8 Your Innovation Toolkit – Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution

8

Your Innovation Toolkit

You’ve seen how Kill the Company and the other tools and techniques we’ve used throughout this book work toward transforming negative and complacent cultures into positive ones, enabling you to challenge the status quo, break barriers, and think differently to drive change. Now it’s time to put this knowledge to work in your own organization. To jump-start your efforts, here is a “how-to” guide for every tool that is essential to the futurethink Killer Innovation Toolkit. We’ll explain why you should select each tool, who the suggested audience is, and when and how to use the tool. For many of these exercises, we will also include worksheets that can offer further guidance as you explore which approach is right for you.*

First, here is a quick breakdown of the tools, along with the skills and behaviors they are tied to.

 

Kill the Company

WHY IT WORKS: As you’ve seen throughout this book, the Kill the Company (KTC) tool helps you take an outside-in view, allowing you to discover the ways in which you are most vulnerable. This enables your organization to focus on the things that need to change most urgently in order to stay ahead of the competition. Additionally, KTC energizes complacent teams because it allows people to have an “out of company” experience. It can be used to analyze a company, a product, a service, or even a function or department.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for managers and senior leadership.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: Although often used during yearly planning sessions, we encourage you to think outside the box and apply this tool whenever you feel that your team is mired in the status quo or has become a bit too complacent with its current success. You can host this exercise a few times a year with cross-functional teams, inviting different business units to participate, to make sure that your entire organization works hard to stay ahead.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:
There are many ways in which you could introduce this tool to your teams, but the suggestions below have worked well for many of our clients who have tried it.

1. Invite your team to a meeting (ideally, gather a diverse group from Sales, Product Development, Finance, Technical Support, and other departments) and give them this prompt to prepare ahead of time: Imagine you are our main competitor and have unlimited funds and resources at your disposal. What would you do right now to put us out of business, or render our function (such as Legal, Accounting, Operations) obsolete?

Kill the Company Idea Generation Worksheet

2. Encourage participants to brainstorm in teams and offer them some thought starters by providing a list of the different department names and functional areas that they could consider for destruction.

3. After a brief brainstorming session, have participants place their ideas up on a whiteboard using sticky notes. Once all of the ideas are up on the board, it’s time to prioritize the ideas that pose the biggest threats and those that can be fixed quickly or easily. There are many ways to do this. We suggest two here:

Kill the Company Idea Continuum

a. Cluster weaknesses by themes and then prioritize them from largest to smallest threat or from easiest to hardest to address.

b. Plot ideas on a 2 × 2 grid to visualize how these threats could affect your organization relative to key business criteria. Typically, we see companies gravitate toward one or both of the 2 × 2s below.

Kill the Company “Likelihood of Happening” 2 × 2 Grid

Note: The criteria “Likelihood of Happening” is interesting but can be deceiving if it’s the only part of the analysis used. Many companies have been caught off guard after saying, “That’s highly unlikely!”

Kill the Company “Competitor’s Ability to Implement” 2 × 2 Grid

4. Look at your clusters or grids. What does the prioritization tell you? Discuss:

a. What are the biggest threats?

b. Which ones surprised you the most?

c. How can you reinforce your strengths?

d. Have you stretched yourselves to think of unexpected events that might catch you off guard or affect this analysis?

e. How can you take action now to get to new technologies first?

f. Are there any quick-win fixes you can do immediately following this meeting?

At the end of the meeting, have everyone share three favorite ideas for how to kill the company. Then, consider whether you generated any ideas that you can now turn around on your competitors! Discuss how you can take action on these immediately.

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

You should now know the key areas where your company (product/service/function) is weak. By prioritizing these weaknesses, you know which to address first.

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Killer Queries

WHY IT WORKS: Posing Killer Queries is about shaking up complacency, getting to the root cause of issues, and discovering out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Rather than asking the same old questions in the same old ways, Killer Queries pushes people to really think about their companies. Asking Killer Queries is about confronting fear and taking a hard look at how to successfully move things forward. It helps people reveal candid information, uncover problems, and discover unknown competitive opportunities.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for managers and senior leadership.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: This tool is perfect for when you’re stuck on an issue and can’t move forward. Whenever your team is at an impasse because of politics, processes, or people, use Killer Queries to move forward. This tool also helps bring about fresh thinking on topics old and new.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:

To use this tool properly and improve the quality of your teams’ discussions, it helps to do a little prep work in advance and plan ahead.

1. To get better answers, ask better questions. Before diving into the Killer Queries that we provide below, think about how you can reframe your inquiry skills:

a. Ask open-ended exploratory questions that encourage people to offer more details. For example, start questions with words like: Why, How else, What else, In what ways, What could (instead of using words like: Is, Can, Do, Should, Would, Where).

b. Be creative. Ask something really out there, like, “Imagine it’s the year 2025. What would we do to …?”). You don’t want people to just respond with the first thing that comes to mind; you want them to really think.

c. Think about the “who.” To have more candid discussions and get fresh thinking, don’t involve just the usual suspects. Consider different perspectives: frontline employees, newest employees, competitor, customers who have complained, outside experts, vendors, kids, etc.

2. Decide on the issue/challenge you are trying to solve. For example:

a. Improve our pricing model on existing products

b. Increase customer loyalty for our services

c. Address customer concerns more quickly

3. Pick an individual, group, or team with whom you want to discuss this issue. To get the most out of this discussion, you want to clarify what makes this person (or these people) essential to getting the information you need.

4. Prepare a list of Killer Queries for the problem that you would like to address (use some of ours, or create your own). Ideally, prepare several questions and send them out in advance, so that people can bring some initial ideas with them instead of feeling put on the spot during the meeting. Giving your participants the opportunity to think about your questions ahead of time also makes for a more productive session.

5. The next time around, have your teams bring their own Killer Queries for one another—and for you!

Below, we offer a list of more than thirty Killer Queries for you to use as thought starters. These can also be found in chapter 2 and chapter 3.

futurethink KILLER QUERIES: THOUGHT STARTERS

Culture Queries

1. You’ve just written a tell-all book about the company. What secrets does it reveal?

2. Describe the environment in which we get the best work done.

3. It’s 2025—we’re the best company to work for in the world. What two things did we do to earn this award?

4. Who are the rock stars in our industry? Why do they work at the places they do? How do they behave daily?

5. You’re CEO for the day—what two employee behaviors would you change and why?

6. What time-consuming activities do we hate/find annoying?

7. If we could undergo a corporate culture exorcism, what three “evil” customs should be eliminated?

8. What inspires you at work (besides going to lunch)?

9. What do we wish we could do at work that we can’t right now? What would happen if we did it?

10. In what ways can we start encouraging people to take smart risks and try new things?

Product and Service Queries

1. What would we need to do with our product to blow the minds of top venture capitalists?

2. What two things could our competitors do to make our product/services irrelevant?

3. If we were hosting a forum called “How Our Products and Services Suck,” what would the main discussion topics be?

Customer Queries

1. How will customers make more money using our product/services?

2. What would our dream customer testimonial say?

3. We have 140 characters to instantly capture a hundred new customers on Twitter. What message is going to resonate?

ASK the Customer Queries

1. As a customer, what would make you fire all our competitors and give us 100 percent of your business?

2. What three things could a competitor do for you that would make you fire us and give them all your business?

3. Imagine you’re CEO of our company for a day. What’s the first thing you would do?

4. What do you value most/least about doing business with us?

5. In what ways do we hold you back from achieving your goals?

Logistics Queries

1. What can be done to reduce the length of unpleasant or undesirable experiences related to our offerings?

2. Which suffers more breakdowns—our products, our process, or our people? Why?

Trend Queries

1. What trend is most likely to uproot our business model? When will it be a reality for 20 percent of our customers?

2. One year from now, if our company is not setting the next big trend, what excuse will we use for why this happened?

Pricing Queries

1. Why would our customers continue to pay more for our product/service over Competitor X’s?

2. How low does our leading competitor’s price need to be before we lose one-third of our customers?

3. What would it take to sell our product at half the price? How would our competitors respond?

Management Queries

1. What acquisition would make the most impact in our business?

2. What would we do if a global competitor suddenly entered our market?

3. If we could hire five more people, what skills would they have and why?

4. If we could start a think tank, what would we think about?

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

You know there are more provocative ways to ask questions in order to better understand root causes or solutions. You can use this as a tool to shake up thinking in constructive ways. You now have a selection of questions that put people on the offensive instead of making them feel defensive or blamed.

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Kill a Stupid Rule

WHY IT WORKS: Kill a Stupid Rule reminds us that sometimes innovation is about not doing something or eliminating the things that are holding us back from being more effective. Innovation happens when we eliminate perceived and real barriers and streamline work.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: Use this tool to break the ice when your teams are stuck in a rut or when leadership needs to signal that they’re ready for change and innovation.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL: There’s a reason this is one of the most popular tools in the toolkit. It’s not only effective, it’s downright therapeutic, and fun to boot!

1. As the manager/leader, bring your teams together for a brainstorming session.

2. Challenge them to identify “stupid” rules (or assumptions that they believe are rules) that create barriers to innovation or fail to satisfy peoples’ needs. They can either suggest that the rule be killed or, if it can’t be killed, provide a suggestion on how to change it. For example, if they can’t kill the process of writing client contracts, the team can suggest ways to shorten the contracts, make them electronic, or rework them so that they require only one review for approval. The idea is to get people to suggest solutions, not just point out problems.

3. When people are ready, ask them to share their rules and lead a discussion using the following starter questions:

a. Was it easy or hard to come up with rules to kill or change? Why?

b. What trends or themes do you see?

c. Were the ideas you came up with really “rules”? Or were they processes, operations, or reports? What does that tell us?

d. Are the rules you came up with ones that we could simply kill right now?

e. What is holding us back from killing more rules?

f. How many of our “rules” involve another part of the organization, and are out of our control? What can you do about that?

4. Plot the team’s ideas from low to high impact, and from easy to difficult. See this chart as an example:

Kill a Stupid Rule 2 × 2 Grid

5. Once each idea is plotted into the quadrant where the participant thinks it belongs, discuss the following:

a. In what quadrant do most of our “rules” fall? Why is that?

b. Why haven’t we already changed the rules that are easy to implement and have a high impact on our business? What’s stopping us?

c. Are there any rules here we should change immediately after this meeting?

6. Pick two rules or processes that your team should kill or change immediately.

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

You now know that you can streamline things quickly, and that many of the things holding you back are internal barriers like processes and reports that you can control and act upon.

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From Impossible to Possible

WHY IT WORKS: This tool will help you and your teams overcome negative cultures, excuses for why something can’t be done, and barriers to innovation. It’s a surefire way to get a variety of key issues on the table and guide participants to think constructively about how to solve those issues.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: This tool is particularly relevant when participants feel frustrated, when they perceive there are many barriers to innovation, or when brainstorming sessions continually get stuck in the “can’t” mode instead of focusing on what can be done.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:

You’ll be floored at how many solutions you and your team can find to so-called impossible problems when you try this exercise.

1. Get a group together for a brainstorming session and break them into pairs or teams of three to four people.

2. Either download and print copies of the worksheet from our website (see sample on next page), or have each group create two columns on a sheet of paper, labeling the left column, “IMPOSSIBLE” and the right column “POSSIBLE.”

3. Present the IMPOSSIBLE challenge to the group for brainstorming. You can position your brainstorm challenge from many perspectives. Be sure to pick one based on the biggest barrier you face, or, have each team tackle a different perspective.

a. Industry: What things can we not do in our industry?

b. Operations: What things can we not do with our operations or business processes?

c. Company: What things can we not do within our company, either culturally or organizationally? What would other groups in our company say we could never make happen? What would you love to change to make your job easier but know will never happen?

d. Customer: What would our customers say we would never do for them that they would like us to do?

From Impossible to Possible Idea Generation Worksheet

4. For ten to fifteen minutes, have the group brainstorm on this list of “impossibles,” filling the left column of their page (or, if you’d like, give each group a flipchart to record their answers, so that sharing with the full group later will be easier).

5. Now, swap! Have teams exchange their list of “impossibles” with another team.

6. Give each team fifteen minutes to turn their colleagues’ “impossibles” into “possibles.” Encourage them to think critically about each one. How could they make those “impossibles” happen? What would they need? How would they do it?

7. Regroup and discuss how each team addressed the others’ “impossibles”:

a. Which was more difficult: coming up with “impossibles” or solving someone else’s? Why? Why not?

b. Which “impossible” is your top choice to make possible?

c. Are there any solutions we could implement quickly?

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

Often, there are solutions to issues you perceive as impossible to solve. Getting another perspective on a problem can be valuable for coming up with unique solutions.

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Picture the Future

WHY IT WORKS: This tool will help you envision your desired state for the future. Asking employees to “envision the future” is too broad a concept for most people because they often operate in a short-term mindset, which is why they communicate so poorly with PowerPoint slides, bullet points, and business jargon. It’s difficult for them to switch into long-term gear, which demands greater imagination and communication skills. This exercise forces people to think more specifically about what the future could look like by getting them to design a magazine cover from ten years into the future that celebrates their company and what made it successful.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all managers and senior leadership.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: When you need your employees to think long term. It helps to break people out of their tactical perspective. Help them achieve and act upon their visions by first clarifying the big picture.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:

Encouraging people to use pictures and stories to express their vision is a great way to release people from corporate-speak so they can not only imagine but also articulate a richer, more colorful future.

1. Ask your team to design the front cover of a leading magazine (Forbes, Fast Company, Bloomberg Businessweek, or pick your favorite), based on the following questions:

a. Our company is on the cover of XXX magazine ten years from now. What will the cover say about us?

b. We’re the lead story on XXX news website in ten years, touting us as the best company to work for in the world. What does the headline say, and how did we earn this honor?

c. What will the company look like five years from now?

2. Give participants a blank piece of paper, and ask them to free-sketch their answers.

3. Have each person put her sketch up on a wall so the team can see all of the sketches in aggregate.

Picturing the Future for Intellistar, LLP

4. Ask each person to share his vision with the rest of the group. When ready, use these questions to drive discussion:

a. What are the similarities in our sketches?

b. What are the differences?

c. How would our magazine covers have looked if, rather than sketching them by hand, we had used our traditional approaches, such as describing them in words or using PowerPoint?

d. What implications do these findings have for our organization?

e. Which is our favorite vision? Why?

f. Is it possible to accomplish this? Why or why not? What steps could we take in the right direction?

5. (Optional) Take it to the next level by creating a common sketch that unites your team’s visions.

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

It’s freeing to think about the future. This tool gives you a chance to step back and remember the big picture, the reason you work as hard as you do, and where the organization needs to be going. Drawing your vision enables you to tell a richer story than the usual dry PowerPoint presentations. It also makes you aware of the perspectives of others on your team.

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PPCO

WHY IT WORKS: This tool, which stands for “Pluses, Possibilities, Concerns, and Overcome,” helps individuals shift to a positive, opportunity-driven mindset. Instead of evaluating an idea on an all-or-nothing basis, PPCO teaches people to look at the various parts in order to uncover which areas hold promise and should be explored, determine what needs more information, and pinpoint which specific aspect is giving them pause. It’s a simple framework for providing feedback that drives progress instead of stamping out anything new or creative. It also teaches people to become better collaborators by showing them how to build off of one another’s ideas instead of shooting them down.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: This tool can be used in almost any situation for which ideas are being presented and evaluated. It’s particularly helpful when people are expressing a skeptical, negative, or dismissive reaction to ideas. With PPCO, you can teach people to be more accepting of novel ideas—something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. And, even if the approach of most people in your organization isn’t outright negative, this tool can still help by providing an evaluation framework in the absence of one.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL: When approached with new ideas—whether in a brainstorming session or one-on-one—or even when you are taking time to come up with new ideas and evaluate them yourself, consider the following aspects in this order:

1. Pluses: First, consider what is GOOD about the idea as presented. Frame your thoughts in a positive way, such as: “I like …”

PPCO Worksheet

2. Potentials: Next, think about and share the future BENEFITS that might result from this idea. Present these as: “It might …”

3. Concerns: Then, express your concerns as OPEN-ENDED questions. For example, instead of “I don’t think X, Y, Z works,” say, “How can we address …?”

4. Overcome: Finally, don’t end on a negative note. Once you express your concerns as open-ended questions, take time to BRAINSTORM ideas to overcome your top concerns. Express these as: “Perhaps we can …”

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

When using this tool, people are often surprised by the new possibilities they discover for an idea, or part of an idea, that they might have otherwise overlooked. You realize that it’s important not to discount new ideas immediately. Structuring feedback in this manner allows you to avoid a knee-jerk skeptical reaction to risk and to give thoughtful feedback to new ideas. It also enables your team to explore the potential in ideas that are not, at first glance, winning concepts.

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Forced Connections

WHY IT WORKS: Forced Connections provides offbeat inspiration and is a creative way to help people come up with solutions and ideas that are truly novel by using an object that is unrelated to the issue at hand. It’s a simple tool that anyone can use, anywhere, and feel like a true innovator.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: When your team needs to brainstorm fresh ideas and is “hitting a wall.”

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL: The next time you find yourself in a brainstorming meeting that has stalled, you can use this tactic to help participants shift gears. To illustrate the technique, let’s say your team is seated around the table, trying to come up with ideas for improving a shower. Thirty minutes into the session, the flow of ideas has dried up. Introduce Forced Connections in the following manner:

1. Select any stimulus in the room (for example, a pen) and list four or five characteristics of that object. For a pen, they could be: blue, portable, smells, has a cap.

2. Next, choose one of these characteristics and tie it back to whatever you were trying to brainstorm. Can you explore this characteristic in the context of the concept you’re working on? In the shower/pen example, you would ask, “How could I make a shower that is portable?” Well, maybe we can make a shower for camping. Then follow that thread for a while, exploring it from different angles.

3. Follow this procedure with two or three of the other characteristics you listed for the inspiration object. For example, “How could I incorporate smells into a shower?” Maybe we can try something with aromatherapy.

You’ll be surprised by what you come up with! In fact, the more offbeat the stimulus object (a shoelace? a light fixture?), the more novel the ideas are likely to be.

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

You are capable of generating novel ideas! When you’re stuck trying to solve a problem, using a fresh perspective or focusing on unrelated objects can help spark creative thinking.

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Assumption Reversal

WHY IT WORKS: Too often, we are limited by assumptions that hold us back from coming up with something new. We operate under these assumptions as if they were sacred, carved-in-stone certainties, and we ignore big opportunities for unfounded reasons. This simple technique forces people to stop thinking about what can’t be done and start thinking about what can be done.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: When your company or teams are stuck in a rut and feel disempowered to make an impact. By showing them that many of the boundaries they place upon themselves are not truly steadfast rules, employees can quickly regain control and be motivated.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL: Because it’s so hard for people to act in ways that are counter to their entrenched assumptions, it’s helpful to do a quick test-drive of this technique on a generic example before applying it to a group’s real-world work environment.

1. Gather your team in a room. Tell them you’re going to first demonstrate the technique with a brief, generic example before you really dig into your own organization. Pick a brainstorming prompt that’s broad enough so that everyone in the room will know about it and be able to contribute. For example, “Let’s come up with a new restaurant concept.” Everyone knows what’s involved in a restaurant to an extent that they can talk about it. Ask them, “What are the assumptions that we have about restaurants?” You’ll probably start hearing things like, “We need a table, a chef, good food …” Write these up on a whiteboard or a flipchart so everyone can see.

2. When you’re done, take these assumptions and turn them on their heads! Let’s assume, in fact, that to have a restaurant, you don’t need tables! You don’t need a chef! Maybe you don’t even need good food, or food at all.

3. What would that mean for your ideas for new restaurants? Can you think of other ideas for restaurants that embrace these reversals?

4. After warming up with this topic, apply this technique to a real business challenge that your team is facing. Ask what assumptions, or constraints, are involved in solving that problem. Write down all of those assumptions they’re taking for granted—and then reverse them. What would it mean if suddenly they were no longer true? You’ll be shocked by the ways people are able to think more freely once assumptions have been smashed.

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

Many of the things you believed to be steadfast rules are in fact just assumptions that we’ve all made about business. You’ve been placing limitations on your thought processes without even realizing it. Often, examining the opposite of your assumptions about your teams, company, or even industry will enable you to come up with game changers.

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40 New Opportunities (TRIZ)

WHY IT WORKS: This tool is a fantastic idea generation technique that allows you to gain fresh opportunities and generate more value out of existing intellectual property. It sparks new thinking and helps you see things from new perspectives.

This exercise is based on a common problem-solving technique called TRIZ (Theory of Solving Inventive Problems). Developed more than forty years ago by Soviet patent examiner Genrich Altshuller, TRIZ provides a systematic process for incremental innovation. Rather than trying to unlock the principles of innovation from the brains of inventors, Altshuller instead looked at the commonalities of their inventions. Through a survey of more than four hundred thousand applications, Altshuller identified unique problems and the methods for how they were solved. He classified these common methods into forty fundamental “Inventive Principles.” We have taken the key principles of TRIZ and translated them with a business perspective in mind.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: When you are trying to make an improvement or reinvent an existing product or expand your market.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:
This tool offers you forty brainstorming approaches (“opportunities”) to use when you want to improve your existing product or service. Some opportunities will not be relevant to your business or particular challenge, while others may trigger several solutions to your need. The forty opportunities are:

1. Deconstruction: Can we divide the product/services/process into independent parts?

2. Taking Out: Can we extrapolate the core functions of a product or service—the essential elements that customers must have or value the most?

3. Local Flexibility: Should we customize services or offerings to a local need—or vary them based upon locality?

4. Personalization: How can we better capitalize on customer differences?

5. Merging & Bundling: Is there a way to group like items or services to create more value?

6. Universality: Should we bring offerings in-house to discourage customers from seeking solutions elsewhere?

7. Nested Doll: Can we place one object, service, or system inside another?

8. Partnerships: Can we link up with other successful companies or ventures?

9. Streamline Processes: How can we better anticipate customer needs and provide services or products that meet that need?

10. Exclusivity: Can we create an aura of exclusivity that will drive even greater demand?

11. Contingency: Can we prepare emergency or contingency plans to deal with uncertain demand?

12. Remove Intermediary: Can the service or product be brought closer to the customer?

13. Smooth the Process: Can a process be changed to provide a smoother, more continuous flow for the customer?

14. Reversals: Can the service be performed in the “opposite direction?”

15. Empower: How can we empower employees to solve customer problems?

16. New Distribution: Can the business move into new distribution channels to capture a wider audience?

17. Change the Frequency: Should we increase the frequency of offerings or product releases?

18. Continuity of Action: How can resources be flexibly deployed to meet demand?

19. Speed Up: What can be done to reduce the length of unpleasant or undesirable experiences?

20. Pull Back/Overextend: Can we offer less and charge a premium?

21. Blessing in Disguise: Is there a way to use unpleasant experiences to create pleasant ones?

22. Feedback: Have we utilized feedback from customers or consumers to improve a service or product?

23. Alternative/Off-Season Use: Can the service or product be changed to respond to seasonality or fluctuations in demand?

24. Flip-it: Can our products be turned into a service?

25. Intermediary: Can a portion of the service or product be outsourced to another company?

26. Self-Service: Is there an opportunity for customers to self-serve?

27. Copying: What can be copied from one industry to another?

28. Lifecycling: Can products or energy be recycled—and become a free or paid product or service?

29. Transparency: Can we increase the transparency into our operations?

30. Recreated Experiences: Can an experience be recreated through the use of advanced technology?

31. Intangible Feel-Goods: What are the intangible parts of a product or service that customers would benefit from or feel good about?

32. Flow: How can we increase the flow of customers in and out of the service or business?

33. New Look/Context: Can we create a new look or feel of the service or business?

34. End-to-End: Can a group of similar products or services be brought together?

35. Discard & Recover: Is there a part of the service or product that can be revoked or discarded after initial use?

36. Alternative Communications: Can a variety of media be used for marketing efforts?

37. Lifecycle Transitions: What evolution trends can be addressed with new service or product offerings?

38. Extension: Can the business be expanded along the supply chain?

39. Segmentation: Are there any key market segments that we’re not yet targeting?

40. Competitive Environment: Is there a way to do the opposite of what our competitors are doing in order to meet the needs of an underserved customer group or gain a distinct competitive advantage?

Gather a team of six to ten people. This tool sparks a lot of discussion, so it’s best to use it in smaller groups.

1. Define the challenge: In one sentence, describe the issue you are brainstorming or the problem you are trying to solve. For example, “Create new opportunities for product XYZ” or “Streamline our customer experience.”

2. Using the worksheet we’ve created for this tool (see next page), select one or several opportunities. You can:

a. Focus on a single opportunity

b. Give each team a page from the tool to tackle (five opportunities per page)

c. Ask teams to pick opportunities that interest them and brainstorm ideas for those.

3. Write down all of the ideas that you come up with, even if you repeat yourself.

4. With your team, compare ideas and see which ones are most popular and feasible to implement. Discuss:

a. What was your favorite opportunity area? Why?

b. What new questions can you generate for that opportunity area to inspire new ideas?

c. What two actions are we going to take over the next month to act upon our ideas?

Sample Thought Starters for 40 New Opportunities Tool

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

There are many ways to enhance what you already have in order to achieve incremental innovation. When guided by a structure and science, you can quickly generate many ideas.

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Wild Cards

WHY IT WORKS: In today’s world, it’s rare that things go off without a hitch. There are almost always bumps along the road that necessitate a change of plans. This exercise helps teams prepare for the “wild cards” that get thrown at them unexpectedly and threaten to throw their innovation implementation efforts off track. Changes in timing, resource allocation, and market demands are all occurrences that need to be considered. This exercise will help participants understand how to plan and respond to unexpected events and be better prepared for Plan B.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: When your team members limit themselves to best-case scenarios or are stuck on generating Plan “A,” and are not devoting any time to working on alternatives.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:
Whenever you want to make sure your team is prepared for the unexpected and ready to think on their feet, take them through the following steps:

1. Get your team together for a brainstorming session (they can work in small teams or individually).

2. Prior to the session, pick a current business challenge, product, or service currently in development. Additionally, create “wild cards,” which are new constraints or changes in the business that would affect the issue you’re planning to brainstorm. For example, one wild card could be, “Your budget has been cut in half. What do you do?” or another, “Our top two competitors have merged. How does this change your idea?” Create enough wild cards to ensure you have one for each team/group in the brainstorming session.

3. Once you have the team gathered, ask them to brainstorm for fifteen minutes on ideas to address the issue you’ve chosen to tackle with this meeting.

4. WILD CARD! Sometime before the fifteen minutes are up, stop the teams and surprise them with the “wild card” challenge. Give one wild card to each team (examples on next page), and ask them to revisit their current ideas as well as brainstorm new ones based on the unexpected constraints you’ve just placed on them. Give them fifteen more minutes to work.

5. Debrief: Ask teams to share ideas from before/after wild card scenario. Use these questions to spark thought:

a. Which wild card was the most difficult to address? The easiest?

b. How can we better prepare for these types of wild cards happening to us in our business?

c. What additional scenarios should we be preparing for?

Wild Card

Wild Card

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

You are a lot more resourceful than you imagine. Sometimes the best innovation comes from restraint. Moving to Plan B is not failing—it’s smart. Failure is neglecting to have a Plan B.

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Futurist Sources

WHY IT WORKS: Knowledge seekers need to know where to go for cutting-edge news and resources. This handpicked list of sixteen books, blogs, and websites will help teams go deeper than mere fads—the list will help them track the fundamental driving forces shaping our world and predict what might happen in the not-so-distant future.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: Whenever your team needs to explore what the future has in store or is interested in new sources of insight.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:
Consider this your induction into a permanent state of continuing education:

1. Keep this list of websites, books, and blogs handy. You can add the websites to your browser bookmarks for easy reference and also sign up for the RSS feeds for the blogs.

Futurist Sources Resource List

2. Commit to visiting/reading at least one new resource per month.

3. Alternatively, assign a resource to review with your team and share insights regularly at your team meetings. Continuous learning happens when you place an emphasis on it.

Futurist Sources Resource List, Continued

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

There are many resources out there that go beyond the fads and give you a peek into the future.

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Questions for Hiring Innovators

WHY IT WORKS: How can you tell whether someone is innovative? Hiring someone for her innovation abilities has come to the forefront as organizations continue to shape their innovation teams and transform their overall employee base to “be more innovative.” This tool is meant to be a guide to use when beginning your search for a new person to join your innovation team or assist in your innovation efforts. It also serves as a general list of questions to draw from when trying to learn about an individual’s innovation abilities, regardless of where he sits within your organization.

SUGGESTED AUDIENCE: Relevant for all levels of staff.

WHEN TO USE THIS TOOL: When you are interviewing new employee candidates or current employees who want to be a part of your innovation efforts.

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL:
During an interview, use a selection of the following questions to help determine a candidate’s aptitude for strategic imagination, provocative inquiry, creative problem solving, agility, and resilience. Note that although many of these questions are suited for candidates of any level, some questions are better suited for candidates who are more experienced (mid- or senior level), and some are meant for candidates with several years of experience managing people or teams. As always, be sure to remember your audience and their level of experience when drawing upon these questions:

Strategic Imagination

1. Describe the most significant or creative presentation/idea that you developed/implemented.

2. If you had one month and a $50,000 budget to tackle any project you wanted, what would it be?

3. What external jolts or wild cards have the potential to significantly impact our industry? What would be the impact?

4. What new customer segments will emerge in five years? How will customers discover my product/service/company five years from now?

5. Describe a time when you came up with a creative solution/idea/project/report to a problem in your past work.

6. Can you give me an example of how you have been creative in completing your responsibilities?

7. What are the methods and systems you think should be changed in your current organization to achieve higher efficiency at work? How? Why?

Provocative Inquiry

1. What are the unshakable beliefs in our industry about what customers want? What if the opposite were true?

2. How do you use customer or peer feedback?

3. You have five minutes with our CEO; what question would you ask him that would make him rethink our business?

Creative Problem Solving

1. Tell me about one case when you tried to solve a problem with a totally different approach from what is normally used. What was the result?

2. In which situations do you seek the help of others for decision making?

3. Tell me about a time when you found a better way of doing something that proved to be an improvement on the existing system.

4. What steps do you take when there is an immediate decision to be made but you don’t have a lot of data available?

5. When was the last time you tried a new idea to improve your work performance?

6. How many things (like systems, methodologies, standards, etc.) were changed at your last job because of your suggestions? How did it benefit the company?

7. What are some things that you may change in the near future about your style of working? Why?

Agility

1. What do you do when priorities shift quickly? Give me one example of when this happened.

2. Tell me about a decision you made while you were under a lot of pressure.

3. Tell me about a specific time when you were given new information that affected a decision you had already made. How did you proceed?

4. Give me an example of a time when there was a decision to be made and procedures were not in place. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Resilience

1. Give me an example of when you failed at something. What did you do?

2. When you are unsure of the outcome when trying a new idea, how do you act? What do you do?

3. You have a great idea you’ve presented to management, but they’re not buying in. What do you do?

4. Imagine you’re on one of our lead product development teams. You’re months from launch, and your entire technology and/or marketing budget has been cut. You must still launch on time. What do you do?

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KEY TAKE-AWAY

Innovation abilities are difficult to decipher in an ordinary interview. Instead of only focusing on “what” candidates have done, dig into “how” and “why.” With these thought-provoking questions, you can really get an understanding of the candidate’s interest, experience, and capabilities with respect to innovation.

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Start Your Innovation Revolution

You are now ready to begin a new phase of injecting innovation into your organization’s culture. You know why it’s critical to your company’s future. You’ve learned about the tenets of change. You’ve heard the stories about organizations that have stumbled and those that have succeeded. You’ve got the toolkit that will help you build critical skills and behaviors.

As you ignite the innovative spirit across your organization, remember these final tips:

1. Identify: What behaviors are you looking to change?

2. Ask: What prevents you from instilling these behaviors in your organization or team?

3. Try: Easy does it. Don’t use all of the tools at once. Try one, see how your team reacts, and then introduce the next.

a. Start with your own team first.

b. Expand into other areas of the company as you get comfortable.

4. Commit: Start small so you can nail down a “quick win” to demonstrate momentum and commitment, as well as success.

5. Evaluate: Look for a mix of hard and soft results as proof that you’re doing the right things. Here are a few; some will be more relevant the more you change over time:

a. Increase in number of “rules” challenged by teams.

b. Increase in number of groundbreaking, game-changing, or first-to-industry ideas.

c. Increase in investments toward these groundbreaking ideas.

d. Increase in customer and/or employee satisfaction.

e. A change in attitude among teams—there’s a culture change of openly challenging assumptions and questioning the status quo.

f. A sense that teams are experiencing an increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo and want to find ways to make changes.

g. Outsiders begin to perceive your company as an innovator.

h. The tables turn, and competitors start trying to catch up with you.

6. Iterate: Try more tools, expand outside your team, and start creating real change.

The process of change isn’t easy, yet it’s not something you can ignore. You can’t let the status quo linger any longer—you must focus on the future, and that means taking action. If you effectively kill your company using the methods and tools outlined in this book, you can build a better future for all of the ideas, people, and possibilities that will flourish within the innovative organization that rises to take its place.

Note from Chapter 8.

* Electronic copies available for download at killthecompany.com.