There is No GPS for Innovation

April 26, 2010

OK, after 2 weeks of sleep deprivation due to manuscript deadlines, I am now back in action here.  The final version of the manuscript went to the publisher on Saturday.  I then played Personality Poker in Memphis with nearly 100 representatives from Penguin’s gift sales on Sunday.   These individuals sell books into non-traditional bookstores, gift stores, hospital gift shops, department stores, casino, and similar places.

Last weekend, I played Personality Poker with a couple hundred people at a conference in Canada.

After the event,  over a dozen of us decided to go to dinner together.  Half the people fit into taxis.   After the taxis departed from the hotel, the remaining individuals went in two cars, one of which I drove.  We had the address and a map. I, being Mr. Technology, plugged the address into the GPS.  The other individual had the map, but also relied on directions he received from the front desk.  I didn’t bother getting directions since I had the navigation system.

I was the first car out of the parking lot. After exiting the hotel, I turned left, just as the GPS told me to do.  The other car followed, but not for long.  David, the other driver flashed his lights.  I kept driving.  After a minute I realized David was no longer behind me.  Instead of believing that I might be going in the wrong direction, I just assumed that the GPS was taking me there via a shortcut.

After taking a series of turns – left, right, left, right, left, right – the final turn led us to a dead end.  In fact, this road was nothing more than a large pile of dirt.  So much for taking a shortcut.

Since my technology was not going to get us there, we needed to rely on the map.  Unfortunately, the map provided by the hotel only had the restaurant marked off.  The hotel was not to be found.  The reason we could not find the hotel on the map was because the map did not extend far enough to include it.

There we were, in the middle of nowhere, with a map that told us nothing – and a GPS that told us even less.

This got me thinking. 

How often do we drive our innovation programs the same way I drove to the restaurant that night?

We create our plans for innovation and we start driving.  There might be signals along the way (like the flashing lights of the car behind us) that something is not right.  In the case of innovation, it might be signals from the customers, buyers, or vendors telling us we are going the wrong way.  But all too often, we continue to drive forward, arrogantly believing we are right and that those signs are all wrong.

No matter how great your plans are, you need to keep your eyes open.  Look for signs. Don’t assume others are wrong.  Maybe your blueprint/map is incorrect.

Or, as Scott Cook from Intuit so eloquently said, “For every one of our failures, we had spreadsheets that looked awesome.”

There are no accurate GPS systems in the world of innovation.  Your ability – and willingness – to adapt, evolve, and change your plans is critical to a successful innovation program.

If you don’t watch out for the signs and you blindly follow your plans, your innovation program will probably lead you to a huge pile of, um, dirt.

P.S. We did eventually get to the hotel.  We did what any sane person would do…we asked for directions.

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NESTA Open Innovation Conference Videos

April 14, 2010

Last week I spoke at an event hosted by NESTA – the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts.

The day focused on Open Innovation and had some spectacular speakers including Cheryl Perkins (the former Chief Innovation Officer for Kimberly-Clark), Karim Lakhani (an open innovation guru from Harvard Business School), Stefan Lindegaard (a well-known expert on open innovation), and Helmut Traitler (from Nestle).

You can watch my opening remarks here. (8 minutes)

On the NESTA website, you can watch all of the other videos including my panel discussion, some Q&A, the morning panel, and more.

NOTES: A few quick comments on my opening remarks video: 1) For those in the US…Pop Idol is the UK version of American Idol. 2) I was a little over eager with InnoCentive “Solver” count. We have over 200K, but not quite a quarter of a million…yet. 3) There are many versions of the Edison quote…the one I prefer is, “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Admittedly, I’m not sure what he actually said since I wasn’t there.

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Great Event in Canada

April 14, 2010

This weekend I am speaking at a very cool event!  And I would love to have you join me.

What: The Ultimate Success Event
When: Saturday April 17th, 2010 from 8am to 6:30pm
Where: Chateau Cartier Hotel close to downtown Ottawa Canada

But, to kick things off, the weekend starts Friday night with a private party that is totally free.

Peggy McColl is releasing her 7th book, “Viral Explosions,” and Friday is her book launch party.  I have known Peggy for years, and she is an amazing woman with life changing books.

The party will be a blast.  I will of course be there.  There will be lots of entertainment, free hors d’oeuvres, beverages, and give-aways galore.

Then…after celebrating the launch of “Viral Explosions” on Friday night, Saturday is a full day celebration of your success.

The Ultimate Success Event, Saturday April 17, will be a jam packed, seminar featuring a stellar line up of 13 luminaries in the field of personal and business success coaching, including yours truly.  I’ll be playing Personality Poker with the 250 people in attendance.  Other speakers will talk about marketing, sales, personality development and much much more.

Click here to get ALL the details of both the free Book Launch Party for “Viral Explosions”…AND the Ultimate Success Event.

I hope to see you there!

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L Vaughn Spencer

April 9, 2010

I have been ridiculously busy with the manuscript for the new book.  As a result, my blogging has slowed down.  So, for today’s entry, I want to share with you an interview between a good friend of mine and The Economist.  I’m sure you will agree that L-Vo, as he likes to be called, is brilliant.

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