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What’s not innovation – the definitive guide

We are managing our businesses in a world of disruption where complexity, hypercompetition and uncertainty build our new reality. The quality mindset of the 80s made our companies more reliable, efficient and predictable. Unfortunately the days where quality represents competitive advantage are over. Innovation is the one and only way to survive, grow and earn superior performance.

Look at the cover of every management and business magazines: Executives from all sorts of industrieswhat-is-innovation are looking for ways to make their companies more innovative. For top management, innovation is the top priority. For middle managers, on the other hand, it is the new secret to be understood. Everybody wants innovation, but we found some critical misunderstandings about its concept that heps us comprehend what is and what is not innovation in business. We have been researching, practicing and advising industry leaders to systematically innovate. To help you master innovation we labeled 4 innovation definition errors that can actually reduce your innovative performance:

  1. The Improvement error: is to see innovation and routine work/improvement as the same thing: the worse thing you can do is to manage them in the same ways and try to deal with them using the same tools. They can be integrated but the project management of these initiatives is actually quite different.
  1. Benchmark error: When you see yourself as the only reference to label you own projects as “new things”, you are doing the Benchmark error. Some companies believe they are innovating when releasing a new product or adopting a new process that is, in fact, already being done by the competitors. Some of them reply saying that process or product are innovations for them, but this notion just does not help us to innovate: Innovation has to be new in the market where you compete.
  1. The Focus error: It consists in believing you are innovating as you generate a lot of weird ideas. Innovation is not creativity. Some products have been considered innovations before being launched. Creativity is the raw material of innovation, but innovation does not stop on the ideation phase: It is not about ideas, it’s about impact.
  1. The Business error: Product Innovation is just one of the many ways to innovate, the Business error is to focus all your attention on one type of innovation. Your challenge is to renew your business model and create your future’s competitive advantage. It doesn’t matter what type of innovation you are going to do.

Innovation Essentials  Executives in large companies need a strategic, integrated and actionable definition to guide through the pitfalls of innovation. In our perspective, innovation is to transform new ideas into business. Innovation is not something new: It’s something new that has real impact. The world is crowded with great inventors that never reached success with their inventions.

  • Innovation is more than product innovation. There are a different sorts of innovation types. Every company has a business model in which we can find different innovation opportunities. Innovation should be a process not an isolated event.
  • Creativity is the raw material of innovation but not the end of it: innovation starts with a new idea that has to be developed, tested and executed to become successfully innovative.
  • To innovate we have to use the right tools, frameworks and mindsets. We must understand the uncertainty in managing innovation projects.

To become more innovative, large companies have to, first, understand what is not innovation, and then create the ability to learn what is, truly, innovation and transform it in reality. See you in the next innovation, Maximiliano Selistre Carlomagno Co-Founder


The 7 best videos of 2014 to inspire innovators and entrepreneurs

YouTube has become a great source of content on any topic we are searching for and it could not be different considering innovation.

I have selected the top seven videos of 2014 to inspire entrepreneurs and corporate innovators around the world.

Felipe Scherer

  1. Unbroken

This is a great motivational video about not give up and believe in our dreams.

  1. Pain & Passion ft. Nick Vujicic

The story of Nick Vujicic is about overcoming and success. It is very inspiring when he talks about passion.

  1. The art of innovation: Guy Kawasaki at TEDxBerkeley

Guy has been dedicated to talk about entrepreneurship, innovation, social media and technology. In this great video of TEDxBerkeley he presents 10 lessons to innovate.

  1. OPEN INNOVATION: Amway Sends Out Scientists as Scouts

Open innovation is no longer new but this video pretty much explains the logic of the approach and provides examples how to put in practice.

  1. Apple – Mac 30 – Thirty years of innovation

This commemorative video was created by Apple to celebrate 30 years of the Mac. The history of the product is full of innovations.

  1. O DNA dos Inovadores – as competências para inovar

What are the skills needed to make innovation happen? This video presents the discovery and delivery competences.

  1. NOTHING TO LOSE – The Documentary – Ryan Blair

This documentary is about the life of Ryan Blair, an entrepreneur who left the streets to become millionaire.

12 apps to make innovation happen

Increasingly the different services and applications are migrating to mobile/tablet applications and it is not different when we are talking about innovation. In the last few years many apps have been developed to support the challenge to innovate. I picked 12 applications that can be used in the different stages of the innovation process. They can help us to identify opportunities, set business models, structure new ideas and follow up execution. Worth checking out (the links are presented for iOS but most of them are available on other platforms).

IDEO Method Cards The world famous design firm IDEO created a set of 51 cards for inspiration. The method involves 4 categories: learn, look, ask and try. For each of these categories there are activities to support the creative process.

Price: $ 4,99 Versions: iPhone and iPad

Creative Whack Pack Created by the renowned author of creativity books and techniques, Roger von Oech, this application provides 84 strategies to generate new ideas.

Price: $1.99 Versions: iPhone and iPad

Oflow – Creativity App This app brings a series of exercises to stimulate creativity. Additionally allows you to create notes and record the ideas generated, having the opportunity to share them.

Price: $ 1,99 Versions: iPhone e iPad

Lean Innovation Tools This one combines content, templates and tools to assist in the whole process of innovation. There are 5 stages (5D): define, discover, direct, design and develop.

Price: Free Versions: iPhone and iPad

The Brainstormer Great design and structure makes this app a good choice to help the creative thinking.

Price: $ 1,99 (another packages available for purchase). Versions: iPhone and iPad

iBrainstorm This is an excellent app to record brainstorming sessions when you looking for innovative ideas. Besides allows you to use post its and photos in the idea panels.

Preço: Free Versões: iPad

Brainstorming Canvas – Generating Creative Ideas Another one for brainstorming. It is a free app to record ideas. Lets you share your ideas on social networks.

Price: Free Versions: iPad

Journeys: The Customer Experience Mapping Tool Great app to map the customer journey. You can use it to identify opportunities from frustrations and other qualitative elements that can assist in generating innovative ideas. Can be uploaded images, videos and other information to help to characterize the customer experience.

Price: $ 4,99 Versions: iPad

Personas This app is a great tool for building detailed profiles of target consumers in innovative projects, focusing on behaviors, aspirations and problems experienced by them. Can be used together with the business model canvas.

Price: $ 2,99 Versions: iPad

Business Model Toolbox A more complete version (and expensive) of the famous business model canvas. Besides the beautifull visual allows you to place detailed information regarding projected revenues and costs.

Price: $ 29,99 Versions: iPad

SEBRAE Canvas This one is a free version of the business model canvas with only visual features. It acoomplish well the role to help to simulate different possible business models when structuring new ideas.

Price: Free Versions: iPad

Design Thinking Canvas This app uses the design approach using the following stages: context, opportunities, competitors, ideas, users, monetization and investments. Relevant information are generated in each stage to help to structure a new concept.

Price: Free Versions: iPad

This is not a definitive list nor is intended to cover all applications available in the market. If you know or use another one please leave a comment with suggestions of other apps that can help in the innovation process.

Felipe Ost Scherer

10 innovation books that every manager should read

Weeks ago we were talking about the challenge of one of our clients and how to help him in a project. Often we use our library looking for models, tools and theories to support our analyzes and prescriptions, just as a doctor does when he needs to deal with a situation of one of his patients. As we searched the books to solve our challenge we began to discuss what are the innovation books that every manager should read. We chose our top 10 innovation books that we recommend for managers to help to put innovation in practice.

The Innovator’s Dillema. Clayton Christensen introduced the concepts of disruptive innovation and how a well-managed business can be disrupted by new entrants. Detailing his research on the hard disk drives and steel producers the author showed that breakthrough innovations are a distinct alternative that deserves attention from large companies. From this one the author wrote at least another 4 great books: The Innovator’s Solution, The Innovator’s Prescription, and Seeing What’s Next and The Innovator’s DNA, all must-reads.

Blue Ocean Strategy. W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne argue the idea that the competitive orientation reduces the emphasis on innovation and that companies must create “blue oceans” which are new areas of the market where there is no competition. Highligh for a business tool called strategy canvas, very useful to comparing the value proposition of your company with other alternatives available. This is a simple but poweful way to visualize ando compare how the benefits of your value proposition perform.

Beyond the Idea. Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble focused on the other side of innovation: turn ideas into results within established organizations. The authors show that the challenges of structure, resource allocation and management of innovative projects are crucial to execute innovation. They use a model to classify innovative projects that is very useful to define management policies and approach.

Business Model Generation. Alexander Osterwalder co-created the book inspired by his doctoral thesis in which he defines, organizes and translates the business model idea. Displays the Business Model Canvas as a graphical tool for development, prototyping and testing of new ideas. The got popular by entrepreneurs and innovators that seen in it a clear and easy way to communicate key strategic choices of a business model.

Open Innovation. Henry Chesbrough redefined the practice of innovation management showing that not all opportunities must be carried internally and that not all ideas must came from inside the organization. The author’s work paved the way for systematically considering external stakeholders an important source in the innovation process and increase the efficiency of innovative initiatives.

The First Mile. Scott Anthony addresses a very important issue in innovation projects: how to overcome the initial challenge in turning an idea into reality. Established companies and startups can follow the steps and tools suggested in the book, specially the DEFT model (Document, Evaluate, Focus and Test).

Discovery Driven Growth. The authors Rita McGrath and Ian MacMillan wrote about the planning for discovery. A new approach to management of innovative projects that later influentied the lean start-up theory. The central point is that an innovative initiative has uncertainty and these must be tested as experiments. They called the tool discovery driven planning.

Innovation to the Core. The book of Peter Skarzynski e Rowan Gibson was writen to be a guide to managers that want start to manage the innovation. Each of the 12 chapters has questions that have to be answered to set the innovation practices. The idea is to elect innovation as a first priority in the business agenda. There are many tools and templates to leaders and managers.

Disciplined Entrepreneurship. Bill Aulet from MIT created the best set of tools for developing new business. Applies both startups and corporate innovation. The author offers a well illustraded guide in 24 steps that involve market issues, finances and business model. Following the lessons of this book entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs now have tools to make entrepreneurship more predictable.

Leading the Revolution. This one is a classic by Gary Hamel. The central thesis is the importance of radical innovations for companies in different markets. It is a book that presents the logic of innovation as strategy and aims to touch the reader that revolutions in the markets can be made. Despite a more strategic view it brings practical tips to make the “revolution”.

The 10 books listed above have lasting lessons and practical tools to who has the challenge to innovate.

Maximiliano Carlomagno e Felipe Scherer

Executive education specialist David Shoemaker talks about innovation skills and the Innovator’s Accelerator.

Develop skills related to innovation has been a growing demand for companies of all sizes. One of the key success drivers to become an innovator is to have people mobilized and prepared to put into practice the strategic intent.

Besides that, technology has transformed the way that companies has empowered employees. What was once a paradigm (online education) became a reality in training and business development strategies. Studies show that the learning effectiveness of an online training is the same or even bigger than a face to face course, but with all the flexibility and cost benefits that the online trainning offers.

David Shoemaker is a leading expert in corporate education and answered some questions about the Innovator’s Accelerator. He is vice chairman of Apollo Education Group, responsible for innovative educational programs developed for online platforms.

Read the full content below.

  1. Why Apollo developed an online training focused on innovation?

D.S. At an organizational level, Apollo saw professional development as a growth opportunity to complement the degree programs offered through its various subsidiaries, including University of Phoenix and Western International University, among others. Once the decision was made to enter the professional-development space, representatives of Apollo spoke to over 25 Fortune 500 companies, asking them to identify their learning-and-development pain points. Over and over again, the answer was innovation. Apollo had already forged a relationship with Prof. Clayton Christensen through his participation in The Phoenix Lecture Series. When Apollo approached him with the results of its survey and asked if he would be willing to author a course on innovation, he agreed.

  1. The Innovator’s Accelerator has been recognized as innovative product (it won the silver medal at the Edison Award 2014). Can you tell us about the value proposition of the product?

D.S. Innovator’s Accelerator is based on the compelling thesis, resulting from extensive research by Professors Christensen, Dyer, and Gregersen, that only about 1/3 of an individual’s capacity for creativity is genetically endowed. The other 2/3 is the result of specific behaviors, again identified through the professors’ research, that can be learned, practiced, and incorporated into one’s personal and professional life. After studying and observing some of the most creative business leaders in the world (Steve Jobs, Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, and others), the professors identified these behaviors as questioning, observing, experimenting, networking, and associating. They termed these “the five discovery skills.” Extending their research beyond a study of creative individuals, they looked at organizations that are able to establish and sustain a culture of innovation and found that such organizations are characterized by a specific combination of people, processes, and philosophies, which the professors called “the 3 Ps.” 

IAc, the shorter version of Innovator’s Accelerator, focuses primarily on teaching and providing opportunities to practice the five discovery skills. IAx, the extended version, adds an examination of the 3 Ps.

  1. How was working with three of the most renowned teachers of innovation in the world (Clayton Christensen, Jeff Dyer e Hal Gregersen)?

D.S. In a word, humbling. They are obviously three very smart people whose work is grounded in rigorous research. Professor Christensen, in particular, has been studying issues related to innovation for over 20 years. Yet despite their brainpower, their standing in the academic community, and their accomplishments, they are all very humble, very gracious, and very approachable. They were all very generous with their time, very engaged in every aspect of the process, and completely committed to creating a world-class online learning experience. It was and is a privilege to be associated with them.

  1. Apollo hired IDEO to develop the learning experience and the online platform. Can you talk about this unique learning experience?

D.S. The wonderful thing about working with IDEO is that they came to the project with a clean slate and open minds, devoid of any preconceptions regarding the content or the user experience and determined not to be influenced by prior experience. They did not base their ideation on any pre-existing products, but instead allowed the content, the intended outcomes, and the definition of the target audience to guide their thinking. It is a rare thing for a company of IDEO’s experience and reputation to be able to put ego aside and approach a new project with completely open minds, but that’s exactly what they did. At the same time, their designs were informed by a thorough awareness and understanding of emerging trends in both pedagogy and technology, and an expert ability to pinpoint their intersection. They remained true to their belief in an Agile development process, insisting on the rapid development of prototypes, which they then tested with representative samples of the target audience, refined, and tested again. The result is a user experience unique to online learning.

  1. Five competencies are the core of the Innovator’s Accelerator program. Can you tell us briefly about them?

D.S. In their research, Professors Christensen, Dyer, and Gregersen uncovered five behaviors characteristic of especially creative people, which they call the five “discovery skills”: questioning, observing, experimenting, networking, and associating.

Questioning refers to the ability to ask provocative questions that challenge the status quo: why? why not? what if? It is the constant refusal to take anything for granted, approaching the world with the wide-eyed, innocent curiosity of a child. 

Observing goes hand in hand with questioning. It’s the ability to see the world around us as if for the first time, each and every day; to notice what others take for granted; to step outside our routines, open ourselves to new experiences, and to approach those experiences mindfully, fully aware, fully conscious.

Networking refers not to the practice of building professional connections, but instead to interact with people outside our usual social, economic, and professional circles in order to network for ideas. It’s about seeking out other contexts, and then applying observing and questioning skills to those contexts in order to gain new perspectives on familiar problems. 

Experimenting is about a constant cycle of rapid prototyping, testing, measuring, iterating, and refining. It grows out of the understanding that no one gets it right the first time, and that what’s important is to give oneself permission to fail, and learning from failure. 

Associating is the ability to combine two or more unrelated ideas or concepts to create something completely new–for example, combining a steam engine with a sailing ship to create a steam ship; combining a portable hard drive with the bezel of a combination lock to create the iPod. Associating is the product of two or more of the preceding four discovery skills. For example, I might observe something, ask provocative questions about it, and out of those questions will emerge a completely new idea. Or I might gain a new perspective on a problem by networking with people outside my normal professional circle, out of which will emerge a series of experiments that will yield a new product or service. Most truly innovative ideas are the result of associative thinking.


About David Shoemaker

David Shoemaker serves as Vice President, Program Management at Apollo Education Group, where he oversees the design and development of cutting edge online learning experiences in both for-credit and non-credit formats. David has been a frequent speaker at education technology conferences and has published extensively in journals including Business Woman and CEO Today. David holds an A.B. from Dartmouth College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in dramatic art from the University of California, Berkeley.

In today’s leaner, meaner organization, innovation is crucial to creating and sustaining your competitive advantage. And we’ve got good news: Innovator’s Accelerator can teach your emerging leaders the skills they need to make an immediate and transformational impact on your future.

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