As one who has been immersed in and researching innovation for three decades I have become enough of a curmudgeon to know when things rub me the wrong way. For me, that rub comes from perspectives that are more of a barrier to innovation than an enabler.
Today, the best player in College basketball will be named to receive the John Wooden Award. It is the highest honor in the sport.
What may not be common knowledge about the selection process is that any finalist for this award must meet criteria set by Coach Wooden (1910-2010) himself for academic standing and community service.
by Louis Patler
“The ocean, like customers, has a mind of its own that is worth paying attention to.It has its moods, its quirks, its ever-changing tastes and ways. The best innovators and inventors understand this about customers and clients, as well. Customers can be fickle and hard to predict. You can’t afford to take it for granted.”
My new book, Make Your Own Waves: The Surfers Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs, was inspired in part by an unexpected finding in my research on innovation: serial innovators tend to take metaphors and analogies literally. So, for example, if the marketplace moves in waves, why not base a book on the ultimate subject matter experts, the Big Wave surfers who ride walls of water the size of office buildings.
I remain constantly on the lookout for other analogies that shed light on the world of work. Recently, I was reading a travel blog by my friend Kristin Luna entitled “HOW TO BE THE BEST AIRBNB HOST YOU CAN BE.”
It occurred to me that her tips re being a great Airbnb host sheds considerable light on being a good boss, manager or team builder. For brevity I will list her tips and then comment briefly on each.
1. Type up a guide to your home, your neighborhood and the city at large.
-Be clear with your colleagues and team about “how things actually get done around here.”
2. Ensure your space is spic and span—especially the bathroom.
-Pay attention to the details, the little things. In the start up mode, be prepared to clean the sinks and vacuum the floors.
3. Make checking in and checking out as easy as possible.
-Give people as much flexibility as possible. We all have different work styles and ways to be productive.
4. Leave clear instructions of what is expected of your visitors.
-Clear is good. Transparency is too. No need to make the simple harder.
5. Have basic amenities handy.
-Give your people the tools and resources they need and turn them loose to get things done.
6. Provide them with snacks, too.
-Yes, feed the masses. Keep the energy up. Energy management is more important than time management.
By Louis Patler, Ph.,D.
It’s Time to Prepare for the Jobs of 2027
Mark Cuban has been in the news a lot recently, largely because of his vocal opposition to Donald Trump. The tech billionaire, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, has made his fortune by being in the right place at the right time doing the right things. He is one smart cookie.
So, when I came across a recent interview in which Cuban predicts the number one job ten years from now, I read it with interest. (http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/careersandeducation/mark-cuban-says-this-will-be-the-no1-job-skill-in-10-years/ar-AAn8yA0?li=BBnbfcL )
Cuban sees computer coding, the current in-demand job skill, as having a short half-life because soon computers will be programmed to write better code than humans. So, where will the hot jobs be in ten years, in 2027?
His answer may surprise you: “a new skill will become more in-demand than it ever has been: creative thinking.”
Yes, creative thinking! That means in ten years there will be a rise in the liberal arts majors’ employability, making many parents happy that their “creative” children will at last find gainful employment!
And I happen to agree with Cuban on this. Thinking in many forms—“creative”, “critical”, “innovative”—will be increasingly important in a world that will become more and more automated. This will necessitate exploring new skills that will lead to new jobs and careers. This can be daunting, but as I say in my new book Make Your Own Waves; The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs” the time is now to “Get Wet.”
In business, what can you do to leave the comfort of a salaried job and a secure schedule to venture into the world of the entrepreneur? You can certainly do your due diligence about your ideas. You can network with potential collaborators. You can find supportive mentors. And you can anticipate and face your fears.
A recent McKinsey article on startups offers supportive advice: “How should you tap into Silicon Valley? Not by sticking a toe in the water. Get your management team aligned and then commit.” (27) Commitment cannot be underrated. A friend of mine who is both an entrepreneur and an investor told me once that he is not fond of simulations and all things theoretical. When he recently was asked to teach a business school seminar on “Entrepreneurship” he practiced what he preached. His course offered no set syllabus. Instead, he formed three student teams, and lured them into entrepreneurial waters by giving them each $1,000 and telling them to go start a business. Being “pre-funded” forced them to THINK!
Their businesses were tracked for the whole semester as students reported weekly on their obstacles and victories. For the committed entrepreneur there is no better “training” than doing.
The ocean, like the marketplace, is ever-changing so you have to assess the conditions before you “get wet.” Look at trends and patterns. Then you paddle out. It’s no surprise the same ocean that inspires surfers to ride waves also inspires them to become entrepreneurs and to make a living related to what they love.
In order to reap the rewards of venturing into the marketplace, entrepreneurs have to get their fingernails dirty. For entrepreneurs, the rewards may be money or a sense of achievement; for surfers it’s the rush of adrenaline when they paddle out and face a new challenge.
In the business world, there are people who never “get wet,” who will never be innovators or entrepreneurs, and that is fine. But the innovators and entrepreneurs of the world will be those who thrive in uncertainty, assess what there is and what is missing, and who will fill voids and create opportunities as they go
In short, they will be masters of the creative thinking that Mark Cuban is forecasting. The good news is that like coding, much of the skillset and toolset needed to be a creative thinker can be learned. My training program, Innovating for Results, (http://www.louispatler.com/innovating-for-results/ ) may be just what you need as 2027 will be here sooner than you may think. Now is the time to “get wet” and give it a try. They determine appropriate metrics to track progress and measure success along the way.
Today I read something coming out of the defense industry that has a much wider application. (https://www.defensetech.org/2017/02/17/special-operations/ ) The article is entitled, “Executive to Military: Be Like SOCOM and Bet on the Little Guy,” and it raises the perennial issue of staying with the so-called tried and true vs. taking a strategic risk on a new idea or product.
James “Hondo” Geurts, the top weapons buyer for U.S. Special Operations Command, says that taking risks on fledgling defense companies is sometimes the only way to get the right gear to operators in months instead of years.
Using a blackjack analogy Geurts argues that “If I can place 100 more bets than you, I don’t have to succeed every time. I may only have to succeed 10 percent of the time, and if you can only place five bets, I’m always going to beat you,” Geurts told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium.
“We are not always about taking the lowest-risk approach. There are times when we need to press the envelope.”
Being risk-averse indicates a fear of failure as well as simultaneously stifling innovation. Today, what is needed is the ability to take “strategic risks”, risks grounded in hard research and in knowing “the basics” of your current and future needs.
In my new book, Make Your Own Waves: The Surfers Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs (http://www.louispatler.com/books/), I take a close look at some of the most extreme of the strategic risk takers I have encountered, Big Wave surfers. In attempting to ride 30-60 foot waves that are literally life-threatening, Big Wave surfers start with the basics. The first chapter, “Learn to Swim”, addresses these issues by looking at what comes before the start up, the invention or new product.
Many would-be entrepreneurs face incredible self-imposed barriers to entry that they can avoid by taking the simplest of first steps. Basic research, networking and prototyping are essential. Without those first baby steps their dreams were at risk.
Nine out of ten start ups fail, and in my research and experience 9 out of 10 times they fail because they try to bypass the basics. In the beginning, there was work to be done on three levels…the mindset, the skillset and the toolset. The right mindset gives them the strategies and ideas. The useful skillset gets them moving towards implementation. And the last but very important toolset helps the innovator/entrepreneur refine and execute. Taken together they are like three legs of a stool; they create certain stability.
Jeff Amerine is a successful entrepreneur many times over. Based in Northwest Arkansas, for 25 years he has been involved in the investor community as well. So Jeff knows both sides of the equation. He and I have done TV interviews and podcasts together focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship because we share the same desire and perspective: hard work and good preparation make success much more likely. Most recently Jeff has created Startup Junkie, a consulting practice that coaches, mentors, and advises startups regarding venture finance, business model validation and growth strategies—the entrepreneurial equivalent of learning to swim.
Too often, impatience foreshadows the demise of an endeavor. And too often risk-aversion might keep a large corporation from placing their bet on the little guy.
Hard work plays a part as good things come to those who prepare and who wait for the right time and conditions. In business as it surfing, when the smaller innovative and progressive company beckons to be ridden, it could be the right time to give the wave a go.
My next blog will discuss this further.
CASE STUDIES FROM OUR ARCHIVES*
I was recently asked to blog about some of the successful consulting and training projects I have been involved with over the last two decades. There are many, but I will start with four of my favorites representing a range of industries. Below is an overview of Project #4.
Client # 4: Amoco (now British Petroleum)
An established giant in the oil and gas business, Amoco/BP could no longer afford to act like one. New sources of competition and alternative energy options were rapidly transforming the energy marketplace. As a result, the conservative strategies that had worked in the past had become barriers to innovation, competitiveness and growth.
Recognizing that creativity and unconventional thinking were critical to the company’s future, they set out to dramatically change its tradition-bound culture. How could employees break their habits of caution and risk aversion and become the entrepreneurial innovators the company needed?
After an extensive search for a training program that would meet their needs, IFR was tested on one group of staff and line employees.
Response to the pilot program was so strong that they promptly began using it company-wide. It has continued to get with employees in every function, so much so that when the company’s training programs were centralized and streamlined for economy, IFR survived all cuts and used on the national level.
“IFR has been a breath of fresh air. We’re seeing bolder ideas, new approaches to problem solving, and a higher creativity—just as we had hoped. The program will continue to play a key role in our strategy for success in the 21st century.”
* IFR is the newly released and expanded version of “Break-It! Thinking.”
CASE STUDIES FROM OUR ARCHIVES*
I was recently asked to blog about some of the successful consulting and training projects I have been involved with over the last two decades. There are many, but I will start with four of my favorites representing a range of industries. Below is an overview of Project #3.
Client # 3: The Gap
At a time when fashion retailing was in a widespread slump, The Gap was thriving. In spite of a general decline in sales, earnings were steadily rising and The Gap was the envy of the industry.
But the company’s leadership wasn’t satisfied. Certain the picture wouldn’t remain rosy if the company stood still, they embarked on an aggressive strategy of organizational reinvention and growth which called for virtually doubling the company’s size in just three years.
With such an ambitious goal, doing business as usual was out of the question. Everyone in the organization would have to start thinking and working in completely new and more creative ways. How could they achieve this radically changed mindset in short order, throughout the company?
The company decided to initiate the push for innovative thinking by making IFR the focus of their Regional Managers’ Meeting. At this meeting, the Gap’s top 400 managers went through and intensive and enjoyable one-day IFR workshop, followed by activities designed to reinforce their learning and help them apply the new language and skills to the specific challenges they faced at work.
Managers immediately began using IFR terms, skills and tools in their daily work. In fact, the impact at the managerial level was so striking that The Gap promptly launched plans to extend the program to its 1700 stores worldwide. Convinced IFR would dramatically help boost the ability to reach their three-year goal, the company made the program a key tool in their push for growth.
For example, one of the outcomes of the IFR workshop was taking a fresh look at the layout of Gap stores. As a result of the workshop several changes in shelving strategies, product placement and sales counters were implemented in all stores.
“This has been one of the most impactful and positive programs we’ve ever run. Management immediately saw the performance payoff if we spread IFR through the organization quickly enough.”
* IFR is the newly released and expanded version of “Break-It! Thinking.”