A podcast for the creative mind with a short attention span. Each episode will challenge you to create ideas by asking unique, funny & sometimes crazy questions.
With this short-format show of 5 minutes, you can spend more time innovating and less time listening.
The show's host, Phil McKinney, is an award-winning innovator whose technologies and products are used by 100's of millions of people every day. He is the host of the award-winning podcast, Killer Innovations, and author of the award-winning book, Beyond The Obvious. Phil retired as the CTO of HP at the end of 2011.
This show is produced and distributed by The Innovators Network.
The Overlooked Secret to Innovation
As a society, we have a problem.
Some years ago, the late Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, “Doctor, what’s wrong with people today?” The famous doctor was silent for a moment, then he said, “People simply don’t think!”
Why do some not use our brains and think? The brain is a fabulous mechanism. It is capable of processing eight hundred inputs per second for seventy-five years without exhausting itself.
Scientists tell us that humans use approximately 2 percent of the brainpower available to us. We are all equal. We all have the same 2%.
As a society, some of us have chosen not to use this powerful tool. We let others do our thinking for us. Why?
Conformity Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a book called “Man’s Search From Himself,” and in the book, he says, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice .. it is conformity.” And there you have the reason why some people choose not to think for themselves. Conformity.
[QUOTE] If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking. [QUOTE]
They handed over their ability to succeed and fail by conforming to others. Conformity allows them to coast through life or so they believe. They wonder why they are not as successful as others.
Have you wondered why innovators are different? Innovators are anything but conformists - coasters. Innovators are driven to solve problems, to invent, to make life better for everyone.
Why do innovators seem to have the magic touch? Why are Elon Musk or Dean Kamin so successful? They didn’t start out as billionaires. They started out just like the rest of us.
Being a highly successful innovator is available to everyone. No constraint. No skill or ability beyond what you have available to you right now.
Overlooked Secret So what is the overlooked secret to being a successful innovator?
Having goals. Innovators with goals succeed because they know where they are going. They have a focus to apply their 2% of brainpower.
Think of driving a car. If every time you come to a red light you make a left turn, green light you go straight, and at stop signs, you turn right. Where would you end up after driving for an hour? Who knows. Your path is randomly chosen by the timing of lights and the appearance of stop signs.
If on the other hand, you have a destination and load the address into the GPS. You now have a plan to get there. While you may run into obstacles such as traffic or road closures, you can adjust your plan and still arrive at your destination.
Having a goal, like a destination, is the overlooked secret to success for innovators. Without it, your success is based on random chance.
So decide now. What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind and commit to applying your brain’s 2% to achieving it.
Do you want to invent a solution to a specific problem? Do you want to be an entrepreneur and start a business around one of your innovations? Do you want to be a famous innovation coach?
To succeed, commit to that goal. Reflect on it every day, and it will become a reality.
It not only will -- there is no way it cannot become real.
Don’t Settle For Less We are where we are, because we were willing to settle for less. What is it you are settling for? Each of us lives off the fruit of our goals, because the goals set today, tomorrow, next month, and next year will move your life and determine your future. You are guided by your goals.
The moment you decide on your innovation goal, you are instantly stepping ahead of most everyone else, and you are in that rare group of people who know where you are going. You have set your destination.
Do not concern yourself on how you are going to achieve your goal. Leave that to your human ingenuity, and the power of the self-conscious. All you have to do is know where you are going. The answers as to what
On January 13, 2018, the people of Hawaii woke to a shocking alert on their phones and TVs. An incoming ballistic missile was on its way and that the warning was not a drill. It was 38 minutes later that the alert was retracted.
During those 38 minutes -- panic set in. People were trying to figure out what to do. People drove their families to highway tunnels in hopes it would protect them. We can only imagine the fear that raced through the population of more than a million people.
How did this happen?
Hawaii Emergency Alert System The alert was accidentally triggered by a state employee who was attempting to perform an internal test. As the Washington Post reported, the user interface for the emergency management system had a drop-down menu with two choices -- TEST MISSILE ALERT and MISSILE ALERT. The two options worded almost identically and with no confirmation required.
It is harder to erase a photograph from your phone that it was to scare the citizens and tourists in Hawaii.
The designer did not consider the confusion of choosing the wrong menu option. There were no signals to the user about the action they were about to take.
What if the same lack of thought and consideration has been applied to airplanes, water treatment facilities, or nuclear power plants?
It isn’t restricted to exotic or high-risk areas. You experience these signals every day.
Office Affordance Have you ever walked up to a door and instead of a door handle, you were presented with a flat panel area where the door handle would normally be? What do you do?
You push and the door opens.
This signal of the properties of the door, in this case, to push, is called affordance. Affordance can also signal what not to do with the door. With no handle, you are not to pull on the door.
In our office, there is a conference room near my cube. On the glass doors are handles. I invariably grab the handles and pull. What happens? Nothing. To open the door you need to push. So after I pull, then I push. While I’ve been in this conference rooms hundreds of times, I pull each and every time. The visual queue, affordance, overrides my memory of the last time I tried to enter the conference room -- and I pull on the handle.
While we may chuckle at these design oversights, the use of affordance can give customers a clear signal of how-to, and how not to, experience a product or service.
Sony Walkman Affordance In 1980, I got my first Sony Walkman. This innovation had quickly become “the tech” everyone had to have. It allowed you to take your music with you. At the time, I was into DJing and making my version of mixtapes. The walkman allowed me to enjoy my music wherever I went -- to the annoyance of the then-girlfriend and now wife.
What I found intriguing with the Walkman was what it didn’t do -- as much as what it did do. Yes -- it was the first highly portable way to listen to recorded music. What it did not allow you to do was record music.
That’s right -- you could listen to music but you could not record it. Why? Up to that time, every cassette player allowed you to record.
Sony made the clever design decision to not have a feature to signal to customers what it was -- a portable music player. This decision had other benefits including reducing complexity and lower intimidation that technology can sometimes cause.
This design decision by Sony is another example of affordance. It signed what you can and cannot do with a Sony Walkman.
Affordance applies to all kinds of products and services.
McDonald’s Affordance Have you ever wondered why McDonald’s does not offer cutlery? I can honestly say that I’ve never been tempted to use a fork and knife to eat a Quarterpounder.
In its early days, McDonald’s didn’t offer cutlery as an affordance signal to its customers in how they were to enjoy their meal -- with their hands.
For companies, paying attention to affordance can create highly differentiate
It is normal that no two people are exactly alike. Not even twins. So the word normal should not be confused with the word average. If you leave your fingerprints on something, you might as well leave your name and address since no two people have the same prints.
You hear music and see a sunrise differently from any other person. You might enjoy a movie that your spouse would do anything to avoid. You might like being in a crowd of friends while your spouse prefers an evening being just the two of you.
When you say, “I want my child to be normal,” you don’t mean average, and you shouldn’t. What you mean is that you want your child to grow up with their own abilities, talents, likes, and dislikes. So to be normal is not to be average; it is to be different.
But for some reason, we are not comfortable showing our differences because we think society is expecting something we are not. We present one face to the world, as a rule, and another one to ourselves.
There are millions of people who feel inadequate just because they’re not like what they think they see around themselves. They’re not inadequate at all. It’s just that they've never understood that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else because no one is. We’re supposed to be ourselves and realize that we are distinct individuals.
Face it, we are all quirky. Take a look at the great thought leaders: Socrates stood for hours in the snow, oblivious to the wind and cold, working out a philosophy problem; Churchill walked into the bedroom of the president of the United States with only a towel wrapped around his waist; Einstein could go a whole lifetime without giving a thought to whether or not he needed a haircut. Are these people normal or abnormal? They’re normal. That is the way they do things -- which is their normal.
I’m sure there are lots of people who are keeping themselves from something they’d like to be doing because none of their friends are doing it. The truth of the matter is that they would be normal to follow their own natural inclinations, since no two people are alike, and they are in fact being abnormal in copying their friends.
If you try to conform to the crowd, you’re trying to act as people act on the surface. It isn’t you.
What’s normal for you, for me, is not easily discovered. It is not found by looking around at other people. It is found only by inward searching, by the knowledge of “who I am,” not by watching “others.” Each of us is outstanding in some way. Every person on earth has a superpower for something.
When we find it, life takes on a new meaning and excitement. When you committed the effort to develop your superpower, a lot of other people will wish they were like you. But they shouldn’t. Being normal is being what you are as an individual.
This applies to everyone including those that society labels as “not normal” such as those on the autism spectrum. Rather than someone on the autism spectrum trying to act like people who society thinks of as “being normal”, what is wrong with them being themselves and acting their normal?
We as a society have defined normal based on some artificial standard we see around ourselves. Society has never understood that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else because no one is. We need to realize that each person is a distinct individual.
So what are the steps to being content with being ourselves?
You can't be all things to all people.
You can't do all things at once.
You can't do all things equally well.
You can't do all things better than everyone else.
Your humanity is showing just like everyone else's.
You have to find out who you are and be that.
You have to decide what comes first, and do that.
You have to discover your strengths, and use them.
You have to learn not to compete with others,
Because no one else is in the contest of “being you”.
You will have learned to accep
Great Leaders Keep Cool Under Fire
My grandfather had an old saying when I was growing up, “Never burn a bridge." At the time, I thought it was a strange saying. It was only later that I realized what he was saying. No matter how someone treats you, don't get angry and never retaliate as to destroy the relationship. Great leaders keep cool even when the attacker is making it personal.
Leaders Keep Cool Under Stress The president of a large corporation was confronted by an employee who stormed into his office and said, “I have a thing or two to say to you.” He then angrily poured out his complaints and pent-up feelings. As he did so, the president calmly listened. The employee was surprised that he didn’t get more of a reaction. When he was finished, the president said a simple “Thank you.”
The president had wisely remained cool like Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, who said: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.”
Emerson made the same point when he wrote, “Keep cool, and you command everybody.” The person who winds up in charge is the one who can remain calm and in control under the most intense pressure. There are strength and power in stillness and quietness. It is the most universally important quality of great leaders — they are unflappable. Leaders know that they don’t make the best decisions when made with emotions or in the heat of anger.
Leader's Most Valuable Lesson If a person can learn to remain calm in situations of stress, they have discovered one of a leader's most valuable lessons — one that the vast majority of people never learn.
Earlier in my career, I was on a trip overseas, when I saw two drivers whose trucks came face-to-face in a narrow street. Neither would back up to let the other by. So what did they do? They started blowing their horns and yelling profanities at each other. After a few minutes of watching this spectacle, I went on to my meeting. When I returned a few hours later, they were in the same place, still blocking each other, red in the face yelling at each other. I wonder if they are still there.
They were the perfect representations of what happens when anger and emotion overcome reason — nothing constructive happens. Logic says that when they had first seen each other, one of them should have immediately backed up and both could have been on their way.
Losing Your Cool While it is easy to point out the flaws in others, we need to recognize when we have fallen short. My mom, a fellow redhead, said I got a double helping of the “red-headed temper.” To emphasize the point, she used to tell me a story …
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His mother gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered each day gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Controlling His Temper... Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. She then instructed him to pull out one nail for each day he was now able to hold his anger. The days passed, and the young boy was able to tell his mother that all the nails were gone.
The mother took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. She said, “You have done well, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like the holes in the fence. It won’t matter how many times you say your sorry. The holes are still there.”
The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his mother and said, “I hope you can forgive me mother, for the holes I put in you.”
“Of course I can,” said the mother.
Don't Get Angry Every day, I strive to follow my grandfathers' warning to stay calm, don’t get angry, and never burn a
Find A Way To Say 'Yes' To Non-Obvious Ideas
The world is made up of ‘yes’ people and ‘no’ people. We need more optimistic -- more hopeful people who find a way to say yes to non-obvious ideas.
During Thomas Jefferson's presidency in the early 1800’s, he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks. Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life. A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river and then asked President Jefferson to take him across. The president agreed without hesitation, the man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him: "Why did you select the President to ask this favor?" The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across. "All I know," he said, "is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No' and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes.’ His was a ‘Yes’ face."
There are times to say no, of course. But success belongs to the people who say, thoughtfully and hopefully, “Yes - let’s try it.” These individuals have thrown their hat in the rings and are part of the answer rather than part of the problem.
When we say ‘no’ to a non-obvious concept that might become a great idea, we shield ourselves of responsibility should the idea fail. We give the impression that we have superior knowledge compared to everyone else as to the outcome. In reality, our objective with our ‘no’ is to reduce risk by maintaining order and the status quo. However, the unintended consequence of our ‘no’ is the impeding of what might have been a great idea.
Why is it that 95% of the people in a typical organization believes it is their responsibility to say no? They are playing the role of the anti-risk innovation antibody. There is no risk by saying no. Projects that are rejected with a ‘no’ can't fail since they never got a chance. If later the idea turned out to be a breakthrough innovation executed by some other organization, nobody will remember who said no.
Why are we afraid of being wrong about a new idea?
Most ‘no’ people seem to live under a suffocating dread that they might be wrong or make a mistake. Perhaps their parents punished them for every little mistake. ‘Yes,’ people use their best judgment but realize that failure and mistakes are part of living and growing and are always a possibility when something new is tried.
I recall one high profile project that was not successful. Someone on the original evaluation team came up to me and said, “I knew that wasn’t going to work.”
My reply was “No you didn’t know it wasn’t going to work. You just hoped it wouldn’t”
As innovators, we should be the ones that most often say “yes - let's try it and see if the idea works”.
When we say ‘yes’ to someone else’s idea, we are committing to them that we are willing to invest all of ourselves to their idea. That is a powerful message to send to someone who is taking the risk and putting their idea out in the open for support or for rejection.
Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt shared how important it is to say yes more often which included the following mantra:
“Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country. Say yes to meeting new friends. Say yes to learning a new language, picking up a new sport. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job. Yes is how you find your spouse and even your kids. Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means you will do something new, meet someone new and make a difference in your life, and likely in others’ lives as well… Yes is a tiny word that can do big things. Say it often.”
During an innovation project, you will say yes or no 100's of times. However, without that first yes, we have nothing. That idea is dead on the spot.
So take a risk, be willing to be wrong, and say ‘yes’ to a
Avoiding the Habit Trap
When I was growing up, one time my grandmother baked a fantastic German Chocolate cake. I can see it now -- that moist chocolate cake and rich icing. It was great and everyone in the family let her know how great it was. We devoured the cake. But from that time on, we could count on a German Chocolate cake as THE dessert every time we would visit. It became a little boring. Needless to say, I never told her that.
Everyone wants and needs change. But on the other hand, we enjoy doing what we do well that has reinforced by others expressing their appreciation. We all have experienced applauding a small child's, or in my case grandchildren’s, performance -- perhaps a somersault or a dance -- only to have the child repeat it over and over again until we could jump up and run out of the room screaming. We as adults are no different. We tend to limit ourselves to the things we learn to do well. It’s easier for one thing, and it beats the risk of trying something new.
When it comes to innovation, this plays out in spades. When a new innovation team achieves some level of success -- such as the creation of a new product or service -- they jump to the assumption that it was the process that enabled them to achieve success. Or maybe it was the way that one brainstorm session was run and therefore all future brainstorming should be done the exact same way. Or maybe it was the evaluation and idea selection process that was key for its success so all future idea evaluations should be done in the exact same way.
Just as the enthusiastic applause for a child puts the child on auto-repeat, success to an innovation team does the same. We create a habit of repeating the exact same steps in what we believe is the perfect innovation process.
When that happens, its the first indication that an innovation team is on the glide path to mediocrity.
It was NOT the process that enabled success. It was the idea. And building rigid repetitive processes are NOT conducive to creating a stimulating environment for generating new and exciting ideas.
It’s easy to fall into uninteresting grooves of habit. And the only way to avoid it, to keep change and creativity in our lives, is to do it deliberately. To achieve sustained innovation success, it is a good idea to break up the patterns from time to time. It will stimulate you and the team resulting in a new, fresh outlook on things.
Remember -- no habit has any real hold on you other than the hold you have on it.
Habits and routines have a way of sneaking up on us. It starts off with us finding a way of doing things that become easily repeatable -- comfortable. Soon it becomes the way “we innovate”. Samuel Johnson, in 1784, put habit in its right context, “The chains of habit are too weak to be noticed until they are too strong to be broken.”
Be on guard to avoid the habit trap.
Innovation is about being disruptive. So disrupt how you do everything -- including how you innovate. If you can apply innovation to products, services, sales, marketing, HR, finance -- why not innovate the way you innovate?
Turn the habit mirror on yourself. We are quick to criticize the expense report process as being too rigid and in need of innovation. Could others say the same about your innovation frameworks and processes?
Does this mean you change your innovation frameworks and processes after each project? No. What it does mean is to be deliberate in trying new things. Do not allow the feeling of the safe to hold you back from taking risks.
There are things you would like to leave as is. But German Chocolate cake -- or anything else -- gets old and boring fast.
We need a change in our lives. It’s a basic human need. If we don’t get it, the concrete starts to harden. We need to be willing to change ourselves first and through it, influence others that change is what is needed if we are to keep moving forward.
Most people who drive cars to work leave at the same time and fo
The Entrepreneurs Sidekick
Absolutely love this podcast! Short, simple, and insanely informative.