170 episodes

An award-winning podcast and nationally syndicated talk radio show that looks at the innovations that are changing our lives and how their innovators used creativity and design to take their raw idea and create they're game-changing product or service.

Phil McKinney and his guests share real-world practical advice on how to harness the power of creativity and design to create ideas that turn into innovations that radically improve your personal, career and business success.

The show is hosted by Phil McKinney, retired CTO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) and author of Beyond The Obvious.

The complete backlog of content (going back to 2005) is available at http://KillerInnovations.com. Follow Phil on Facebook at http://bit.ly/phil-facebook and Twitter at http://twitter.com/philmckinney

Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney - A Show About Ideas Creativity And Innovation Phil McKinney

    • Management
    • 4.6, 63 Ratings

An award-winning podcast and nationally syndicated talk radio show that looks at the innovations that are changing our lives and how their innovators used creativity and design to take their raw idea and create they're game-changing product or service.

Phil McKinney and his guests share real-world practical advice on how to harness the power of creativity and design to create ideas that turn into innovations that radically improve your personal, career and business success.

The show is hosted by Phil McKinney, retired CTO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) and author of Beyond The Obvious.

The complete backlog of content (going back to 2005) is available at http://KillerInnovations.com. Follow Phil on Facebook at http://bit.ly/phil-facebook and Twitter at http://twitter.com/philmckinney

    Game-Changing Esport Innovations During COVID-19

    Game-Changing Esport Innovations During COVID-19

    While I was CTO at HP, I had the gaming division reporting to me. Also, I used to be a hardcore gamer, so gaming is something that has always held my interest. This week’s guest does an exciting twist on the typical gaming strategies/approaches. Austin Smith is the Co-founder and CEO of Mission Control. We will discuss esport innovations, and what his company is doing to change the esports world.


    Austin found his passion for gaming while growing up and gaming with his brother and his friends. He does not consider himself a hardcore gamer but engages in gaming for social interaction and fun. Austin used to view gaming as something you either do on your own or occasionally with friends, but that changed. He sees esports as very similar to recreational sports. The social and community aspect of sports is what inspired Mission Control. You don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy game-changing esports with your friends.

    I, too, realized how big the gaming market was when I attended a huge gaming event in Korea. This was in 2006, and there was around 45,000 people in attendance. The experience changed my view of gaming from a strictly social activity to a competitive sport.

    Mission Control

    Austin came from a line of business owners, so creating a business was natural to him. While in college, he befriended his co-founder, Byron. They worked on a lot of things together in college. They ended up getting hired and worked together professionally after college, growing their friendship and teamwork. Austin says they have overlapping values and visions, but also have very different personalities and skills that help them excel in their business. Austin said that he and his partner noticed how esports was growing and wanted to dive in and build something. They couldn’t walk away from it, and in late 2018 they left their jobs to pursue Mission Control.

    Byron is very focused and is the one who executes, while Austin is more creative and acts as the visionary. Their team reminded me of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Jobs was the visionary, and Steve Wozniak put the vision into play. It is vital to find that compatible partnership early on in a business pursuit to be successful.

    Esport Innovations

    COVID-19 has given Mission Control an advantage as they provide social interaction but on a digital level. Gaming offers interaction and community through our rec-games, and they gained a lot of attention as soon as things started shutting down. Mission Control focuses on the micro-community. We gather those micro-communities from all over the place and create a social community of those people. We don’t focus on gathering the best players around the world but focus on having fun as a group.

    Mission Control has been around for about a year now and launched a beta in 2019. Austin says they launched their product to a larger group and started scaling it in early 2020. In the past months, they have had 3 times the amount of plays than in their whole history. Duke University, MIT, and GameStop are some notable groups that use their product to create community experiences. Austin says that Mission Control’s biggest hurdle is giving everyone what they want. They are so many game-changing things you can add to a platform, so that is where it gets tough. Players do have a mobile app that they can download and schedule games. They can also communicate with other teams, similar to a fantasy league, but they are many other things that can be future add-ons.

    When looking back,

    • 38 min
    COVID-19 Innovations: From Scuba to Medical Face Mask With 3D Printing

    COVID-19 Innovations: From Scuba to Medical Face Mask With 3D Printing

    This week’s guest on The Killer Innovations Show has innovation experience in a variety of different industries. Jonah Myerberg is the CTO at Desktop Metal, a company that specializes in metal and carbon fiber 3D printing technology. We will discuss 3D printing and the COVID-19 innovations that Desktop Metal is doing during this pandemic.

    Jonah’s experience

    Jonah started at Black & Decker, making power tools. He went on to work at Bose Corporations, which exposed him to a high level of innovation. The creation of A123 Systems reintroduced him to engineering, which his team eventually sold to a Chinese conglomerate. While at HP, I had the benefit of getting a personal demonstration from Dr. Bose himself. He spent 20 plus years of research on a suspension system, leading a great example of innovation. I don’t know any other organization that was committed to innovation on that scale for that amount of time. In the innovation game, some people tend to focus on the present rather than what can come in the future. Dr. Bose set a great example of how important long-term innovation is.

    3D printing is an excellent example of this, as it came from “traditional” printing to the 3D printing technology we have available today. Jonah states that the huge killer innovation does not necessarily have to be your invention, but your invention can enable the next killer innovation.

    Desktop Metal

    Jonah was designing high-performance batteries for racing teams. While working with these racing teams, he saw how they efficiently and effectively used 3D printing to optimize their performance. He thought this technology was something that everyone should use, not just elite racers. Making 3D printing accessible to everybody who wanted to use it lead to the creation of Desktop Metal. There are so many industries that are attracted to 3D printing in one way or another. Apart from the automotive industry, consumer electronics invests heavily in single designs for small parts. The jewelry industry has to manufacture small metal parts and would love to print precious metals like silver, copper, and gold.

    Judging the performance of produced parts is a traditional focal point for 3D printing. Fidelity is an essential factor in 3D printing, but performance is generally the central focus. The material needs to be strong and have the right chemistry for the intended purpose. At Desktop Metal, they realized that the big challenge is when new materials and processes get presented within 3D printing. They started with materials that were well known and commonly used. Even if the process of forming is different, many engineers feel comfortable using 3D parts built out of stainless steel because the material used is familiar.

    Aiding the fight

    With the current pandemic, many companies have come together to develop COVID-19 innovations to aid the situation. Desktop Metal opened its doors of technology and asked what they could do to help with the situation. They reached out to hospitals and essential workers and got a lot of feedback on needed supplies they could help out with. They had requests from the VA hospitals to make scuba masks into COVID-19 face masks, as well as ventilators for other hospitals. Swabs were one highly requested item that Desktop Metal and some other companies teamed up to develop.

    When it comes to the face masks, Desktop Metal was asked by doctors to design and provide a converter that would take an N95 filter and connect it to a scuba mask. As far as the ventilators go, hospitals acquired a ton of them after they had run out. The only issue was that there was no way to connect them.

    • 38 min
    Innovation Buzzwords

    Innovation Buzzwords

    This week, we will do something that's a bit different from our recent shows. We will be discussing innovation buzzwords, things that are often misused inside and outside of the innovation world.

    Innovation Buzzwords

    A buzzword is a term that can be technical or specific to an industry or a job function. It is often used to impress ordinary people, and also often pushing them away. One typical example is synergy, which simply means working together. Another example would be clickbait, which is used as a negative slam for those who create content. Growth hacking is also a buzzword that has gone way overboard. It consists of trying to figure out how to grow an organization. Buzzwords are meant to simplify things for some people, but others often don’t know what they mean. It would be so much easier if we just simplified our language in a way that everyone could understand it.

    In the Innovation game, we have our own set of buzzwords that tend to drive people crazy. The number one innovation buzzword in my book is design-thinking. This buzzword has been around for quite some time and is a term hated by actual designers. The original intent was to find a process in which the needs of the user were conceived from the start of the project and all the way through. These days, design-thinking has lost its meaning and fully turned into an innovation buzzword.


    The next innovation buzzword I want to discuss is ideation, a term that I use a lot. We at The Innovators Network teach workshops on the process of ideation. What does it mean? Ideation is a process where innovators generate ideas. People outside of the innovation industry can be highly annoyed by it. In reality, it is a made-up word. What is the difference between ideation and brainstorming? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the difference. The output of both ideation and brainstorming is ideas. In some cases, you can argue that the usage of ideation arose as a way to find new clients.

    The next buzzword is one that I also use a lot. The term disruptor describes someone who “rocks the boat,” coming into an existing industry with a unique and different angle. Disruptors may not necessarily be bad people, but they come in and disrupt already established settings. An example of this would be Uber changing the ride-hailing industry. Uber disrupted the industry earning itself the reputation of a disruptor. A

    long the lines of disruptor, we have the buzzword innovator — which is someone who introduces a new product, service, or a revolutionary new strategy. The challenge is that everyone and their mother says they are an innovator. People often describe themselves as innovators to be seen as extraordinary. As a result, it’s meaning has become less and less differentiated, making it hard to tell who’s an innovator. Some argue that innovator is not a buzzword, but I say it is based on how much it is thrown around and applied so loosely.

    System-Thinking/Pain Points

    The next innovation buzzword we will discuss is system-thinking. You may have heard of this from one of the big six consulting houses attempting to differentiate themselves. I used to be part of this group, so I understand what these companies are trying to do. They use the term system-thinking in which they look at complicated things as systems rather than a defined and well-understood process. This concept is so vague that most people don’t know what it means. They are trying to make something sound way more complicated than it is.

    Next, we have the buzzword pain points, which refer to answering the things that drive customers crazy. Another buzzword used is social innovation,

    • 38 min
    Virtual Brainstorming: Innovating Ideas for New Zoom Features

    Virtual Brainstorming: Innovating Ideas for New Zoom Features

    Due to the great feedback we received from our previous Virtual Brainstorming show, we will be doing another one this week. Our goal at the end of the show is to come up with a list of suggested features for our sponsor, Zoom. They have experienced a lot of growth during the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen new usage in a lot of unique ways.

    Virtual Brainstorming

    Part of today’s objective is to show how you guys can conduct a virtual brainstorm by yourselves using Jamboard. The process will help you generate tons of new ideas on whatever issues, opportunities, or needs you and your organization may face.

    Question 1

    We will be dealing with three questions from the Killer Questions Card Deck derived from my book “Beyond the Obvious.” On the front of a Killer Questions Card, there is a set of questions. On the back, there is what I like to call “sparking questions,” which are there to push you to the next idea or unique insight. The card deck consists of who, what, and how cards that come in gold, blue, and green.

    Today we will be focusing on who and what. Question number one asks, “Who is using my product in a way I never expected?”

    The sparking questions are: “What problems and needs are you looking to address? Are you too focused on what you believe your customer’s problems and needs are that you are missing out on a potential opportunity?”.

    The second sparking question is, “How can you identify existing customers and observe how they use your product?”.

    Thirdly, “Is there a way to allow your potential customers to play with and use your product without giving them specific parameters on how and when they should use it?”.

    Let’s hop onto Jamboard to get this session going:

    * Education – If there’s one thing regarding the use of Zoom that surprised me, it’s this one: 1:1 with teachers, virtual classrooms, students doing team projects, and students just hanging out together.

    * Speech-Language Pathologists – School-based therapists had to offer tele-practice services due to COVID-19 suddenly. 1:1 calls between therapists and clients provide the ability to see and hear each other. We have seen 3rd party apps that the therapist and client can do over Zoom to work on specific skills while having fun.

    * Musicians – Using Zoom to hold virtual concerts given that each musician is in their homes. For King & Country, they used virtual tools to write a new song called “Together.” Musicians are giving music lessons over Zoom.

    * Gymnastics/Dance Studios – Zoom has allowed these lessons to continue. Grandparents like me can watch our grandkids no matter how far away they are.

    Question 2

    Question number two asks, “What features of my product create unanticipated passion”? 

    The sparking questions are, “What are the features that have elicited the strongest emotional response from my customers?”, “How do you ensure these are carried forward both in your current and future products?” and “How do you avoid killing the passion?”.

    Let’s jump into brainstorming:

    * Free Zoom to Schools/Teachers – It elicited so much passion because it was the right thing to do. They made it easy for schools to avoid budget issues.

    * Virtual Backgrounds – It allows you to hide the messiness of any background. We hold background competitions at my office every Friday. Zoom has virtual background competitions. There is now a new category of graphic designers and photographers that create libraries of Zoom virtual backgrounds.

    * Original Audio – This takes away all the filtering of audio. This feature has allowed for music-making/the listening of liv...

    • 38 min
    Virtual Brainstorming: Changes To Your Customer Segments From COVID-19

    Virtual Brainstorming: Changes To Your Customer Segments From COVID-19

    On this week's show, I will be demonstrating a private ideation session that you can do on your own. A virtual brainstorm session helps in generating key ideas and solutions to the various problems you may be facing. There are numerous tools you can use for this, but today I will be using Jamboard from Google.

    Virtual Brainstorm

    With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, there are a lot of unknowns. You currently have two choices. You can freak out and go into hibernation, or you can sit down and brainstorm ideas that will allow you to not only survive but thrive during the crisis. On this virtual brainstorm, we will look at two questions from the Killer Questions Card Deck as they relate to COVID-19. These questions have been edited to focus the ideation specifically around COVID-19 because better focus increases the quantity and quality of the ideas. Our first question asks what customer segments will no longer exist or will be significantly impacted as a result of COVID-19. Our second question asks what customer segments could emerge as a result of COVID-19.

    COVID-19 Changes

    Let's get into ideas for our first question. What segments will no longer exist or will be significantly impacted as a result of COVID-19? One idea I thought about would be sports and concert fans. These people love going to social activities and are going to be significantly impacted by COVID-19. The other segment that I thought of was travel influencers— people who travel to review different places will be affected as a whole. Similarly, businesses that are dependent on tourism, such as hotels, tour guides, and national parks are going to be challenged going forward with this crisis.

    New Emergence

    Let's move on to our second question. What segments could emerge as a result of COVID-19? The first one I came up with is the social distancing butler. This role is assigned to a family member or friend who helps with errands such as grocery shopping and picking up various needed items. This person helps reduce the risk for someone who might be more affected by the virus. Another idea is what I call the COVID gig. These are people who have become contractors to essential businesses such as restockers or delivery drivers. These might be those who have been furloughed from their jobs and are filling the gap somewhere else.

    My next idea is what I call the virtual babysitter. Being a grandparent, I often babysit my grandkids for our kids that live in the area. With COVID-19, things are a little different as they cannot drop the kids off and go on a date anymore. Two to three times a week, my wife and I will virtually read bedtime stories to our grandkids via Facebook. Virtual babysitting gives the parents a bit of a break from the kids and provides us with some quality time with our loved ones. The final idea I thought of is what I call a virtual background creator. As a result of COVID-19, our sponsor Zoom has seen an astounding amount of new users. With this growth in video calls, virtual backgrounds are going to become very important going forward, and I think the demand for the software will see an increase.

    Let me know what you think of the virtual brainstorming and feel free to propose a topic and killer question for a future “virtual brainstorm.” Check out the brainstorming session I did on Jamboard here. Watch the brainstorming session on YouTube here.

    • 38 min
    Laser-Powered Innovation

    Laser-Powered Innovation

    Joining us via Zoom this week is William Benner, the President and CTO of Pangolin Laser Systems. We will discuss laser technology and what he's doing to change laser-powered innovation.

    Pangolin Laser Systems

    William got into electronics because of his father, who worked as an engineer at NASA. I attended college to study electronics but was also in a rock band. During my time in a rock band, the focus was not always on the music. We enjoyed being flashy and creative and got people excited about it, which is where I found my interests in lasers. Eventually, the band faded away, but my love for lasers continued, and I wondered how I could do business out of it. Fast forward to today, and we are the only laser-powered innovation company in the United States and manufacture products for people who conduct laser shows such as clubs, concerts, etc.

    How big is your company? We started in 1986 and have a total of 35 people scattered around the world. We manufacture 100% of our software in the U.S and sell a lot of hardware and software overseas with the help of our sister companies in Slovenia and China.  

    Laser Customers 

    Who are your main customers? William says the customers consist of theme parks such as Disney World and Universal Studios, the NFL, NBA, NHL, tours, concerts, and corporate events. Most of our customers are not direct but contract out production companies to utilize our products. In my experience, customers are not typically the best source for innovation.

    Do your customers often come to you with ideas, or do you develop them? William said it's the customers that are usually asking us to adapt our technology to their ideas. We look at how close their idea is to what we already do, and how much time and money it will cost the customer and us. We go where we need to go to help bring our technologies to other markets and benefits. 

    Experience with Laser-Powered Innovation

    Laser shows can get crazy and creative. What are some of the craziest things you guys have seen or done? William says one of his peers was approached by the Chief Marketing Officer of Coca Cola, offering a million dollars to put a logo on the moon. One company has come up with an idea of sky lasers serving as beacons being projected into the sky. We don't know what this will look like, but you'll only know if you experiment. One customer came to us wanting to project lasers into space, and we had to figure out how to make it safe and reliable. We developed a product and formed a separate company that sells the product.

    Advice for the Listeners

    Given all your experience, what advice would you give to the listeners? William said it is a lesson he learned quite recently. In the past, I would ask myself how I would put together a product for a customer. For our last three projects, what helped was not asking how, but imagining what it would look like if it already existed. Write it down, and that becomes a map to get you to where you are going. It's not business advice, but when it comes to innovation, its how to get there. This turns all the “how” questions to something more tangible and visible.

    What are some challenges you have faced with laser-powered innovation? William says that laser scanners need to be filled with epoxy. I had an idea of how to do it, but I tried it, and it did not work. As soon as it failed, I came up with another idea to solve the problem. Yes, my idea failed, but it led to a solution that wound up being much easier and better. While it hurts sometimes, failures lead to success over time and begin a new...

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
63 Ratings

63 Ratings

Clarisse Gomez ,

Awesome Podcast!!!

Phil, host of the Killer Innovations podcast, highlights all aspects of creativity, innovation and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!

In asia ,

So good...so clearly important

The most important part of innovation

Rocky Top Okie ,

The Problem Statement and Beyond

Informed and considered ideas and methods. Just right audio bite sizes for thought and use.

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