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Category: Innovation Engineering (Innovate)

Don’t forget the introverts in your next innovation project

Posted by on March 28, 2016 12:37 pm
Team

An indisputable key to a successful innovation project is the diversity of the project team members. The power of diversity is in the varying experiences and ideas each team member brings to the table. Different perspectives generate better and more varied ideas, ultimately creating more successful outcomes.

“Diversity” can mean different things to different people though. In case of an innovation project, we mean diversity in every sense of the word: team members should hold different positions in the organization and at different levels in different departments; the team should be composed of varying ethnicities, backgrounds, lifestyles, and demographics. The more diverse, the better!

One factor that may be overlooked though? The balance of extroverts and introverts on your innovation team. If you believe that the team is strengthened by including only those employees who are more extroverted (“She’s always talking – she’d be great for our team!”), it’s time to reconsider.

According to the Quiet Leadership Institute, 50% of the U.S. workforce self-identifies as introverts. 64% of workers believe their organization does not fully harness the talents of the introverted employees. What’s more, 96% of leaders and managers self-identify as extroverts—which means leadership teams are often imbalanced and do not fairly represent a diverse workforce. It becomes all the more important, then, to be purposeful when choosing your innovation project team members.

Introverts can contribute just as fully to the innovation team as any other member, given the right conditions. Here’s three ways to make sure that happens:Team

  1. Create a safe environment. When encouraged, introverts can become extroverted. In a supportive and open team atmosphere, introverts are more likely to share their ideas. Ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and “safe” with their team means that you’re more likely to hear from the quieter members of the group — especially important during the idea generation phases.
  1. Make writing just as important as speaking. In Innovation Engineering projects, writing is strongly encouraged. In fact, everything is documented by the participants. For example, during a Create session (designed to maximize idea generation), team members use Yellow Cards to outline and flush out their idea more fully. While some participants will read their Yellow Cards out to the rest of team, others may choose not to. Regardless, each idea is captured on a Yellow Card, all of which are collected during the session and available for all team members to read. This means that ideas aren’t silenced because of a fear of public speaking.
  1. Make sure everyone has a responsibility. During the rapid cycles of learning phase of the Innovation Engineering process, the team meets weekly to test, build, and sometimes kill ideas. At those meetings, team members are assigned pieces to work on (for example, I might be responsible for researching popular coffee brewing methods if our team is trying to learn more about worldwide coffee consumption). Before the next meeting, I’m responsible for doing my research and entering the information into the online project portal. And at the meeting itself, I share my findings with the team. By assigning specific tasks, team members assume ownership and become the “expert” on that particular piece. Reporting back to the team at the weekly meeting is not a presentation; it’s the sharing of information, which makes all the difference to an introvert.

While introverts may be the quieter members of your innovation team, their contributions can speak volumes. Starting with as diverse a team as possible, creating a safe environment for sharing, valuing writing as much as talking, and making every team member accountable means better ideas, a more productive team, and in the end, more meaningfully unique innovations. Results like that are something to cheer about (quietly, please).

 

 

 

An indisputable key to a successful innovation project is the diversity of the project team members. The power of diversity is in the varying experiences and ideas each team member brings to the table. Different perspectives generate better and more varied ideas, ultimately creating more successful outcomes.

“Diversity” can mean different things to different people though. In case of an innovation project, we mean diversity in every sense of the word: team members should hold different positions in the organization and at different levels in different departments. The team should be composed of varying ethnicities, backgrounds, lifestyles, and demographics. The more diverse, the better!

One factor that may be overlooked though? The balance of extroverts and introverts on your innovation team. If you believe that the team is strengthened by including only those employees who are more extroverted (“She’s always talking – she’d be great for our team!”), it’s time to reconsider.

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The power of rapid cycles of learning

Posted by on March 15, 2016 8:19 am
PDSA Cycle

Recently, I had the opportunity to be one of four judges at the semi-final stage of a business case competition that hosted MBA and Ph.D students from some of the most prestigious universities across Canada and the US. As part of the process, students were asked to submit a written business plan to judges ahead of a thirty-minute presentation and question period.

I had the good fortune of being assigned to the medical products subgroup and judging panel which included three incredibly talented professionals with backgrounds in finance, intellectual property law, and medical research.

Each business plan featured a meaningfully unique product that could help make a difference in our health and our world. Plans included detailed financials, and all four teams had taken steps to protect their intellectual property.

That being said, there were two areas where I saw challenges with their plans. Interestingly, they are the same challenges that many organizations have when they consider new innovations:

1. A mistaken belief that research always needs big dollar and time investments.

All of the business presentations we saw included a request for a capital raise, in part to fund additional research and clinical trials. What I learned from talking to my judge colleagues (with backgrounds in capital funding and medical research), was that smaller, faster tests could be performed prior to requiring large investments for major clinical trials. These smaller, faster, cheaper tests could help further prove out concepts before approaching potential investors, while still progressing ideas closer towards FDA approval.

2. Financials built on assumptions rather than on learning.

As a consequence of limited testing, the financials in the business plans were built on several assumptions. As judges we found ourselves questioning revenue projections, expenses and how teams arrived at their company valuations. While we couldn’t expect perfect financials, the use of math modelling to create more realistic financial projections would have strengthened each business case.

The best way to address both issues? Use the power of rapid cycles of learning to get smarter.

Rapid cycles of learning are designed to identifyPDSA Cycle

  • WHAT we need to learn about;
  • Create a PLAN to learn quickly;
  • DO what we need to in order to learn;
  • STUDY the results from our test(s), and
  • ACT appropriately based on the learning.

At inVision, we focus on one-week learning cycles as part of the Innovation Engineering system. If we are going to fail, we want to fail fast and fail cheap, instead of investing time and money in large scale studies without solid evidence that our concept works.

So, what could innovative organizations and these business case students do to strengthen their potential for successful launch?

1. Identify the death threats for the concept and prioritize them.

What are the top threats to your idea? Identify those factors that could derail your idea and prioritize them. For example, all of the groups saw that FDA approval was critical, and they put that at the top of their priority list. Lower on the priority list was comfort for the patient. I argued that both were equally important. And while they certainly couldn’t deal with all of the FDA research in one week, they could test the comfort factor of their prototypes to ensure patients could tolerate them. The key here? Do what you can to test your idea!

2. Identify fail fast, fail cheap opportunities to learn quickly.

Look for the simplest and most cost effective test to push concepts to the limit. As you continue to ‘pass the tests’, build on the test complexity. For example, in the instance of patient comfort, the students could set up prototypes for friends and family to ‘try’ and then offer their feedback. This wouldn’t replace required testing for FDA approval, but it would answer some critical questions for potential investors and remove a risk. By the time you need significant investment for legislated approvals, you should have enough proof of concept to reduce anxiety for potential investors.

3. Learn as you go: Adjust your product concept and math models based on your learning.

Every learning cycle allows you to learn something you can apply to your concept. After every cycle, re-evaluate! The cycles should help you get smarter every time, refining your concept as you go. If not, you may not be focusing on the most important death threats. The fewer assumptions you make in your plan because you have proved out concepts, the stronger your plan and the more likely that you will execute on time and within budget. Strong financials also help secure investors because it provides confidence in the management/leadership team as well as the concept.

I’m certainly not a medical professional, but I learned a lot about medical devices over the last week. This experience reinforced to me that no matter the industry and no matter the concept, it is valuable to use rapid cycles of learning to strengthen an innovation. Break down imaginary barriers and do what you can to prove out your concept, and then move to the next stage of funding and longer term testing to continue your journey.

 

 

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to be one of four judges at the semi-final stage of a business case competition that hosted MBA and Ph.D students from some of the most prestigious universities across Canada and the US. As part of the process, students were asked to submit a written business plan to judges ahead of a thirty-minute presentation and question period.

Each business plan featured a meaningfully unique product that could help make a difference in our health and our world. Plans included detailed financials, and all four teams had taken steps to protect their intellectual property.

That being said, there were two areas where I saw challenges with their plans. Interestingly, they are the same challenges that many organizations have when they consider new innovations…

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It’s time to talk about Canada’s innovation crisis

Posted by on February 24, 2016 12:07 pm
maple leaf

To all Canadian CEOs, Executives, Business Owners and Leaders,

The Conference Board of Canada reports that we continue to fall behind on innovation as a country. In fact, a recent report states:maple leaf

  • Despite a decade or so of innovation agendas and prosperity reports, Canada remains near the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13th among the 16 peer countries.
  • Countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs.
  • So far, there are no conclusive answers—or solutions—to Canada’s poor innovation ranking.

In addition, in a recent Globe and Mail article, the Canadian business approach to innovation is described as follows:

In our tolerant, mild-mannered way, we simply acquiesce to mediocrity. We shrug our shoulders, because there is no real option.

As a proud Canadian businessman dedicated to innovation, I am not okay with being ranked 13th in a pool of 16 of our peer countries. And by working with leading CEOs and executives who are driving innovation, I confidently know that there are conclusive answers, solutions and options to make innovation happen in our companies and improve our standing.

In the companies that we work with, the key secret ingredient to successfully driving and achieving innovation is the leader. It starts at the top – 100% of the time.

It can seem like an overwhelming undertaking, but leaders who want to drive innovation in their organization can start with these steps:

  1. Commit to innovation as being the key strategy for growth;
  2. Implement an innovation system that engages all employees;
  3. Align and engage leadership with an accountability to deliver tangible innovation results.

The good news in all of this is that you are in control of your innovation story. We can do this! I challenge you to join me on a mission to drive Canada closer to the top spot for innovation: one leader, one company, one city, and one province at a time.

Let’s finally give the Globe and Mail and the Conference Board of Canada something new to report.

Your Canadian partner in innovation,

John Ferris, CEO
inVision Edge

 

 

To all Canadian CEOs, Executives, Business Owners and Leaders,

The Conference Board of Canada reports that we continue to fall behind on innovation as a country. In fact, a recent report states:

  • Despite a decade or so of innovation agendas and prosperity reports, Canada remains near the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13th among the 16 peer countries.
  • Countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs.
  • So far, there are no conclusive answers—or solutions—to Canada’s poor innovation ranking.
Read More

Future’s so bright, gotta wear shades

Posted by on January 20, 2016 8:49 am
Sunglasses

We have the best job in the world: we enable leaders and their organizations innovate and transform.

Through our work with so many amazing leaders and their companies, it has become clear that there are three key ingredients for sustained innovation and transformation:Sunglasses

  • Radical clarity of direction of your company and relentless execution towards a common purpose (Navigate)
  • A system that enables innovation with everyone, everywhere, every day (Innovate)
  • Aligned leadership so all are engaged and accountable (Activate)

When we see the great things that our clients are doing, it inspires us to do better and be better. We continue to focus on building our inVision Crew while bringing on board like-minded teammates who want to make a difference and do great things. We have worked together to craft our areas of focus and wanted to share them with you.

To continue to innovate and transform ourselves at inVision, we’ve chosen the following areas to focus on in 2016:

  • We will continue our quest to enable innovation and transformation by partnering with like-minded companies across Canada;
  • We will launch our brand new execution-focused website, which provides leaders and their teams with a way to track and execute on goals and actions that enable the rhythm of accountability;
  • We are developing a client/partner onboarding program and on-going communication approach to ensure we are 100% aligned to the innovation and transformation goals of our clients;
  • We are developing our very own facilitator training program to ensure that our clients receive the very best training on how to deliver immediate and sustained results.;
  • Innovation Engineering Labs will have numerous updates to assist our clients on their innovation journey.

It is an honour to partner with so many great companies and our entire team looks forward to what lies ahead. Here’s to another year of Doing Great Things! Now time to get those shades out…. and give us a shout if you want to learn more.

 

 

We have the best job in the world: we enable leaders and their organizations innovate and transform.

Through our work with so many amazing leaders and their companies, it has become clear that there are three key ingredients for sustained innovation and transformation:

  • Radical clarity of direction of your company and relentless execution towards a common purpose (Navigate)
  • A system that enables innovation with everyone, everywhere, every day (Innovate)
  • Aligned leadership so all are engaged and accountable (Activate)
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Be the spark that enables your team

Posted by on November 23, 2015 8:32 am
match 2

“I’ve always thought it was my job to be the spark and the gasoline for my team, but now I realize that it’s actually not.”

A really great leader said this to me during a conversation last week. It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. A simple concept at first, but stop and think about it: How many leaders feel the pressure of being both the “spark” and the “gasoline” in their organizations?

The original focus of our conversation was around getting a sales team pumped up to face another quarter after a particularly difficult month. My leader-friend was talking about the need to spark some energy in his team at their monthly meeting. He had a plan for the spark, but he felt a weight around how to be the fuel to keep that fire burning in them.match 2

This is common among leaders. Bearing the weight of determining and communicating WHAT is important (the spark) and also HOW it will be accomplished (the gasoline) quickly becomes overwhelming for any leader. If projects stall when the leader isn’t around to constantly fuel them, enablement (or the lack thereof) is often the cause.

inVision CEO John Ferris has taught me that it’s the leader’s job to determine WHAT is important; it’s the team’s job to determine HOW to achieve it. In the past I would have thought this to be one of those great quotes that sounds like a solid philosophy but nearly impossible to implement in reality. This is where Innovation Engineering comes into play for me.

After attending Innovation Engineering College at the end of October, on my way to becoming a certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt, I realized that I had finally found a system that would allow leaders a process to gain radical clarity on what was important and enable their people to successfully come up with and deliver the results. IE provides a freedom within the framework, enabling leaders to set the spark and step back as the team’s fuel of innovation, creativity, and commercialization transforms the organization.

To truly enable our teams to be their own source of energy, innovation, and action, we have to draw them into the process of determining the HOW. Through the process of Innovation Engineering, the leader can focus on being the spark that ignites the team, while the team becomes responsible for keeping that momentum going. The energy is shared between the leader and their team, and real growth is the result.

 

 

“I’ve always thought it was my job to be the spark and the gasoline for my team, but now I realize that it’s actually not.”

A really great leader said this to me during a conversation last week. It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. A simple concept at first, but stop and think about it: How many leaders feel the pressure of being both the “spark” and the “gasoline” in their organizations?

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Innovation is not about a job title

Posted by on November 16, 2015 11:18 am
teamwork image

When most people think of innovation, they think of Steve Jobs. They are right to do so. He was absolutely an innovator who changed the world with the work that he did. (Can you imagine carrying a camera, iPod, books and a cell phone separately now? The man saved me several pounds of luggage weight for my vacations with his inventions!)

Given that Steve Jobs is an icon, he sets the bar really high for the average person to think that they have anything innovative to offer. And although the average person innovates all the time in their personal lives tinkering in their garages, kitchens, workshops, basements… we are afraid to define ourselves as innovative at work. Instead, we leave it to the engineers and product development people.

I recently worked with an innovation team at a local well-respected company. The team was diverse and included employees from a variety of areas — IT, Sales, HR, Manufacturing, Administration, and Finance. This dedicated group of employees (not an engineer or product development specialist among them) was the team who accepted the challenge to innovate.teamwork image

At the start of the project, 5 out of the 8 participants admitted to being afraid of what was ahead, feeling that they lacked confidence in their ability to contribute. No one had ever asked them to innovate before, and they weren’t even sure they knew how. But they trusted us to take them through a system designed to enable everyone, everywhere, every day to innovate. Our twelve-week innovation journey began that day.

Our journey was filled with great moments that made me proud: the receptionist on the innovation team was part of the presentation to the executive team,sharing a supporting business case for the team’s idea; I listened to the finance person start to get creative and excited during the idea generating process; I watched the IT people answer product development questions. My point in all this? Job title is just that — a title. It doesn’t speak to one’s passion, interests, or imagination.

In my career, I have rarely experienced prejudice because of my gender. I have, however, experienced prejudice because of my previous job titles. Just recently, I heard of an executive who wrote off my ability to partner with them because they felt an ‘HR person’ had no business helping them with innovation.

This is the limited mindset that holds companies back. We focus on titles, and not ability, experience, knowledge and passion. Let’s take those special ingredients and combine them with a system that is designed to leverage diversity. Then, let’s use it all to drive innovation and real, tangible business results.

Just ask the employees who have their names on a patent for a product that their company is taking to market.

That’s the kind of ‘great thing’ I want to be a part of. I don’t care what your title is.

 

 

When most people think of innovation, they think of Steve Jobs. They are right to do so. He was absolutely an innovator who changed the world with the work that he did. (Can you imagine carrying a camera, iPod, books and a cell phone separately now? The man saved me several pounds of luggage weight for my vacations with his inventions!)

Given that Steve Jobs is an icon, he sets the bar really high for the average person to think that they have anything innovative to offer. And although the average person innovates all the time in their personal lives tinkering in their garages, kitchens, workshops, basements… we are afraid to define ourselves as innovative at work. Instead, we leave it to the engineers and product development people.

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Innovation Engineering College: What did I learn?

Posted by on November 9, 2015 11:43 am
The very first class of 2015 Innovation College students.

More than I thought possible.

If you’ve been following us on LinkedIn or Twitter, you know that inVision Edge was the proud host of the very first Canadian Innovation Engineering College held here in Winnipeg, MB at the end of October. I was fortunate enough to attend as a student, on a mission to get my Innovation Engineering Blue Belt. Doug Hall, the founder of Innovation Engineering asks participants a question each day: “What did you learn?” My answer has as much to do with how I learn as it does with what I learned.

inVision Partner Wendy Ferris, herself an Innovation Engineering Black Belt, cautioned me about the learning process in College beforehand: “Embrace the X,” she said. “You’ll have to forget about perfection, about getting it right the first time. Focus on learning.” Hmmmm… she must know me well. I like to get things right – the first time. I’m not a perfectionist, but I do get satisfaction from a job well done.

The last time I was in an intense educational environment, I was a university student. When I think back to those days, there was a lot of memorization involved. There had to be: the prof was looking for the “right” answer during the grading process; my logic, reasoning, and assumptions simply had no place in my exam answer. At the end of the day, what was really being tested? For someone whose memory isn’t the strongest, I often felt that my grades were based on the strength of my memory instead of my understanding of the material.

The very first class of 2015 Innovation College students.
Me and my fellow students at the very first Canadian Innovation College.

On the other hand, Innovation Engineering College is focused on learning and collaboration. Multiple assignments each day (usually under strict time constraints and working with a group) help participants to apply their learnings immediately.  The assignments are graded quickly, with feedback received within a couple of hours of submitting the assignment. An “X” on the assignment with the words “Needs more work” appeared on the first several assignments my group submitted. I was startled and frustrated: these were the first assignments, the “easy” ones. If I couldn’t succeed with these, what would the rest of my week look like?

As the week went on, there were more Xs (and some checkmarks too!). The Xs came with feedback — comments designed to make me evaluate my answer and formulate a new response to submit. And submit I did — sometimes it takes a few tries to get the answer right. But with the Cycles to Mastery approach, that’s OK. Submitting and re-submitting assignments (multiple times) is encouraged and expected – all in the name of getting smarter, learning, and eventually mastering the material.

So, what did I learn? That it’s OK not to get it right the first time. In fact, it’s actually better not to get it right the first time. When my assignments come back for re-work, I view it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Instead of trying to memorize the material, this is a chance for me to actually LEARN and UNDERSTAND the material. My Innovation Engineering Blue Belt is within reach — I just have to get a few Xs out of the way first.

 

 

More than I thought possible.

If you’ve been following us on LinkedIn or Twitter, you know that inVision Edge was the proud host of the very first Canadian Innovation Engineering College held here in Winnipeg, MB at the end of October. I was fortunate enough to attend as a student, on a mission to get my Innovation Engineering Blue Belt. Doug Hall, the founder of Innovation Engineering asks participants a question each day: “What did you learn?” My answer has as much to do with how I learn as it does with what I learned.

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Success is optional

Posted by on July 23, 2015 8:30 am
Business Life Cycle Curve - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

When we first start working with clients, we explore the ‘Business Life Cycle Curve’ (see image below). The business curve is composed on five phases: start up, growth, maturity, decline, and death. It’s an effective tool for quickly assessing where an organization is in its life cycle, and it, along with other tools, often forms the basis for the work we do with clients.Business Life Cycle Curve - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

Not long ago, we met with a CEO and executive team and asked them to place their organization on the business curve. They placed themselves solidly in the ‘decline’ portion of the curve, and sadly joked that they had ‘near death’ experiences as a company every day. While they joked, I could tell that they weren’t really laughing and hadn’t laughed at work in a very long time. Unfortunately, I could relate.

Having worked as an executive in a cost-cutting environment, I have seen and experienced the stress and anxiety of working in a company on the downward slide of the curve. I could relate to the heavy feeling of responsibility in the room that day. I could also relate to their depleting energy as they worked longer and harder to turn their company around, and the feeling of getting hit with ‘hard knocks’ at every turn.

Looking back on my experience, no matter how hard I tried, I really had no clue how to turn things around.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was living the Deming ‘Red Bead Experiment’. Dr W. Edwards Deming, the great systems thinker that changed manufacturing in the 60’s and 70’s, ran a simple experiment with red and white beads to illustrate that within a broken system, it doesn’t matter how hard employees work, try, or care….their efforts are lost. Dr Deming stated that 94% of issues are due to a broken system; a mere 6% is due to the employees’ efforts, skills, or talents.

Canada’s challenge

You can’t turn around without reading or hearing about the need for innovation in today’s companies. Recent studies indicate that despite the government’s commitment and support with funding for companies to drive innovation, Canada’s business community isn’t listening. In fact, we’re currently ranked 24th in the world for innovation despite our access to resources, support, and talent.

After I read the study, the words of Doug Hall, CEO and founder of Innovation Engineering and Eureka! Ranch International echoed in my mind: “Success is optional,” Doug says. Because, truly, there can’t be a connected and well-read CEO in the country who isn’t aware of the necessity and impact of innovation, but yet the report indicates they aren’t listening or don’t know how to make it happen.

Life lessons

What I have discovered since my time in that cost-cutting environment is that while drastic measures may be necessary in a challenging market, it isn’t sufficient. To truly restart that business curve and remain competitive in tough times, companies need to reinvent themselves using innovation to drive new products, services, or markets to stay meaningfully unique to their customers.

I’m proud to say I’ve become a zealot for innovation. And even deeper than that, a zealot for systematizing innovation to enable everyone, everywhere, every day to innovate. Now that I have a proven innovation system that shows me how to innovate, I get to enjoy meaningful work that makes a difference and gets tangible results for the companies I work with.

I’ll pick that option any day.

When we first start working with clients, we explore the ‘Business Life Cycle Curve’ (see image below). The business curve is composed on five phases: start up, growth, maturity, decline, and death. It’s an effective tool for quickly assessing where an organization is in its life cycle, and it, along with other tools, often forms the basis for the work we do with clients.

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The game of innovation

Posted by on June 22, 2015 10:45 am
Boardgame - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

This past weekend, Dan Torbiak, Executive-in-Residence at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba invited inVision Edge to judge a competition that had MBA students creating a board game that would facilitate innovation in a local utility company here in Winnipeg.

Boardgame - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada
Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Nathan Greidanus set the stage for the judges, telling us to evaluate each game based on a number of factors: Would the game enhance innovation? Is the game creative and interesting to play? Does the game incorporate core fundamentals of innovation? And lastly, is the game relevant to the company?
Each of the five judges were given 20 minutes to sit with each team and play the board game (tough gig – I know), while we evaluated it based on the criteria presented. There were four games, all of which used existing games as stimulus – Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, and Cards Against Humanity.

After having a chance to play each board game, the judges were split between both board games that borrowed from Cards Against Humanity. Both games featured a number of participants that were forced to come up with ideas to a problem the organization was having. By generating ideas around different challenges and and leveraging diversity on the group, it allowed for some very good discussion about those challenges.

Boardgame - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada
Congratulations to all the MBA students who participated and a big thank you to Dan Torbiak for inviting inVision Edge to participate as a judge in the competition!

This past weekend, Dan Torbiak, Executive-in-Residence at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba invited inVision Edge to judge a competition that had MBA students creating a board game that would facilitate innovation in a local utility company here in Winnipeg.

Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Nathan Greidanus set the stage for the judges, telling us to evaluate each game based on a number of factors: Would the game enhance innovation? Is the game creative and interesting to play? Does the game incorporate core fundamentals of innovation? And lastly, is the game relevant to the company?

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I don’t know. I fail a lot. I need help.

Posted by on April 10, 2015 8:00 am
Help Button - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

We all play to win: our planning and energy is put to good use as we move our organizations and teams to a better place every day. Our work is filled with the best intentions, but sometimes we take on too much. We feel the need and responsibility to know everything, down to the minor details, to ensure our plans are perfectly executed.

This can be especially true of leaders. The problem is that those seemingly good intentions can end up curtailing a team’s abilities and results. There is no better illustration of this as when a leader identifies innovation as the organization’s next “project”. Often, a leader feels the need to have all the answers, to carry the weight alone, and to come up with the new ideas for growth. The leader is the hub, the energy source, and without them, the project doesn’t exist.

Help Button - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB CanadaThe problem is that, in a situation like this, the team can disengage. What value can I, as an employee, bring to a project that is being micro-managed by the leader of the organization? Projects, tasks, and the overall plan falls short of their potential. This ends in a two-part failure: first, the failure of the project. One person cannot innovate alone; the project will eventually prove overwhelming as deadlines pass and progress slows. The second part of this failure is even worse: by holding everything close to the vest, the leader excludes employees from contributing to the project and the team members disengage as a result. Try selling everyone in your organization on the project when you’ve excluded their input — it just doesn’t work.

In Innovation Engineering, we teach three fundamental principles that all Black Belts (Innovation Engineering practitioners) understand and guide their work. I think this applies to leadership as well:

I don’t know, I fail a lot, I need help.

There. I said it. Is that ever a weight off my shoulders! Now, I don’t have to have all the answers! It’s OK if my idea doesn’t work! I need the help of others to succeed! I can rely on MY TEAM to help drive this innovation project, and they’ll learn and grow in the process. It will strengthen our team as we work together to face challenges, try out new ideas, and develop solutions.

That’s the beauty of Innovation Engineering: no one is expected to have all the answers. Even I, as the Black Belt, am not a guru. We’re all learning as we go, drawing on our own experiences and diversity and research to contribute to the team. No one person is the absolute expert.

I’ve learned a lot during my Innovation Engineering. One of the most important lessons is that no one person can innovate on their own. It’s amazing to see what can happen when the reins are loosened and leaders and employees innovate together.

We all play to win: our planning and energy is put to good use as we move our organizations and teams to a better place every day. Our work is filled with the best intentions, but sometimes we take on too much. We feel the need and responsibility to know everything, down to the minor details, to ensure our plans are perfectly executed.

This can be especially true of leaders. The problem is that those seemingly good intentions can end up curtailing a team’s abilities and results. There is no better illustration of this as when a leader identifies innovation as the organization’s next “project”. Often, a leader feels the need to have all the answers, to carry the weight alone, and to come up with the new ideas for growth. The leader is the hub, the energy source, and without them, the project doesn’t exist.

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