See Me in Action

September 22, 2010

Over the coming months, I am on the road 100% giving speeches.  Most of them are for companies and are private event.  But I will be speaking at 3 public events over the next two weeks.  If you are in Chicago, Dayton, or Paris, maybe I will see you.

Open World Forum (Paris) – Sep 30

Business Innovation Conference (Wheaton, IL) – Oct 6

TRIZCON Nation Innovation Conference (Dayton, OH) – Oct 8

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Are You a Fire Fighting Arsonist?

September 21, 2010

Innovation and Fire FightingImagine you are heading to a REALLY important meeting that is being held out of town. You have your bags packed. You have your airplane tickets, hotel and car rental reservations, and GPS.

You hop on the plane and fly to your destination. After deplaning, you pull out your hotel reservation and type the address into the GPS.

And then, you realize…you have a problem. A BIG problem.

Although your destination airport was Buffalo, NY, the event is being held just over the border in Ontario Canada…and you don’t have your passport.

I am completely embarrassed to admit it, but this happened to me just last week.

My speech was in Niagara Falls. For some reason I believed that the event was on the United States Side. This was a BAD assumption.

A friend once described herself as a fire fighting arsonist. She was constantly putting out fires that she started. I was beginning to understand what she meant.

If you were in my situation, what would have gone through your mind?

During my 45 minute drive from Buffalo to the border crossing, I went through three distinct phases of thought.

Phase 1: “Oh $#*!” – Not a very useful phase, but I had to acknowledge the reality of the situation

Phase 2: What can I do to get into Canada? – I first considered swimming across Niagara Falls. If I were Michael Phelps, then that might be an option. But I am not. I then pondered begging and bribery as options. But I needed to consider more practical solutions. It is amazing what the mind can remember when it is pressed. I recalled the fact that I had once taken a picture of my passport and that the image was on my computer. I thought through all of my documents: contracts, hotel reservations, car rental agreements, and return airplane tickets.

Phase 3: What would I do if I couldn’t get into Canada? – Getting into the country was not guaranteed.  Therefore I needed to think through what I would do to best serve the customer in light of this situation.  I considered how I might deliver the speech via video Skype. Given that it was a Personality Poker session, I thought through ways of getting decks across the border.  I even thought through a list of innovation speakers I know in Canada, which admittedly, is not a very long list.

After I went through all of this in my mind, I finally arrived at the border crossing.

I tell this (very embarrassing) story to make a point.

Your ability to solve problems is your key to success. The bigger the “game” you are playing, the bigger your problems will be. You cannot be stuck in “phase 1” and be paralyzed by the situation.  Finding productive solutions is critical.

The same is true for organizations.

Some problems are obvious, like self-inflicted ones, pervasive quality issues, or those evident from an eroding market share.

But sometimes the most important challenges are in our blind-spots. These represent the biggest opportunities:

  • Strategic opportunities for developing new products, services, or business models
  • Marketing opportunities that would grow market share
  • Process improvement opportunities that would create time for innovation
  • “Cultural” issues that prevent innovation (e.g., not-invented-here syndrome, poor collaboration, etc)

Innovation is nothing more than identifying, prioritizing, solving and implementing your most important challenges in the most efficient way.

Mastering this one single skill will catapult your organization to higher levels. There are many articles on this blog discussing problem solving and challenge-driven innovation. And more articles will be written in the future.

You may be wondering how my personal story ends.

Fortunately I was able to get into Canada. It did not take too long and they were very friendly. They asked for most of the documents I had already catalogued in my mind.

Interestingly, I was told that if I were a Canadian trying to get into the US, it would be a lot more difficult and I would probably not have been allowed in.

The morning after my speech, I wanted to make sure I did not get stuck at the US border crossing, so I left my hotel 5 hours before my flight. Given it is a 45 minute trip, I figured that should give me enough time to deal with any kind of interrogation.

I get to the border crossing. The guard looks at my driver’s license. Asks me the city I was born in and lets me through. I got to the airport with almost 4.5 hours to spare.

My days of being a fire fighting arsonist are over. It is too much work and too much stress. I would rather focus on more productive challenges!

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The New Personality Poker Cards are Available!

September 14, 2010

The Personality Poker book is available in 6 weeks and 2 days.

But starting today, you can buy the new and improved Personality Poker cards from the “Change This” site.  These are the guys who bring you the Change This manifestos.

For the past few years, we have been selling the cards for $200 for 6 decks with instructions.  But after printing 50,000 decks of cards, our production costs have dropped significantly.  Therefore we are pleased to offer the cards for:

Aside from the reduced price (over 50% less), the cards have 2 major improvements.

  1. The cards have new words: We partnered with a psychology professor from Columbia College who did some scientific analysis.
  2. The cards have a new design: When you hold them in your hand you can read the words along the side.  This makes playing the game even easier.

If you want to energize a meeting, supercharge your innovation team, or just have some fun, you’ll want to get your decks of Personality Poker now.

P.S. The 800 CEO READ guys, the owners of Change This, wrote a blog entry on Personality Poker

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Is Your Organization Playing with a Full Deck?

September 3, 2010

Look at any group of people who effortlessly work well together. Odds are the individuals share a lot in common with each other. They might have similar backgrounds, expertise, interests, or personalities. This is natural. Contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract. We find it easier to work with people who are like us. As a result, teams that lack diversity are the norm.

In fact, there is plenty of scientific research suggesting that homogeneous teams do indeed perform better than more heterogeneous ones for “low difficulty” tasks – those with lower levels of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity.

However, research also shows that in situations involving “high difficulty” tasks, heterogeneous groups consistently perform the best. Innovation is, by its very nature, fraught with uncertainty and complexity. It is obviously a high-difficulty task. Although homogeneous teams are more efficient, it is the uniformity of thinking on these types of teams that limits breakthrough ideas and reduces innovation. Ensuring a range of innovation styles should be the goal in constructing such groups in order to maximize team performance.

Unfortunately, diverse teams, left to their own devices, are rarely efficient. Differences of opinion, creative tension, and infighting will naturally emerge. Individuals who think differently do not naturally communicate well with each other. Therefore, it is important that innovation teams be given the tools to “play well together.”

Putting this together, we end up with three simple principles. And these are the three key principles of Personality Poker:

  1. People in your organization must “play to their strong suit.” That is, make sure that everyone understands how they contribute to and detract from the innovation process. This includes ensuring that you have the right people with the right leadership styles in your organization.
  2. As an organization, you need to “play with a full deck.” Embrace a wide range of innovation styles. Instead of hiring on competency and chemistry, also hire for a diversity of innovation styles. Every step of the innovation process must be addressed with people with the right innovation styles.
  3. Deal out the work.” That is, you must divide and conquer. You can’t have everyone in your organization do everything. Instead, get them to divvy up the work based on which style is most effective at a given task. You can’t have everyone generating ideas, or focusing on planning.

Innovation is the life-blood of your organization. It is crucial for long-term growth. Without it, your business will almost certainly become irrelevant and commoditized. Unfortunately, although it is important, it is not always easy. However, applying these three simple principles can help you create high-performing innovation teams that consistently “beat the house.”

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