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Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

In an article written by Tony Schwartz and published by Harvard Business Review, Schwartz addressed six “secrets” leaders need to know in order to create a culture of innovation. Schwartz points out that no company follows all six innovation secrets – and most aren’t able to even manage three of the six.

Wow!

You can read the article by clicking here.

The United States has been losing its innovation advantage for a couple of decades. Just look at the industries the U.S. once created and turned into multi-billion dollar businesses: automobiles, steel, medical devices, plastics…the list is long – but the staying power and leadership position the United States once held in these industries is gone. Why?

I believe much of the answer lies in Schwartz’s third and fourth secrets: Nurture Passion and Make the Work Matter.

In these two components to create a culture of innovation lies the secret sauce to most any successful organization: its people. But more than that, in nurturing passion and making the work matter, we see how critically important it is to not just employ bright, intelligent, hungry-for-success men and women, but to engage with them on a daily basis. When companies stop engaging with its people, de-valuing work, demanding more and more without adequate appreciation, recognition and, yes, compensation – its best and brightest people will exit the organization and find something better to do.

People want to feel engagement with the organization they work for and with sound engagement, your best people will do nearly anything to “get the job done” and exceed expectations at every turn.

So Mr. and Ms. Leader, it’s not enough to be engaged yourself. You must identify and prioritize how to engage with employees and create and maintain that passion for the work at hand. You must serve as the voice that explains to your people why the work matters — beyond the creation of shareholder value. Nurture passion. Create a connection to how and why the work matters. Every day.

If you manage to accomplish just two of the six secrets to creating a culture of innovation you’ll be a third of the way there. And, I predict, your team will help get the organization the rest of the way.

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When I was a kid in the 70s, we played kick the can.

Almost every night during summer, when the sun went down, kids in the neighborhood gathered in a back yard with the Folgers or Maxwell House coffee can — or a Well’s Blue Bunny ice cream bucket (gallon-sized) — for an hour or two of hiding and kicking and getting grass stains on our knees. Lots of debate on who was or wasn’t adhering to the rules would ensue. And honestly, I can’t even remember the rules. It didn’t matter then or now.

My kids never experienced the thrill of rushing into a wide open space and sliding into or kicking a can so they wouldn’t have to be “it.” Technology usurped those summer evening back yard games.

I marvel in both admiration and horror as my son now sits and spends his evening with a head set and portable computer chatting in real-time with friends as he plays computer war games.

While the Folgers Coffee can has been replaced with other technology, I’m not so sure it’s ALL for the better.

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On July 20, 1969, this four-year-old kid from small-town Iowa knew something was up when his Dad came home from work early one morning to watch television.  In fact, with a quick glance down the neighborhood street, I would have noticed lots of cars parked in the driveway – with everyone inside staring at their black and whites.

“Because of what you have done, the Heavens have become a part of man.”

The flight of Apollo 11 served as a rebirth in the United States in many ways. And my four-year-old eyes watched not really knowing what I was seeing, but impressed that my Dad – who ran his own business and worked long arduous hours to keep it going – took time from his morning to watch TV. And we continued to watch for the next three days – whenever the networks fed us NASA’s grainy footage of the astronauts doing their business out in space. The first-ever landing on the Moon. Listening as Neil Armstrong voiced to the world his impressions as he stepped of the lunar module ladder onto the Moon’s surface. The Moon walks. The lift-off from the Moon and the splash landing.

It’s all very surreal, but there are images in my memory banks from 40 years ago and it’s something my kids read about without consideration to the sheer magnitude of what was happening. Six hundred million people on earth watched and read about those three days in the summer of ’69 and we’re still talking about it four decades later.

Without question, it was something else.

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It’s mid-September in Minnesota and summer begins its gentle slide into autumn – right on cue.(Photo (c) 2007 Gerald Brimacombe)

 Five tell-tale signs that fall is upon us…

1)      Leaves find their way to the ground…mysteriously and usually only at night.

2)      Windows left open at night mean that toweling off after an early morning shower will result in goose bumps.

3)      From my deck I can hear the cheers and see the Friday night lights of the high school football stadium (which also glimmer on Wednesdays and Thursdays due to JV games)

4)      Thoughts of making two-bean chili become incessant.

5)      Nearby apple orchard signs sport a coat of fresh paint.

Innovation

A recent work assignment involved researching the topic of “innovation” for an executive speech that my VP is beginning to write.  The audience is a group of about 1,000 scientists, researchers and engineers responsible for coming up with new technologies that will ultimately grow the company and help people live life more fully.

During the research phase, it became clear to me that their task, while daunting, is incredibly exciting. Things like nanotechnology and drug-device combinations are on the cusp of emergence. Soon, we may all swallow a tiny drug-coated device that not only treats a condition but then monitors whether we get better or not from the inside and transmits that data to our physician.

Creativity. Collaboration. Innovation. As the average age expectancy of people in the U.S. continues to rise (we’re now, on average, living to the age of 78) these intelligent scientists are cracking the code to ensure we not only live to a ripe old age, but that we live well and capable lives so our latter years are enjoyed not in diapers wheeling around in a nursing home, but in our own homes with our own families, cooking our meals and contributing to society.

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