and leadership who can stifle creativity simply because of their natural influence on the employee. A simple remark from a manager can redirect an employee’s focus, and potentially move them away from creative solutions. This doesn’t have to be uncontrolled free time; you can develop timelines and budgets to ensure productivity and output expectations are in place.
- Coach. Some organizations, such as Chipotle, have begun rewarding staff based on their ability to produce and promote successful team members, rather than their skill at boosting the bottom line. Managers manage, leaders lead — but coaches develop their employees, identify their strengths, and push them away from failure and towards success.
- Upend Reviews. The typical review process ensures that an employee’s goals align with the organization and provides the employee with constructive criticism on how they can improve their performance. It could be argued that an employee’s performance isn’t the responsibility of the employee, but instead, of the leaders they work under. Upend your reviews, and have your employees review the leadership of the company to garner feedback on what type of environment they require to increase creativity. Then, make the necessary changes.
- Reward Risk. Many of the most monumental failures both educate and drive change in an organization. You don’t want to risk your company, but it’s time to eliminate the “Employee of the Month” politics and, instead, develop a program where creativity and risk are rewarded. Don’t single out one employee — identify a positive result attained from each employee, and recognize them for their creativity. Then, sit back and watch the inspiration and genius blossom!
We Are in the Age of Creativity
The Internet, global economy, and advancements in logistics have increased our competitiveness. It’s my humble opinion that our economic woes are largely due to the fact that we’ve failed to fully embrace the creativity of our nation; we continue to drone on and on about formal education, social norms, and holding on to a system that was designed to manufacture widgets in a production line, rather than drive worldwide innovation.
In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin says it best:
“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job. Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin. The job is not the work.”
If we’re to overcome the stagnation we’ve institutionalized within our national education and management systems, it’s going to require dramatic change. I hope each of us will embrace the change needed to foster creativity within our organizations.
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In this week’s thought leadership roundup, we examine how to prove your thought leadership prowess, what it takes to move from individual to corporate TL, and why small, strategic changes can spurn innovation.
Don’t Just Say You’re a Thought Leader, Prove It
From Lynton Web:
“There is no one blog title to get you to being considered the expert. Don’t tell me you’re a thought leader, prove it to me with content, engagement, and strategy.
It takes more than renaming your blog “Thought Leadership” to win the respect of your audience and get them coming to you for industry news and innovative thinking. Everyone can claim to be a thought leader. If you don’t know what’s going on in your industry, then shame on you. So what’s so wrong with touting what you know with a blog title that shows that off? Anyone can include the blog titles “Thought Leadership” or “Industry Insight.” There are no rules on what you call your blog, your navigation, or your resources section. Therefore it negates any impact or relevance of whether you really know your stuff.”
Our take: An old point, but a critical one — simply calling yourself a thing does not, in fact, make you that thing. Otherwise, we’d all be Steve Jobs (or someone similar). Moreover, it takes a great deal more than having an opinion or perspective on a topic to be considered an expert on it, so do your research, interact with your audience, and always stay on top of industry trends.
Are You Building an Army of Thought Leaders? Move from Individual to Corporate Thought Leadership
From Content Equals Money:
“Corporate thought leadership, while hard to develop and implement, can provide enormous internal and external benefits. When properly executed and fully supported, it can set your business apart from the competition.
Internally – Corporate thought leadership can improve company culture and morale. When done well, it can build trust, enthusiasm, pride, purpose, and loyalty. Think of it like this: wouldn’t you rather work for a company that lets you in on its goals and allows you to participate in furthering it? It shows that your employer trusts you as a person, wants to see you succeed, and needs your help. As a byproduct, they develop employees who are loyal and proud of the work they do.
Externally – From an external point of view, corporate thought leadership has enormous value. It shows brand consistency, industry authority, attention to detail, and pride. Competitors begin to look at your company as the leading figure on thoughts, ideas, and implementation. Customers see your company as head-and-shoulders above the competition. Suppliers want their resources in your hands. Distributors are happy to push your product out. The benefits go on and on.”
Our take: Completely agreed; the foundation of any well-executed, collaborative strategy — whether amongst employees or advocates — involves transparency and consistent communication. Positioning a stakeholder or organization as a go-to resource for any specific subject can’t be done unless trust is built through those types of tactics.
Triggering Innovation One Strategic Pivot at a Time
From CFO Thought Leader:
“Ever wonder how strategic decisions are made in a venture-backed firm? Join us as Tim shares the entrepreneurial mindset he adopted as a CFO and that he now embraces as a CEO of Ticketleap, a Philadelphia company determined to disrupt the event ticketing business.”
From the podcast: “In the early stages our software that runs on the Web became quite messy and we found ourselves spending 80 percent of our time making certain that things that were already built didn’t break and so this was not a recipe for success. So we made the bold decision to throw out the old platform and rebuild it. Immediately, new customers took a jump up, and now 80 percent of our time is being spent on creating things that are new and innovative rather than making repairs.”
Our take: The full podcast is worth a listen for any company that wants to position themselves as innovative. And isn’t that, well, everyone?
Unlike organizations that simply throw around innovation jargon for the sake of saying it, companies that institute effective innovation programs understand that having the ability to capture and execute great ideas at scale is key. But the fear of failure, coupled with a belief that ideation is random, as well as a dependence on innovation born out of circumstance, leaves many businesses unable to manage ideas, predict trends, and develop breakthrough products and services.
AT&T’s Innovation Pipeline
In our upcoming Innovation Cafe webinar, Brett Havens, Director of Innovation at AT&T, will discuss their Innovation Pipeline (TIP), a dynamic, online innovation management platform powered by Mindjet’s SpigitEngage.
AT&T’s TIP program encourages collaborative innovation amongst employees, and puts the venture capital model to work internally. Currently, over 130,000 AT&T employees worldwide participate in the program, so far resulting in numerous patents and over $44 million in seed funding.
Our Next Innovation Cafe
At this Café, Havens provide insight into the history of the TIP program, its current structure, and how employees share their ideas through structured challenges and open forums, which are then refined by peers and leadership.
REGISTER TODAY for this 8/13 Innovation Cafe, taking place at 10:00AM PT | 1:00PM ET. We look forward to having you there!
The post 8/13 Innovation Cafe Webinar: AT&T’s Brett Havens on The Innovation Pipeline appeared first on via @Mindjet's Conspire #ideasquad.
There’s a common belief around the world that even the most insignificant actions we take can have monumental, widespread impact. It’s the reason every story about time travel centers around staying hidden, unknown, and unobtrusive — even something as seemingly inconsequential as killing a mosquito can change the course of history.
This phenomena is known, of course, as the Butterfly Effect, and its core principle — that minute, localized changes within complex systems can have large effects elsewhere — can be quite justly applied when considering the various innovation processes that take place in different organizations and industries.
The Idea Effect
An idea is typically spawned by one of three things: a reaction to an existing need; preparation for possible eventualities; or an assessment of existing solutions that finds things to be lacking in some way. That makes ideation a pretty difficult thing to force, and nearly impossible to predict. And, because ideation is so closely tied to innovation, this presents a big problem for anyone trying to mechanize the process.
Yet, sophisticated software and algorithms aside, that is, conceptually, not entirely true. Just because a fix for something doesn’t exist yet does not mean it won’t be clear when it needs to exist. Of course, solutions don’t usually just spontaneously appear in the same moment a problem is unearthed; things come to mind, sure, but a multitude of factors have to be considered before the issue at hand can actually be dealt with. By limiting the number of brains that are able to mull over a situation — which is common in hierarchal organizations that depend on small groups of people to come up with innovative answers — you’re restricting not only the potential of your ‘crowd’ to come up with answers at all, but the possibility of those answers being the best solutions for the problem. Understanding that is one of the first keys to using the Idea Effect — innovation’s version of the Butterfly Effect — to your advantage.
Applying the domino concept to ideas is twofold. On one hand, ideation inspires collaboration. In a work setting, when you make a decision or have an idea, the appropriate first step is to vet it with any relevant stakeholders, who can offer suggestions, help identify challenges and risks, and provide insight into available resources. In so doing, the proposal is likely to evolve, grow, or be thwarted, usually because of information you didn’t remember, know, or consider. Additionally, the historical relevance is clear: there would be no car without the invention of the wheel, no iPod without the Victrola, no space travel without the discovery of oxygen-hydrogen combustion, no libraries without the printing press. The ideas that led to these discoveries quite literally changed the course of history.
This naturally collaborative approach to ideation and project development is not only logical, but creative and full of obvious benefits. And if a team of four, for example, can help positively reshape great ideas and help move them along towards effective implementation, the same is true for a crowd of hundreds, thousands, and even millions.
Understanding the Global Crowd
In truth, the global crowd — literally, the population of individuals around the world that have the potential to help shape and execute different ideas in disparate locations — is not structured all that differently from your department team, or your overall organization. There are movers and shakers, creatives and strategists, leaders, executers, investigators, data junkies, naysayers, and everything in between. But, this vast pool of contributors, coupled with the aforementioned Idea Effect, means that the possibilities for a single idea to completely transform a local business or even a global industry are virtually limitless. Granted, there are myriad variables and steps; context and conditions play a major role, as do financial resources and market acceptance. Still, the exceptional advantages of a fully scalable innovation program — not least of which is the opportunity to effect real, lasting change — should be motivation enough to work towards building out processes that can capture and harness an entire crowd’s genius, whatever the size.
This month, we’re going to focus on what it means to embrace the global innovation ripple and utilize it for your business. Through the influence of global crowdsourcing and the organic reach of the Idea Effect, we truly believe that any organization with a mind to do so has the power to change the world — one team, company, and industry at a time.
Before the funding rounds and investors come into play, startups don’t usually have access to the same resources established businesses do. Money, business expertise and experience, contacts, well-established brand value, and above all, a loyal customer base, are the foundational elements of keeping a business alive. But what are startups supposed to do to differentiate themselves before they have the resources they need?
While clambering through the trenches, innovation is what allows startups to compete as viable competitors. Smart startups do things differently from their more mature competitors, and, in the process of doing so, they have the opportunity to develop their expertise and a loyal customer base.
Innovation, however, is easier said than done, and it goes beyond visualizing or getting sudden surges of inspiration. Here are four critical innovation tips for startups that want to truly set themselves apart.
1. Follow the Right Approach
Innovation requires letting go of predictability and control, while also being able to think differently. However, innovation is not making blind leaps of faith or taking wild risks, either; rather, it’s an exercise in risk management that requires a structured and logical approach.
In this sense, startups have a distinct advantage over established companies. Long-standing companies don’t want to tinker with a flow that’s proven to work well, whereas startups can experiment earnestly with trial and error in an effort to find better ways of getting things done. Taking it a step further, applying mind mapping techniques to innovation efforts allows startup entrepreneurs to undertake this feat in a structured way. A good mind mapping platform allows the brainstorming team to cover all bases and variables, understand the relationship and the time constraints of each variable, and take each eventuality to its logical conclusion. Mind mapping, when used in a startup culture, can foster the intersection of structure and creativity.
2. Involve the Customer
Startups usually target new wants and needs, or they target changes in wants or needs that existing businesses cannot or do not fulfill. For instance, there might be a market for an enterprise sales automation solution, but there might only be room for a solution that is targeted strictly to small businesses, or some other innovative service not offered by existing players. Understandably, the reason most startups are founded is because someone sees a gap in the current landscape and wants to fill it.
Startups would benefit from engaging customers early in the process. This can be gathering feedback from beta users, conducting pre-launch surveys on the targeted market, and much more. The feedback can offer critical insights that become the foundation for innovation. Using an innovation platform allows the team to collate ideas from various sources and sustain the innovation process; in short, this makes innovation intelligent and structured.
3. Adopt a Hands-on Approach
Innovation never succeeds in isolation. A hands-on approach to business allows innovators to gain critical insights into voids in product or service delivery. As a way to identify and address those missing pieces, startups should use business prototyping tools, and closely study existing businesses.
Most innovation processes start with discovery, move to invention, then into improvement before the product or service hits the market. Many teams make the mistake of moving to the invention phase too early and spending too much time there. It is important to spend substantial time in the discovery phase to understand what drives the target audience, what makes them tick, what turns them off, etc. Leaders should ask: what target markets have this need? Does this have the potential to be a global solution? Is it scalable? Think about the questions you need to ask your team before launching into creation, and use the answers to determine next steps.
4. Develop the Right Culture
Finally, the success of any innovation depends on its incubation in the right culture.
Startups have yet another advantage in this arena, because they can develop a culture they like without the arduous task of changing an existing culture. The success of innovation depends more on transparency and accessibility to information, as well as an open flow of ideas across the organization. Equally important is a system that acknowledges and rewards the contribution of each participant. However, simply wishing for such a culture is not enough. It requires policies to back it up and a platform to enable it.
Innovation is seeing the bigger picture outside existing walls. Organizations, especially startups, still need to define innovation to fit their own goals and limitations. It takes a structured and logical approach powered by smart practices — such as mind mapping and crowdsourcing — backed by a robust innovation platform, in order to reconcile these conflicting dichotomies.
Welcome to Conspire’s Fun Friday Links, a weekly collection of interesting discoveries from around the Web. Most of the time, the goal is to get you thinking differently about innovation, collaboration, business culture, and life in general. Other times, we may toss an infographic or fun video your way. Submissions are welcome, and you can send them to email@example.com for consideration.
7 Habits of People With Remarkable Mental Toughness
It doesn’t always seem like the smartest people in the world are the most successful. But, despite the frustration many may feel over the prosperity of the less-than-intelligent, the fact remains that plenty of people with extraordinary mental capabilities do pretty well for themselves — so it makes sense to see how they do it. From Inc.:
The definition of grit almost perfectly describes qualities every successful person possesses, because mental toughness builds the foundations for long-term success.
For example, successful people are great at delaying gratification. Successful people are great at withstanding temptation. Successful people are great at overcoming fear in order to do what they need to do. (Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t scared–that does mean they’re brave. Big difference.) Successful people don’t just prioritize. They consistently keep doing what they have decided is most important.
All those qualities require mental strength and toughness–so it’s no coincidence those are some of the qualities of remarkably successful people.”
The LeBron Effect: Why Narrative Matters To Regional Innovation
Unless this is your first foray into the internet universe, you’ve probably at least heard of LeBron James. And, it’s pretty likely you know what he does, too. But what’s that really have to do with regional innovation?
According to Rebecca O. Bagley, quite a lot. She argues that the current LeBron debacle that’s currently infiltrating headlines everywhere is an excellent example of how narrative — the way a business, region, or industry presents itself to the world through both actions and storytelling — can completely shape its global perception. From Forbes:
“Imagine how much harder it would be for a business to encourage its employees to be innovative, if these employees didn’t think their company could change; how much harder it would be, if these employees were told by others their company wasn’t going anywhere.
Narrative matters. It’s true for businesses and it’s true for regions. Think of places like Boston or Silicon Valley. Talented people who have never been there want to work there. Why? Because there are opportunities and resources. But also because people keep telling exciting stories about these places.
Boston and Silicon Valley have narratives of innovation. They are regions that thrive on positive, innovative cultures built on open exchanges of ideas and an attitude that anything is possible.”
An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety: Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live with Presence
If there’s one thing the collective “business” employee population knows, it’s how incredibly easy it is to slip into worries about past mistakes and future projects, and completely forget about what’s happening right now. But that’s nothing short of detrimental, and a conscious effort to be present can do wonders for both your productivity and your sanity. From Brainpickings:
“The working inhabitants of a modern city are people who live inside a machine to be batted around by its wheels. They spend their days in activities which largely boil down to counting and measuring, living in a world of rationalized abstraction which has little relation to or harmony with the great biological rhythms and processes. As a matter of fact, mental activities of this kind can now be done far more efficiently by machines than by men — so much so that in a not too distant future the human brain may be an obsolete mechanism for logical calculation. Already the human computer is widely displaced by mechanical and electrical computers of far greater speed and efficiency. If, then, man’s principal asset and value is his brain and his ability to calculate, he will become an unsaleable commodity in an era when the mechanical operation of reasoning can be done more effectively by machines.”
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In this week’s thought leadership roundup, we take a look at why blogging is essential to your strategy, how you can become a top business thinker, and six habits of successful mobile-first companies.
Three Reasons Why Blogging is Essential in Thought Leadership
“You’ve already developed the expertise in a particular subject or industry, so why keep it cooped up in your head? Share it with others!
One of the best ways to demonstrate thought leadership in your area of expertise is to actively produce valuable blog content. You should be blogging regularly about several topics associated with your area of expertise. Write about topics that you know a lot about and that others need to know more about.
Be sure to blog often. This is not a “one and done” thing. The more you’re blogging, the more you’re increasing your exposure to position yourself as a thought leader. You want to make sure you are the go-to expert above all else when someone is seeking advice or assistance in your area of expertise.
Don’t forget about exploring guest blogging opportunities to contribute to other industry blogs. This enhances your visibility as a thought leader, as well as establishes credibility.”
Our take: Blogging is one of the easiest and most important ways a brand or thought leader can keep in touch with their advocates, expand their influencer base, and maintain valuable connections with both existing clients and pending prospects. If you’re not blogging, you’re not giving your brand a human voice.
How To Become A Top Business Thinker
“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.’”
Our take: The internet, though it’s become an essential platform for people to share ideas globally, has also made it virtually impossible for even established thought leaders to gain momentum and be heard above the deluge of copycats, irrelevant noise, and general flotsam. Great ideas get lost, and fast — becoming a top thinker in a particular industry is a key preliminary strategy for aspiring thought leaders, so it’s crucial for those who want to voice their ideas to do the proper research and groundwork.
The Six Habits of Successful Mobile-First Enterprises
From Wired Insights:
“One lesson, unfortunately, is that despite all the talk about the rise of mobility and the adoption of smartphones and apps for practically every human endeavor, things are not moving at quite the same speed inside the enterprise. I soon realized, however, that there were common patterns among all the customers I was talking to. And it didn’t matter if it was a small or midsize company, or even a large enterprise with a sizable IT budget: companies that don’t build the right habits find that building mobile apps is very difficult.
The good news is that despite building great mobile apps too often is considered a steep challenge, if enterprises work to improve their approach to six habits of highly successful mobile-first enterprises they will find that rather than having the mobile opportunity slip out of hand, they will turn it into a strong advantage.”
Our take: Want to get to the top? Look to top performers. This isn’t a suggestion to mimic, but rather to learn, adjust, and apply strategies that are clearly working for industry leaders to your own organizational tactics. It’s an old trick, but one that’s sadly under-utilized by fledgling (and not-so-fledgling) companies who think that innovation is tantamount to inversion. Pro-tip: it isn’t.
In the rush to use innovation management processes to drive financial returns and improve products, organizations can sometimes forget that building smarter software and developing superior services isn’t just about increasing profits. Rather, creating a brand new or improved offering quite often results in something more: making work, travel, time management, health care, banking — life in general — easier and more fulfilling for your customers. In short, making the world a better place, whether that was the intention or not.
This last month, we focused on what it means to implement humanitarian innovation practices in a variety of industries, both tangibly and philosophically. Here are our favorite themed posts from the month of July.
Harnessing Humanitarian Innovation: Bettering the World One Idea at a Time
“Obvious as it sounds, every technological advancement, medical breakthrough, or creative masterpiece that exists in the world began with one very simple thing: an idea.
To be fair, having ideas isn’t always all that simple. Particularly in business settings, generating truly unique or innovative solutions is often an acute struggle; a battle of wit against resources, deadlines, and data. This is especially true for organizations focused on humanitarian innovation — they’re not only restricted by their own assets, but by the many regional, political, financial, geographical, and cultural aspects affecting the oppressed group or location they’re trying to service. Even the most brilliant concepts must be subjected to intense scrutiny and adaptation. Having a great idea is only the very, very beginning.”
INQ Magazine: Innovation for the Enterprise – Issue #3 Now Available!
“Over the last six months, we’ve witnessed more transformative, collaborative innovation taking place than ever before. We’re not only excited to be a part of this huge influx of communal ideation, but can’t wait to see how it continues to shape various industries, cultures, and breakthrough technologies. Mindjet’s INQ Magazine: Innovation for the Enterprise, is a great way for us to curate and highlight key innovations and ideators in the global community.
In our Q3 2014 edition, we’ve featured a selection of rich, insightful content focused on humanitarian innovation that drives positive change and returns that go far beyond the financial. Issue #3 highlights UNHCR’s global crowdsourcing initiatives to support refugees, teachers who bring innovation straight to students, Cambia Health’s advancements in palliative care, socially-driven examples of human ROI, and much more.
We’re honored and proud to be able to showcase these top examples of humanitarian innovation at work, and we hope they inspire even more acts of innovation for the greater good.”
How Nonprofits Can Benefit from Innovation Software
“Nonprofits sometimes think that innovation is not for them: it’s too cutting-edge, too complicated, or too expensive. But the fact is, nonprofits are engaged in doing business like anyone else — and they can also benefit from innovation and innovation technologies.
The number of nonprofits is actually on the rise. Between 2001 and 2011, they increased by 25%, and this growth means that the competition for donations and funding is also growing. Organizations need to show donors that their programs are effective and have a wide reach. By thinking and doing things differently, they have a better chance at gaining access to more funds and a wider audience.”
3 Keys to Crowdsourcing That Drive Innovation in the Healthcare Industry
“Like all industries, the healthcare sector is highly competitive; success depends not only on reducing costs and improving efficiency, but also on delivering a remarkable patient experience. Healthcare professionals are now relying increasingly on innovation to offer differentiated services. Innovation done right depends largely on mechanized crowdsourcing, or tapping into ideas from the wider professional community. That includes experienced professionals within the industry, as well as an organization’s internal “crowd” (employees).”
How Nonprofits are Leveraging Innovation Management Platforms
“At the core, all problems are a failure to identify a solution or apply the right fix. Innovation management platforms, when implemented correctly, consistently prove to be one of the best problem solving tools businesses can employ; they help organizations uncover hidden challenges and overcome existing roadblocks with new, out-of-the-box solutions.
As with every business, nonprofits and humanitarian agencies are increasingly adopting innovation management programs in order to discover new solutions to deal with operational and other business challenges.”
At the heart of any successful innovation process is the ability to capture and execute great ideas. So many organizations believe that ‘innovation’ is an ambiguous, serendipitous thing that’s both unpredictable and unmanageable; coupled with the pressure to continuously destroy boundaries and have breakthroughs, this belief is intimidating and stifling. Fortunately, it’s also unfounded.
AT&T’s Innovation Pipeline
Take, for example, AT&T’s Innovation Pipeline, or TIP. This online, crowdsourcing innovation tool enables employees to submit, discuss, and vote on various ideas across the entire company, regardless of hierarchy or position. Participants can use virtual currency to “invest” in the ideas they believe are viable — kind of like an ideation stock market. Top-ranked ideas make their way to senior leaders; once an idea is approved, it graduates to project status and goes through a handful of incubatory phases, including Prototyping, Production, and Commercialization. Forbes reports the following results of the TIP program:
- 130,000 active participants from all 50 states and 52 countries
- More than 25,000 innovation ideas submitted
- Numerous patents
- Over $38 million invested by AT&T in viable innovation projects
These types of results are quite positive, particularly in a company as globally spread out as AT&T. They’re also totally attainable. So, how can your organization implement a similar, streamlined approach?
Getting it Right
The below infographic from AT&T demonstrates how to properly develop an effective innovation pipeline, and how to use it.
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Editor’s Note: For most traditional business types, the almighty to-do list is the master of all projects, tasks, and meetings. Yet research has proven — repeatedly — that taking a visual approach to organizing your professional life can boost productivity, retention, and even ROI and output. That’s where mind mapping comes in — particularly of the digital variety, which takes all of the brilliance of the process and amplifies it so that individuals and teams can collaborate more effectively. In the below piece from The Mind Mapping Software Blog, you’ll learn why the most common myths about mind mapping are nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Mind mapping software is surrounded by myths that make it hard for business people to fully understand its power and potential. It’s time to cast aside these inaccurate beliefs and view a clear picture of what it can do for you.
Here are 8 myths that you may have heard about mind mapping software and the real story on each:
MYTH #1. It’s too hard to learn
Many people can’t be bothered with mind mapping software because they perceive that it’s just too hard to learn. Do you remember when you first learned Microsoft Word? You didn’t need an extensive course to teach you how to use it. Chances are, you were able to open a document and just start typing.
Mind mapping software is very similar: you can open a new file and start adding topics without any training at all. Of course, it takes a little more work to understand what the advanced features of the software are, and how to use them. But the basics are very simple and intuitive, because mind mapping works the way your brain does.
The typical mind mapping user is much like you: overwhelmed by how much he or she has to get done and no longer convinced that the traditional business productivity software (e.g., Microsoft Office) is up to the task. They took the time to start using my mind mapping software, and now would not be without it!
MYTH #2. It can only be used for brainstorming.
This perception comes from the practice of hand-drawn mind mapping, which was invented by Tony Buzan in the 1960s. At the time, he envisioned them being used for capturing ideas in a highly individualized, visual format and for memorization of facts and information.
When mind mapping software debuted in the form of Inspiration and Mind Man (which would later become MindManager), the developers simply took Buzan’s radial thinking model and digitized it. In this form, it served the needs of brainstormers very well. Soon, however, developers and users of the software realized that so much more was possible with mind mapping software:
- Icons and symbols gave users the ability to visually classify information
- Topic images made mind maps more colorful and individualized, just as Buzan envisioned
- Topic notes enabled users to capture extended text descriptions without cluttering up the structure of the mind map
- Files could be attached to topics, which provided added meaning and context to them.
- Hypertext links could be added to map topics, enabling users to capture references to online information.
- The ability to add task information to topics transformed mind mapping software from a thinking and planning tool to a lightweight project management tool. The addition of
GANTT views further enhanced its functionality in this important area.
- The capability to export mind map content to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Project further transformed mind mapping software into a powerful “front end” thinking and organizing tool. In other words, you could use it to visually outline the content of a report or presentation, tweaking its content and structure until your were happy with it. Then, with one mouse click, you could convert your mind map to a linear information format. where you could finish working on it.
These and other advancements have enabled mind mapping software to be used for much more than simple brainstorming. Today, it has literally dozens of business uses. Click here to read a list of 45 of them.
MYTH #3. It’s not a serious business tool. It’s frivolous and not worth my valuable time to learn about it.
If you learn how to use mind mapping software, your time will become even more valuable!
This myth is partly due to mind mapping’s roots as a self-improvement tool. If you recall, earlier in this blog post we talked about it being invented by Tony Buzan as a brainstorming and memorization tool. As a result, a mythology has grown up around it that tends to make business people dismiss its capabilities and advantages.
With all of the capabilities I outlined in the previous myth, it’s easy to see that mind mapping software is definitely a serious business tool. In my user surveys, the readers of this blog say that it gives them a 20-30% boost in productivity – the equivalent of gaining another day per week of productive work time. In addition, two of the top benefits of mind mapping software, according to survey results, is the ability to reach clarity quickly on complex topics and the ability to synthesize information – two key tasks of today’s knowledge workers.
MYTH #4. It doesn’t match the way I think. I’m just not visual.
You’re actually more visual than you think. If you have jotted notes and diagrams on a whiteboard, you’re visual. If you’ve scribbled simple diagrams and flow charts in your meeting notes, you’re visual.
One of the main hurdles to the adoption of mind mapping software in business is that there are two types of people: creative, visually-oriented individuals who are comfortable with the non-linear format of mind maps, and linear thinkers, who prefer information neatly formatted in documents, slide decks and love the neat rows and columns of spreadsheets. Linear thinkers, for the most part, don’t “get” mind mapping software. Creative people fully embrace it.
The only way to find out if you can benefit from mind mapping software in your work is to try it out on several projects. Fortunately, there are some excellent free mind mapping tools like XMind and MindMaple that you can download and experiment with.
Innovation Emerges From Stories We Tell
The human experience is absolutely rooted in storytelling; we’re a species of narrators, documenting our own histories and imaginings in every language and through every medium available. But when it comes to business innovation, we’re often more inclined to take action than talk about it — and that could actually be holding us back. From Forbes:
“We find ourselves in a mad rush to do innovation. We create innovation strategies, innovation processes, innovation jump-starts, innovation this and innovation that. We do things, as earnestly and energetically as we possibly can, and then we measure some stuff and decide that what we did was, or was not, a contributor to innovative output of this, or that. Then, we do it all over again, fingers crossed, all the while forgetting about the the single, most powerful, indispensable tool we have available to cause innovation: Stories.
From the time we first uttered an intelligible human syllable, we have known that stories, narratives, and tales are our primary means for both the creation and preservation of cultures, values, and ambitions. We have always known that without stories, without meaningful narratives that abide and live and breathe, our organizations, societies and governments grow sterile, lifeless and empty.”
Healthcare Collaboration Across 3 Generations
As the global economy evolves and technology makes it possible for more people to enter the workforce than ever before, the demographic landscape for many organizations is unexpectedly diverse — particularly when it comes to employee age brackets. The disparate challenges, needs, and perspectives from different generational groups can cause a lot of friction, which in addition to being uncomfortable, can negatively impact outcomes, products, and even customers. Though the below piece is focused on dealing with these issues in the health care industry specifically, the lessons are universally applicable. From InformationWeek:
“Today’s healthcare workforce is made up of employees from at least three different generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials (also known as Gen Y). Each generation tends to have its own characteristics about work, traits that include their regard for authority, work ethic, and expectations. Since different generations rarely share the same views, it is not surprising that multigenerational workgroups often struggle to solve a particular challenge and may even experience conflicts.
Not only does this present a management dilemma — for nurse leaders and the organization as a whole — but if these challenges are not resolved, they can lead to negative outcomes such as diminished quality of care, patient safety, and patient satisfaction concerns.
How can healthcare organizations overcome the challenges inherent in multigenerational workgroups? This article will present recommended strategies for implementing an effective approach — as well as technology — to improve collaboration among multigenerational employees. It is a significant opportunity: Improved collaboration leads to more engaged employees, increased productivity, and improved communication, all of which improve the quality of care.”
Big Data’s Effect on Organ Transplant Wait Lists
Organ transplantation is no doubt riddled with risk: expiration, potential rejection, damage during surgery, medicinal complications, cost, transport, and disease are only part of it. Currently, there are thousands of people in need of viable organs from donors, and the vast number of considerations that must go into the transplant of even a single organ are overwhelming. That, hopefully, is where Big Data can save the day. From Mashable:
“Of 28,594 organs transplanted in 2013, you haven’t heard about most. The stories of a few might go viral thanks to social media, but the vast majority of donated organs are harvested from deceased donors or taken from living donors in relative obscurity.
While the total number of organs transplanted seems like an impressive amount, nearly 18 people still die each day waiting for a new organ, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the private, non-profit organization that manages the U.S.’s organ transplant system under a contract with the federal government. Faced with more than 120,000 people who need a life-saving organ and a constant shortage of donors, economists, doctors and mathematicians are teaming up with data to save lives.
The answer, they think, might be in the algorithm.”
Obvious as it sounds, every technological advancement, medical breakthrough, or creative masterpiece that exists in the world began with one very simple thing: an idea.
To be fair, having ideas isn’t always all that simple. Particularly in business settings, generating truly unique or innovative solutions is often an acute struggle; a battle of wit against resources, deadlines, and data. This is especially true for organizations focused on humanitarian innovation — they’re not only restricted by their own assets, but by the many regional, political, financial, geographical, and cultural aspects affecting the oppressed group or location they’re trying to service. Even the most brilliant concepts must be subjected to intense scrutiny and adaptation. Having a great idea is only the very, very beginning.
Establishing a Process: Considerations and Risks
Humanitarian innovation processes are themselves incremental innovations to ideas traditionally used in the private sector. But rather than focusing on inventing or bettering a product, they’re used to improve emergency response times, assist with protracted crisis and post-conflict recovery, increase access to medical treatments and other necessities, and boost economic growth in impoverished areas.
Though plenty of agencies and powerful individuals contribute time, money, and ideas to a variety of global causes, there’s a pressing need to clarify approaches, identify risks, develop a common language, and establish collaborative support networks. Says the team at The Humanitarian Innovation Project, “Innovation takes place every day in the humanitarian context. Rarely, though, have ideas about innovation been systematically adapted and applied to humanitarianism. This project seeks to improve the innovation process within the humanitarian world. Its ultimate aim is to develop a methodology for bottom-up humanitarian innovation, which can be applied at the field level.” As organizations craft their protocol, they should consider the following:
Research is especially critical. As mentioned above, the factors that come into play when applying innovation to altruism are far more complex, sensitive, and numerous than is typically seen in the private sector. Politics are not limited to project stakeholders and board members, but actual government agencies; resources refer to medical supplies, food, water, shelter, and transportation, in addition to an org’s personnel, budget, and assets. Safety often becomes a major factor, and collaboration between operational teams and government groups (law enforcement, firefighters, volunteers, etc.) is crucial. All of these disparate elements are also at the mercy of circumstance, making research into past activities, known challenges, potential and existing risks, and the people or agencies involved a vital first step.
Starting small is a necessary evil. When an organization practices altruistic innovation, it becomes clear very quickly how daunting a task it is. Even if the efforts are focused on a specific group or region, it may appear that there will never be enough money, enough resources, enough people, or enough time to complete the mission they’ve set out to perform. This realization can be both disheartening and detrimental to effective ideation, because motivation plays such an important part in innovating successfully. Therefore, understanding this challenge up front and being prepared to scale your efforts over time is fundamental to the overall process.
Learning is a continuous process. Always. It’s the same lesson people all around the world are taught from a very young age: the act of learning doesn’t stop, and mistakes are not failures unless you make them repeatedly. As important as embracing hurdles is to the average company culture of innovation, it is doubly so when your goal is to better the lives and conditions of those in need. Consumer product and service mistakes can be rectified; when your end-customer is an at-risk child or village dwelling in deplorably poverty, that’s a major game-changer.
The Global Crowd
There’s something truly, wonderfully unique about acts of humanitarian innovation: they are in no way the sole property of experts, inventors, or highly-trained niche specialists. In fact, it is rare that these types of innovations are born from a singular desire to apply expertise to a problem, like a mechanic who spends their time rebuilding old cars for pleasure alone. More often, an existing need is met with deft resourcefulness and collaboration, resulting in clever solutions to widespread problems.
Take, for example, the Liter of Light movement. Brought to our attention by Su Layug, the winner of our INQ Magazine Issue #3 Twitter contest, this global, open-source movement is an incredible example of need-based, community-generated humanitarian innovation at work.
The movement started in one of the poorest villages in Manila, where the majority of people who live there are impoverished, and do so without electricity. From this need came an idea, and finally a goal: to provide an “ecologically sustainable and free-of-cost source of interior light.” Using nothing more than a transparent plastic bottle filled with water and a little bit of bleach (to inhibit the growth of algae or bacteria), these Liters of Light can be fitted through the roof of a house. During the day, the water inside the bottle refracts sunlight, providing approximately the same amount of light as a 40- to 60-watt incandescent bulb. When done properly, these bottles of light can last for half a decade. What started as one person’s ingenious response to a widespread issue is now a global movement; it has illuminated the lives of over 70,000 people in Manila alone, and now exists in India, Indonesia, and Switzerland. As the concept gained awareness in the global crowd — institutions and individuals around the world who understood its value and demand — it was able to transcend the many financial constraints and other challenges with which it was originally faced.
This is, of course, a specialized case of marrying innovation with philanthropy; a stellar illustration of relying on ideators and limited resources to make a monumental difference in the lives of thousands. But most importantly, it’s a solid demonstration of what humanitarian innovation is all about: the belief that, more often than not, it only takes one, simple idea to change the world.
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