Innovation Mindset, Not Innovation Tools

December 31, 2007

innovation mindset not innovation toolsTools are great. But giving people tools, without first changing their mindset is useless.

People buy more weight loss books/diets (tools) than all other books, yet people are fatter than ever. Why? Most diets do not address the psychological reasons (mindset) for eating.

The same holds true for innovation.

Do not train your employees on creativity techniques or bring in innovation software until you have addressed your underlying cultural issues (the mindset). Although there are no silver bullets for addressing the innovation mindset, here are four things you may want to try within your organization.

The first step in creating a culture of innovation is to demonstrate that you are serious about putting resources and money into exploring new ideas. During your budgeting, allocate discretionary monies for unplanned innovations. Create an internal “venture capital” fund – and use it. A large bank in England asked their employees for new ideas using an idea management system (a tool). Unfortunately the executives never implemented any of the ideas causing a massive rebellion by employees and the eventual dismantling of their innovation efforts. Leadership must show a commitment to innovation. It must not be viewed as another project. It must be treated as a way of life; a never ending mindset.

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Goal-Free Living on the Radio

December 27, 2007

Goal-Free Living on the radioJanuary 1st is the traditional day of setting your goals for the year. Why not start 2008 right by listening to me talk about Goal-Free Living on Jim Blasingame’s The Small Business Advocate radio show.

Tune in at 8:08AM New Year’s Day. But if you decide to sleep in, you can still listen to the interview on replay.

Happy New Year.

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Setting New Year’s Resolutions That Can’t Fail

December 26, 2007

Once again it is that time of year when we look forward into the new year. We set our resolutions. Lose 10 pounds. Stop smoking. Get out of debt.

Unfortunately, most resolutions are about fixing what is wrong with you rather than bringing pleasure into your life.

In addition, most resolutions are target- and time-based goals (e.g., lose 10 pounds by the end of the year). These just set you up for failure. It’s no surprise that according to a survey of mine, only 8% of people are successful in fulfilling their resolutions.

And those who do achieve their resolutions are often no happier. When you focus on a target-based resolutions, you are focused on the future rather than the present. As a result, you miss the “hidden” opportunities around you, and miss out on the joy of every day life.

What’s a more creative alternative?

Rather than setting specific, measurable goals, set a New Year’s Theme. A theme is one word (or set of words) that serves as your “game” for the year.

In the past, my themes have included “flexibility.” That year, I got rid of almost everything I owned to the point where I was able to move apartments in the back of a taxi with only two trips.

Some past themes of mine include “platform,” “impact,” and “creating a movement.” Readers of this blog have sent me their themes which have ranged from “laughter” and “joy” to “new beginnings” and “(embracing) imperfection.”

I am still formulating my themes for this year and will announce them next week.

Setting a New Year’s Theme is fun. It’s easy. And it enhances your every day creativity.

If you want to learn more about setting resolutions that work, try some of the following resources:

Happy Holidays!

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Danish Innovation and Performance Improvement Interviews

December 21, 2007

Innovation and Creativity Interview in DenmarkBack in October I gave two speeches in Copenhagen. One speech was for Junior Chamber International and the other was for a conference organized by Alexander Kjerulf. While there I was also interviewed by Thomas Davidson from We discussed innovation and “Goal-Free Living.”

Here are the videos from the interview. Each are between 3 and 8 minutes in duration.


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7 Success Traits I Learned from the New England Patriots

December 17, 2007

Yesterday I watched my American football team, The New England Patriots, reach 14 wins with no losses in the season. They are only the second team in history to do so. Whether or not you like the Patriots, you have to admit that they are a special team.

I have been listening to interviews with coach Belichick and his players throughout the season. From the various quotes I culled, you can quickly learn (some of ) the ingredients in the recipe of their success.

#1: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Individual Parts

The Patriots believe in a team mentality, sacrificing individual glory for team perfection.

A few years back, the Patriots bucked tradition and rejected individual on-field introductions before its first Super Bowl victory, instead “choosing to be introduced as a team.”

MVP Quarterback, Tom Brady continually deflects questions about his (stellar) performance and instead praises his teammates. He, until recently, conducted his weekly news conferences at his locker, not at a podium in the team’s press room, because he did not want to be set apart from teammates. I think the media circus has become too big for his preferred, casual approach.

Another example is the acquisition of wide receiver Randy Moss. The former Oakland Raiders player had a reputation of being a trouble maker and showboater. But he has since demonstrated the power of being a team player – a requirement of the Patriots. As club owner Robert Kraft once said, “Bill can assemble players, especially veteran players, who can acclimate to our culture. If people don’t adjust to our standards, they won’t be here.”

#2: Excellence is a Journey, Not a Destination

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2007 Innovation Lesson

December 14, 2007

Every year at this time, Chuck Frey at asks experts/readers for the most important lesson learned during 2007 regarding innovation, creativity or brainstorming. Here is my response:

Over the past couple of years, I have observed something I call “The Performance Paradox.” This paradox looks at the relationship between motivation (goals, targets, and management) and performance (physical, intellectual and creative performance). Interestingly, the relationship between motivation and performance is not linear. It is not even exponential. It is parabolic.

Low motivation equals low performance. I’m sure this comes as no shock. As motivation increases, performance increases…to a point. The sweet spot of performance. Then, as you become more goal obsessed and task driven, performance paradoxically decreases.

This paradox holds true in all areas of performance including physical and mental performance. However, the paradox is most pronounced for creative endeavors. Goals increase stress and fixate employees on the future rather than the present. It has been proven that creativity diminishes when individuals are rewarded (externally motivated) for doing their work.

The more you measure and motivate based on innovation, the less likely you will have a truly innovative culture.

Another interesting component to the Paradox is the fact that people will take great risks to minimize (or reduce) their pain/losses, yet will play it safe when the option is to increase their pleasure/gains.

When your organization’s change/innovation plans are utopian visions of a grandiose future, your employees move to the wrong end of the performance curve: high motivation, low performance. They become cynical about success and feel as though you are not addressing their present moment pains and frustrations. Instead, fix immediate problems first. Then begin to address, more strategic visions.

For too long, well intended organizations have used the wrong motivation tools for creating cultures of innovation.

An article by me on The Performance Paradox is schedule to be published by the American Management Association in early 2008

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