Saul Kaplan: Is Your CEO Serious About Innovation? 10 Questions to Ask

My friend and Boston Globe innovation columnist, Scott Kirsner, has launched an interesting new on-line platform for corporate innovation executives. You will want to check out and subscribe to Innovation Leader where you will find lots of food for innovation thought and where this post originally appeared.

I used to think that if I just yakked long and loud enough, I could convince CEOs to embrace transformational innovation. It took me 25 years as a road warrior consultant, author, and accidental government bureaucrat to realize that proselytizing doesn’t work. If leaders don’t want to change, all the consulting jargon and fancy PowerPoints in the world won’t convince them to.

In those situations, no matter what lofty rhetoric the CEO uses in public or at company retreats about “creating an innovation culture” and encouraging everyone to think outside of the box, the best result you can hope for are incremental innovations to improve the performance of today’s business model. You never get transformational new business models — and you always get frustrated if you were hoping for bolder change. If you want transformational innovation, you have to find leaders who want transformational change and are receptive to organizing differently for tweaks than for transformation. After learning this lesson the hard way over many years, I no longer try to convince CEOs who don’t want to change, and instead try to find those CEO’s who do.

Saul KaplanHere’s my list of 10 questions you can ask a CEO to tell if they are really serious about transformational innovation:

1) Do you agree transformational innovation goes beyond breakthrough products to include business model innovation — entirely new ways to create, deliver and capture value?
2) Will your employees tell me that failure is a career-limiting move, or that the company celebrates experimentation?
3) How much time do you spend strengthening and protecting the current business model, versus designing the next one?
4) Do you have clear and discrete objectives for both incremental and transformational innovation? Do you organize differently for each?
5) Does your organization invest in R&D for new business models as it does for new products, services, and technologies?
6) Are you prepared to have your organization disrupt itself? How do you see that playing out?
7) Do internal ideas and projects that threaten to cannibalize the current business model get squashed — or nurtured?
8) Do you have a process for allocating resources for transformational innovation projects that lies outside of the control of business units?
9) Do executives with responsibility for exploring transformational business models report to you, or to another line executive responsible for today’s business?
10) Are you willing to create a sandbox to explore transformational business models? Would you carve out a part of your current business/market to serve as an ongoing real-world innovation lab?

A few words of advice about using these questions in the real world… Tread lightly, since no CEO likes to be put on the spot and drilled with a laundry list of questions. Pick a few of the ten to put into your own words to help you discern whether the company you work for, or are thinking about working for (or with), has a leader who shares your appetite for transformational innovation. Better to know what kind of environment you’re going into in advance than to learn painful lessons later.

Michael Stillman & Mona Tailor: Dead Man Walking

From the New England Journal of Medicine:

mona1“Shocked” wouldn’t be accurate, since we were accustomed to our uninsured patients’ receiving inadequate medical care. “Saddened” wasn’t right, either, only pecking at the edge of our response. And “disheartened” just smacked of victimhood. After hearing this story, we were neither shocked nor saddened nor disheartened. We were simply appalled.

We met Tommy Davis in our hospital’s clinic for indigent persons in March 2013 (the name and date have been changed to protect the patient’s privacy). He and his wife had been chronically uninsured despite working full-time jobs and were now facing disastrous consequences.

The week before this appointment, Mr. Davis had come to our emergency department with abdominal pain and obstipation. His examination, laboratory tests, and CT scan had cost him $10,000 (his entire life savings), and at evening’s end he’d been sent home with a diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer.

The year before, he’d had similar symptoms and visited a primary care physician, who had taken a cursory history, told Mr. Davis he’d need insurance to be adequately evaluated, and billed him $200 for the appointment. Since Mr. Davis was poor and ineligible for Kentucky Medicaid, however, he’d simply used enemas until he was unable to defecate. By the time of his emergency department evaluation, he had a fully obstructed colon and widespread disease and chose to forgo treatment.

Mr. Davis had had an inkling that something was awry, but he’d been unable to pay for an evaluation. As his wife sobbed next to him in our examination room, he recounted his months of weight loss, the unbearable pain of his bowel movements, and his gnawing suspicion that he had cancer. “If we’d found it sooner,” he contended, “it would have made a difference. But now I’m just a dead man walking.”

Click here for the full piece.


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Planning and Execution

The impotance of planning and execution.

About 19 1/2 months ago on a Sunday afternoon I thought to myself, “It would be a good idea to clean out my clothes closet later today.”

I have thought about that a lot every Sunday since then.

And today I executed my plan flawlessly in under 40 minutes.

jyb_musings19 1/2 months later.

Which led me to create an important formula for business and personal planning.

Planning + Execution = Results ÷ 19 1/2

Julie Rath: What’s Your Power Suit?

I’m not going to lie, the term POWER SUIT makes me cringe a bit. Yes, the  right suit can help you look powerful, at least if it fits you perfectly, but  just donning a suit does not by itself do the job. There are other pieces to the  puzzle. So if you’re going into a situation where you want people to sit up and  take notice when you walk in, read on for 4 easy tips on how to  manage your appearance.

How to Dress Powerfully: Ties

1) Straight lines and angles in patterns and clothing  silhouettes signal authority. An easy way to apply the former is with ties: the  tie above left is much stronger because of its angularity than the tie to the  right with its curved lines. For silhouettes, you can see this everywhere from  glasses, to suits, to sport jackets (if you wear glasses, my article on how to choose glasses frames is a must-read). For example, a  squared-off jacket shoulder is more commanding than a soft shoulder.

Read the rest of…
Julie Rath: What’s Your Power Suit?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: An Important PSA

An important PSA (public service announcent)

It has been nearly three years since my unfortunate incident at Speedway where I was so absent-minded I left the gas pump in the gas tank and tried to pull away before the pump pulled out loudly and flapped around. No gas sprayed but it created a hard to explain spectacle before the manager kindly waived me away in a manner that said “Just please go to Thorton’s next time you need to fill up.”

jyb_musingsAnd yet three long years later –without incident–every time I get gas I relive this fear as I start to pull away.

Call it PTSDFLGPIGTADO (Post traumatic stress disorder from leaving gas pump in gas tank and driving off).

It is real. And, frankly, the acronym sounds even worse than I expected.

So, please, when you get gas, replace the gas pump before driving off. For the station owner. And for your own mental health.

Josh Bowen: 12 Steps to Purchasing a Gym Membership

Through our 12 Steps we have come to find out how confusing fitness can be. Just the act of working out and changing our nutrition can be enough to scare people away. Compound that with going to find a gym and it can overwhelming. For the majority of my fitness career I have spent time training and working in commercial gyms. I know a thing of 12 about picking the right place. Here are 12 Steps to help you decide on the right place for you to work out.

1. Know what you are looking for Have your goal (s) and your why in mind when shopping for a gym. Do not join a CrossFit gym if your goal isn’t high intensity, advanced workouts. Your goal and why will help you make a decision.

2. Ask friends and family Ask the people closest to you about their experiences with gyms. This can give you a good gage on where to look at and where not too.

3. Look at the Internet and Social Media We live in an era where nothing is a secret and everyone markets like they are going out of business. Check websites of the gyms you are thinking about joining. The bigger gyms will let you join online which can be a plus not having to deal with sales people. Also, look for gyms that promote successes of their members. This shows they care about the people inside their walls.

4. Search reviews I have vast experience with negative reviews in the fitness industry in places I have worked. In fact you will be hard pressed to find any company that does not have more negative reviews than positive. However, look for the positive reviews from current and former members and take some of the negative with a grain of salt.

5. Location, location, location In most cases, not all, we would like a place that is convenient to get too. If its easy to get too we are more likely to go.

6. Find a gym you feel the most comfortable At first, any gym can seem intimidating. However, it’s important you feel welcomed and comfortable in your surroundings. If you are having a hard time deciding possibly get a guest pass and go workout a few times or try a class. This may help in aiding your decision.

7. Know your budget Know what you are willing to spend before you go. The sales team’s job is to sell memberships and some clubs will try to take advantage of someone who has never purchased a membership before. Stick to your budget.

josh8. Know your commitment The gym industry has changed, allowing month-to-month contracts for easy access to people. However, if you chose to sign a contract know your commitment level. 80% of all gym memberships go unused after three months. Do not let this be you.

9. Ask the membership guys for success stories Ask them for proof behind their product. If they can’t show you one, run away.

10. Look at the trainers and front desk I know this better than most, the trainers and front desk staff are the gyms face. If they do not look happy, chances are you won’t be happy as a member.

11. Cleanliness If the gym isn’t clean and the weights are not racked, chances are it always looks this way.

12. Do not buy a membership because of the pool Unless you plan on being in the pool a lot, do not make a buying decision based upon the pool. It is the most unused thing in any gym.

There are more options now than ever before in regards to gym memberships. Choose wisely, read what you sign, and pick somewhere you’ll be comfortable and enjoy.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The American Basketball Association

The American Basketball Association was in some ways more about what it means to be an American than it was about basketball. It had nothing to do with Associations. That was just an unfortunate name borrowed by copying the NBA’s final initial. But it had everything to do with thinking the unthinkable. And then trying the impossible. Just because we can. And not caring what others said or did.

Thanks to David Vance and my mother for forwarding this video clip to me just now.

Put it this way. This is an HBO special for “dreamers.” Make that “Dreamers” with a capital “D.”

Not for the keepers of the status quo ante….or defenders of the way things have always been done. And certainly not for those threatened by those who dare to ask, “Is there a better way?” –and greet such impudence with sneers and nervous laughter.

It’s not for any of them. (Watch Red Auerbach late in the show try to dismiss the ABA as a curious asterisk in basketball history and failed misadventure propped up briefly due only to the presence of Dr J….As another well-quoted dreamer would say, “The lady doth protest too much.”)

jyb_musingsAnd yet….and yet….

No professional sports experiment I can think of is a greater reflection of the entrepreneurial mind and (more important) entrepreneurial spirit than the creation of the American Basketball Association. It is –was–a uniquely American experiment. If there had been a movie about the ABA it would have been a mirror image of Tucker: The Man and His Dream. But there wasn’t. But there is this archived HBO special.

And because history is written by the victors, in the lofty chambers of those who retell basketball history from on high, the ABA was merely something of a curious asterisk to the NBA.

But for those of us who lived closer to it and had no vested interest in rewriting basketball history and, yes, were ourselves cast under the spell of the ABA dreamers, well….we know better. We not only dreamed but saw and believed and eventually knew. We learned as a matter of course as an ABA fan that the impossible was possible. And even for a few moments could be sublime. And that has never left us.

And although we still have no vested interest in rewriting basketball history, we know that no other basketball innovation changed the game more (and for the better) than did a little dream that germinated in a few small cities like Louisville, KY nearly 50 years ago.

We won’t ever get the respect we deserve. History doesn’t work like that. But we have something even better. The memories of some of the greatest basketball ever played on our planet–and played with creative abandon because, as Bob Costas said, “We had nothing to lose.” And today we can take quiet pride in seeing the stodgy long shadow of tradition of the NBA has been replaced by the sunlight of what we know was someone else’s impossible dream. And we saw it first. And proudly cheered it along.

Long Shots (improved) from Arie in t Veld on Vimeo.

Artur Davis: Irreconcilable Republican Differences?

In one rosy scenario, the self destructive streak of Ted Cruz and House Republicans burns out without a default, with Barack Obama incurring his share of the national disgust, and with the public’s frustration over the Affordable Care Act eventually cancelling out memories of the shutdown itself. And in that same optimal place, Republicans absorb their lessons with something like the synthesis that Ross Douthat writes about in his Sunday column:

..Republicans need to seek a kind of integration, which embraces the positive aspects of the new populism—its hostility to K Street and Wall Street, its relative openness to policy innovation, its desire to speak on behalf of Middle America and the middle class—while tempering its [nihilistic] streak with prudence, realism, and savoir-fare.

As good as Douthat has been in outlining during the last few weeks why the shutdown strategy is painfully flawed, from even a right-leaning perspective, he is engaging in his own bit of wishful thinking about the lines of a Republican comeback and its worth taking some space to say why. First, as I suggested in my last column, the shutdown is best understood not as some bridge too far from the populism he describes but a pretty natural outgrowth of it. The reality is that the right’s populism has had a consistent unifying principle since the spring of 2009: it is that the federal government is posing an unprecedented threat to liberty, and that it presents an existential danger to a particular ideal of American society. That apocalyptic claim has played out in any number of contexts, from suspicions about Barack Obama’s citizenship, to cries of socialized medicine, to the painting of liberalism as a subversive scheme. It’s not the sort of rhetorical tendency that distinguishes between programs based on their relative effectiveness or which weeds out obtainable goals from unrealistic ones. It’s absolutely a worldview that has made any approach to Obamacare other than all out obstruction or resistance seem like unprincipled softness.

Is there a middle class friendly legislative vision waiting to burst of all that anti government zeal? Not so far at the grassroots level, and not inside the rarified air of various conservative conferences. And as Bobby Jindal’s swift fade from prominence since last winter, and Marco Rubio’s slippage from “can’t miss” status to the mid tier of 2016 contenders indicate, the more potent currency in conservative settings has not been an appeal to more policy creativity or substantive rebranding on issues like immigration, but the fundamentalism offered by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz: and as Douthat himself has pointed out, their message is either decidedly vague on details (Cruz) or a rehash of conventional top heavy tax cut plans that shortchange the middle class (Paul).

davis_artur-11The “integration” between populism and reform that Douthat pines for is not a fantasy: the conservative populism of the Obama era has opened a window to the alienation downscale whites felt through the last decade of American politics, when Bush Republicans seemed indifferent to wage stagnation and Obama Democrats seemed incapable of reversing the erosion of working class security. But the right’s most conspicuous rising stars have expended virtually no capital on building or selling any type of actual policy framework to activists: even a conservative with an authentic record of engaging topics like inner city poverty and educational inequality, Ben Carson, has seen fit to downplay that history in favor of diatribes equating slavery with Obamacare.

I’ve written that the populist right’s tilt toward radicalism isn’t likely to be self-correcting and requires a much more forceful counter-argument from the center right. And unlike Douthat, I have become skeptical that it is a simple matter of a candidate with “movement credibility” combining the right’s passions with a more tenable market oriented reform vision. The more plausible fact may well be that a reform vision is temperamentally and substantively at odds with right wing populism’s intense distrust of public institutions. Breaking through that tension might not be a pipe dream, but it is hard to imagine without a sustained case about what public (and conservative) purposes can legitimately be accomplished through government.

And without question, the kind of accommodation and outreach that builds coalitions is discredited when conflict has been over-dramatized into a clash between freedom and darker impulses. Is the antidote what Douthat describes as declaring war on the GOP base? Not at all, but given the base’s demonstrated inability to strengthen the party’s electability, there is a distinct need to challenge that base’s grip on the meaning of conservatism and its monopoly on defining legitimacy within the party. I’ve come to the mindset that the challenge will require more toughness than politeness.

Jason Atkinson: Them Girls — A Film

Them Girls from Jason Atkinson & Flying A Films on Vimeo.

Kentucky Tonight — Great Debate on Shutdown/Default Politics

Last night, Kentucky hall of fame journalist Bill Goodman and his guests on “Kentucky Tonight” discussed the federal budget and debt ceiling. Scheduled guests: Jonathan Miller, former Kentucky state treasurer and former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Brad Cummings, former chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party; John Heyrman, political science professor at Berea College; and Stephen Voss, political science professor at the University of Kentucky.

Click below to watch:

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The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show