Remembering Paul Newman

September 29, 2008

Although I did not know Paul Newman personally, I always admired him.  He was an Academy Award winning actor (I remember being enthralled by “The Sting” as a kid), a championship race car driver, a successful food business man (I love Newman’s Own dressings and salsas) and a philanthropist.

He achieved so much and impacted so many lives.

Did he have plans to do all of this?  I’m sure at some level he must have.  But in a recent AP article, two friends - Robert Forrester and David Horvitz – implied that he was (using my words) a bit more “goal-free.”

“Even though he was a Hollywood icon…it was a rare moment in which Newman reflected on how he would be remembered after his death,” Horvitz recalled.  “Most of the time he didn’t think about legacy.  He was pretty much in the moment.”

Being in the moment is a cornerstone living goal-free.  Avoiding excessive planning is another cornerstone.

Forrester joked how “such planning wasn’t part of Newman’s nature. A sign famously hangs in Newman’s Westport, Connecticut, offices that reads, ‘If I had a plan I would be screwed.’”

According to the article, Newman “welcomed the opinions of others as he pursued the business and his philanthropic efforts.” Forrester explained how the actor “believed in the benefit of ‘creative chaos,’ where, as in a movie set, different people offer ideas about how a scene should be handled.”

I love this concept.  Everyone has a voice and is valued for their contribution.

And contribution is the one legacy Newman wanted.

He once said that he wanted to be remembered for “the ‘Hole in the Wall’ camps he helped to start across the world for children with life-threatening illnesses and to make sure that 100 percent of the profits from his popular food company, Newman’s Own, would continue to benefit such camps and thousands of other charities.”

To date he has donated over $250 million to charities and has impacted countless lives.

Whether or not Paul Newman lived goal-free is irrelevant.  What is clear is that he lived by high principles.  If we could all live like Paul Newman, the world would be a better place.

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How Do You Manage Your Innovation Pipeline

September 22, 2008

When I work with large organizations, they have sophisticated tools and processes for managing their innovation pipeline.  Well, at least some do.

But how do YOU manage YOUR innovation pipeline?  OK, for simplicity sake, you can just call it your “to-do” list.

I have so many different projects and ideas that I am working on at any given time that it is often hard to keep track of everything.  I find most traditional time management processes and software a bit limiting.  Some are just too rigid.  Others don’t depict projects and tasks in a way that my mind can process them properly.  And some tools are just not to my liking.

I have been asking around to see what other people use.  The responses have been interesting.  Most people still use paper and pencil, creating linear lists.  Some use web-based list-driven applications.  But I dislike these because I want quick access even when I am off-line.  There are quite a few to-do list management applications out there.  But again, most are list driven, with the fancier ones using hierarchical trees.  And some are so complicated only an engineer with a PhD could figure them out.

I am admittedly a bit disorganized.  Creative-types tend to be that way (for a variety of reasons that I won’t bother going into here).  Every time I play Personality Poker, I am always attracted to the “2 of diamonds” – the “scattered” card.  Fortunately I work with some great people who are “clubs” (the organizers).

And although I am “Goal-Free,” this does not mean I am structure-free.  I still need structure.  It just needs to be flexible enough so it can adapt as I “meander with purpose.”

Here’s how I manage MY innovation pipeline:  I use mind mapping software.  If you click on the graphic above, you’ll see a scaled down, simplified, and sanitized version of the one I use.  You will notice a few things:

  • Because I run a business, I tie nearly everything back to the four core processes of any business – Develop Products and Services, Fulfill Demand Generate Demand, and Plan & Manage the Enterprise.  If you run a business, you have these same processes.
  • Innovation happens everywhere, not just within Develop Products and Services.  I constantly scan all of the process to make sure I am doing a proper balance of work within each, and that I am innovating throughout my business.
  • I do have a catch-all bucket for “miscellaneous opportunities” that don’t yet fit neatly into a process.  Within that bucket I have a “could do” list which is VERY long and is a bunch of ideas I have that are not ready for prime time for a variety of reasons. I even have a list of things I should “stop doing.”
  • Any trees with a (+) indicates there is more detail in one or more sub-trees.  This allows me to organize my thoughts in any way I want, to whatever level of detail I want.  In the branches I also link to Word documents, websites, and other materials.  This enables me to keep all of my resources for a projects in one place.
  • Tasks that I need to work on now all have start and/or end dates.  The software automatically synchronizes these with my task list in Outlook.  This is nice because it keeps my “to-do” small and focused.

The process is far from perfect, but it works for me.  The software allows me to easily move projects and tasks around.  Mind Mapping is perfect for creative thinking and helps me generate and capture new ideas quickly.

What do you use to manage your innovation pipeline or to-do list?  What is the process?  What is the technology?  What has worked?  And what has not worked?  All suggestions are welcome…and appreciated.

P.S.  I just bought “Getting Things Done.”  I am told that this is the bible of time management.  I’m curious to see how this fits with my philosophies.

P.P.S.  I just received an email from someone who had a great suggestion: add a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the inspirational part.

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Personality Poker Sampler

September 18, 2008

Want to try out our Innovation Personality Poker? Now, due to popular demand, you can get our sampler for only $30 postage paid.  You get one deck of 52 cards (good for 5 to 10 people depending on how you play) and a Quick Start Guide.  Only one sampler kit per customer. US orders only.


Of course, you can order the full set with the 100 page instruction manual, 6 decks of cards, and an instructional video for only $200 postage paid at our 24/7 Innovation Store.

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Dot Versus Line Thinking

September 17, 2008

A while back, Seth Godin wrote a piece that I just read this morning. It is entitled, “In the face of change, the competent are helpless.”

He said that, “Competent people have a predictable, reliable process for solving a particular set of problems. They solve a problem the same way, every time. That’s what makes them reliable.”

He continued, “Bob Dylan, on the other hand, is an incompetent musician… unlike a truly competent musician, Dylan never delivers a song the same way twice. No, Dylan isn’t competent. But he is brilliant.”

He then went on to say that because competent people are reliable and solve a problem the same way, every time, they cannot handle change.

Although I personally do not like the use of the words competent versus incompetent, I agree with his underlying message. In some respects, this is his version of my expression, “Expertise is the enemy of creativity.”

The more you know something, the more difficult it is to do it differently.

The point is, the more you focus on doing things right, the more difficult it becomes in the long run to do the right things. The ability to adapt and change is one of the most important competencies of any organization. In the name of “quality,” quite often, adaptability is thrown out the window.

Here is an excerpt from my “24/7 Innovation book,” originally written in 2002. The last three paragraphs describe my perspective on the two primary thinking styles: “dot” and “line” thinking.

Excerpt from 24/7 Innovation Introduction

[Read more]

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Remembering Dr. Michael Hammer

September 12, 2008

I just learned a few minutes ago that Dr. Michael Hammer, the father of business reengineering and author of the best-seller, “Reengineering the Corporation,” passed away last week at the age of 60.

I worked closely with Dr. Hammer in the mid-1990 when I worked at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).  Dr. Hammer and his (then) side-kick, Steve Stanton, helped me and my team develop our Process Excellence Principles.

One of his contributions was a video he developed for us.  While in his office, we turned a camera on, and he rattled off the most amazing 30 minute speech, without any preparation or any retakes.  This video, cut into smaller vignettes, became a highlight of our day long training sessions we delivered to over 20,000 people around the world.

I also had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with him on a couple of occasions.  His speeches were awe inspiring and content-packed.  I have yet to see a presenter who has impressed me more.  I always thought of him a role model.

I remember one time I introduced Dr. Hammer as the “father of re-engineering.”  When he took the stage, he quipped, “I often hear that I am the father.  My wife wants to know, who is the mother?”

In some respects, I should thank Dr. Hammer for the life I have now.  I was one of the leaders of Andersen Consulting’s reengineering practice.  If it weren’t for Hammer, that great opportunity would not have been created.  That work gave me the chance to travel the world giving speeches since 1992.  But it was only after spending time with Hammer a few years later did I really find my love of the stage. 

I remember back in November 1996, someone asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years.  I responded, “I want to be the Michael Hammer of the next business wave.”  5 years later, nearly to the day, my first book hit the book stores and I left Accenture for the life I have now.

Thank you Dr. Hammer.

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Commemorating September 11th

September 11, 2008

My friend, Shari Harley, wrote a beautiful article commemorating September 11th.  For her it is very personal since she worked in the Twin Towers at that time, but was not in the office that day.

She asks some very thought provoking questions:

  • How is the world different because I lived on September 11th when others died?
  • What have I done in the last 12 months to make the world smaller and to build community each time I get on a plane, walk in a store, meet someone new and have a conversation?
  • Where have I played small…said yes when I meant no…said no when I wanted to say yes…or didn’t say anything at all?

I encourage you, as she does, to think about the contribution you are making to the world.  Her article has reaffirmed my theme for the rest of this year: “significance.”

Permalink and comments

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Come See Me Speak in Denver

September 9, 2008

On October 3, I will be speaking at the National Speakers Association Colorado Chapter’s monthly meeting.  But this time I won’t be speaking about innovation.  My presentation is entitled “Costly mistakes I’ve made during my speaking career…and how you can grow your business by avoiding them.”  I will provide a dozen tips for growing your speaking business.

I will be sharing the stage with the incomparable Patricia Fripp, past national president and hall of famer.

To learn more, visit the NSA Colorado website.  I hope to see you there.

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Innovation Cafe

September 2, 2008

In today’s Wall Street Journal, there is a good article about South Bend, Indiana-based Memorial Hospital’s Innovation Cafe.  The article starts off…

Hungry visitors to Memorial Hospital here sometimes cross the street to its Innovation Café, lured by the outdoor patio with white metal tables and chairs. Inside, however, all they find is fake food and a blackboard listing “recipes” such as “Basic Ingredients for Innovation.”

The Innovation Café is an unusual teaching laboratory created by Philip A. Newbold, the veteran chief executive of this midsize community hospital and health system. He converted a failed delicatessen into a venue where staffers and outsiders can learn to craft new ideas.

In the middle of the article, there are some interesting facts and figures…

He persuaded his employer to become the first U.S. community hospital with an innovation research-and-development budget. The board committed up to 1% of annual revenue for innovation activities. That equals about $4 million a year. The hospital ended up spending just $195,000 in 2005, $622,000 in 2006 and $711,000 in 2007 on innovation efforts such as venture start-up costs and staff training. But the increase in related operating profit was as much as three times the annual expenditure.

These innovation incubators are a great idea. 

But, as the article mentions, the one challenge that can result is too many ideas.  That is why I am a proponent of combining this concept with an Innovation Center of Excellence and “challenge-based” innovation.  To learn more about these concepts, read my article in the European Business Forum. In fact, while you are at it, read all of my innovation articles.

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