How Big Companies Innovate at the Speed of Startups

waveoffutureThe wave of the future is here!  If a big iconic company like Caterpillar is partnering with Uptake, Forbes-named ‘hottest new startup of 2015,’ shouldn’t your company be thinking twice?

 “…we are partnering with companies who want to be part of the solution and not disrupted by it. It’s challenging for the biggest companies to innovate at the speed of an entrepreneurial organization,” Uptake CEO Brad Keywell told Forbes magazine’s Brian Solomon.

Here’s the full story:

While co-creation between large established firms and entrepreneurial organizations is one of the quickest paths to market-winning innovation, it isn’t always smooth sailing.  Different cultures, processes, and priorities must be aligned.  Mike Docherty’s acclaimed book, Collective Disruption, describes a proven framework;  Mike will be leading an exclusive How-To session on January 21 in Chicago. Several seats still remain.


5 Signs Your Organization is Stuck – And What to Do About It

car-stuck-in-snowEver feel like you’re spinning your innovation wheels? That the more your company does to generate growth, the more things stay the same?  How do you deliver the results your CEO is looking for?

‘Stuckness’  – and plateaus – are pretty common. This brief self-quiz (excerpted from Collective Disruption) lists some typical signs and causes.  See which ones are true for you – and then what you can do about them:

  1. You may be turning out the same number of new products every year, but that method of innovation is just keeping you at base level. It’s preventing a backward slide, but it’s not growing your margins, and it’s not growing your top line. There’s no point blaming the slow economy or some other outside force for this stasis you’re in. Lack of growth is often a sign you are stuck in incremental mode.
  2. You’re identifying needs to support today’s business but are missing the major shifts with your customers and new segments of customers that you could have captured.
  3. You’ve been surprised too often by disruptive solutions, sometimes introduced by your major competitors but increasingly by new players you’ve never even heard of.
  4. Funding is over-allocated to incremental ideas at the expense of breakout ideas. Others may argue that you have some truly breakthrough projects on the drawing boards. Look, for a moment, at which projects in your innovation portfolio really get the support to come to fruition. Do you find that incremental ideas get a lot of support quickly while the breakthrough ideas stall, stay in a zombie state with no real financial support, or get killed off outright?
  5. Management talks about innovation but doesn’t really want it to happen. This can be a problem as high up as the C-suite. If company leaders are talking about transformative innovation but making no change in process or policy to support the new behavior, then it’s just talk.

If any of these are true for your company, you’re not alone. Big companies are terrible at risk taking and disruptive innovation, and they need much more than theory on how to innovate in this new world. They need partners—partners who run toward risk with arms open wide, partners who haven’t been around long enough to develop a cannon of behavior that favors optimization over innovation. Big business needs to partner with entrepreneurs, and do it in new ways.  One of the best ways to get unstuck is having a strong young team to push your metaphorical car out of the snowbank.

For more on this approach, read this excerpt from Collective DisruptionMichael Docherty, the author of Collective Disruption, will also be leading an intensive ‘How-to’ session, Collective Disruption to Accelerate Growth, on January 21 in Chicago. (Details here – call 800-338-2223 or 781-891-8080 or sign up online; note there is a $300 discount through Dec 15.)  Stop spinning, get moving!

Start-Ups Take Note: Amazon Launchpad Just Announced

While different than Quirky, lo-and-behold, look what just popped up: Amazon’s Launchpad!  Its concept is not unlike Quirky’s, but it goes much further.

The main categories are Body, Food, Gadgets and House. What’s cool are the featured categories which include Connected Products, Health & Fitness, ‘Funded on Indiegogo’ and ‘Coming Soon.’  All very trendy. I have no idea how if or how Launchpad will take off (pun semi-intended), but for product developers it’s an array of new ideas — and/or competitors — to consider.  For consumers, it’s a way of choosing products that feel more unique.  Launchpad is also cleaner-appearing than the rest of Amazon, and has a number of investors backing it.  This could be the start of something big. I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

Here’s the story:

Amazon Launchpad makes it easy for startups to launch, market, and distribute their products to hundreds of millions of Amazon customers across the globe

Benefits include a streamlined onboarding experience, custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon’s global fulfillment network


(NASDAQ: AMZN) – Amazon today announced Amazon Launchpad, a new program that makes it easy for startups to launch, market, and distribute their products to hundreds of millions of Amazon customers across the globe. The program offers a streamlined onboarding experience, custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon’s global fulfillment network, all geared toward helping startups successfully launch their innovations and share their stories. With Amazon Launchpad, startups can overcome many of the challenges associated with launching new products by using Amazon’s retail expertise and infrastructure to create awareness and drive sales.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Quirky – You Will Be Missed

Holy moly, wow, no?! !  I just didn’t know what to think when I stumbled across this Fortune video: ‘The company’s CEO Ben Kaufman sits down with Fortune Editor Alan Murray to explain why Quirky’s business model didn’t allow the innovation platform to succeed.’

Quirky failed? How could that be?

Ben has been the bold and eminently likeable poster child for innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization – helping bring inventors’ dreams to life for six years.  In fact, just the other day I saw some Quirky plug/wire organizer thingamajigs at TJ Maxx and smiled to myself.  Cool, I thought.  Ben was someone I invited to keynote a conference (though logistics didn’t work out); I was glad to see the Quirky label in a popular store.

So when I saw that Quirky, the company, failed, I was both stunned and bummed.  After watching the video, it makes more sense.   Check it out:

While the combination of razor thin margins and price perception/limitations of the Quirky brand is tough, I still believe there are ways to do what Quirky attempted.  And I am certain that Ben Kaufman, like all resilient entrepreneurs, will get back on the horse and succeed.

As for Quirky, I wish I knew what the better business model would be.  Its absence leaves an important void to fill.  What do you think?

Kano Methods Uncover the Devilish Details of Customer Satisfaction

The Kano customer satisfaction model provides a disciplined process for using customer data to uncover hidden needs and the key features that trigger purchase decisions.  In the webinar posted below, expert Wayne Mackey walks us through the Kano methodology, provides some examples of how it is best employed and also talks about a new collaborative program to help people get the most out of what these important tools can offer.



The Kano Cupholder Conundrum: How well do you know which features actually sell your product?


“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” is how the old saying goes that illustrates the vast diversity of the human concept of value.  What is essential to some is meaningless to others, which represents the most perplexing challenge of product definition and portfolio management.  Even if you could put every feature possible into a product, research has shown over and over again that only a critical few will affect the customer’s purchase decision.

The automobile cupholder is the perfect example of a product feature that was considered an afterthought by most, but which actually held tremendous power over the consumer, sometimes holding the important distinction of “dealbreaker” if missing or poorly executed.  The challenge for product developers is to find a systematic way to focus scarce innovation resources on these powerful features and minimize time wasted on insignificant others.

The “Kano” customer satisfaction model, named after it’s creator, Noriaki Kano, was created to help product developers analyze their product around how customers view important features.  At it’s basic level, the premise is that most features fall under one of three categories:

  1. “Must Have” features are basic necessities and requirements of a product.  For example, tires are a “must have” feature of a car.
  2. “One-Dimensional” features are those with variable performance where value and price can increase when the performance increases.  In a car, one could consider engine horsepower to be this type of feature.
  3. “Attractive” features are those which can greatly delight and even “excite” the customer.  This is where you can get the most surprises, such as a simple and low-cost feature like cupholders or when heated seats were first introduced to cold climate drivers.

By doing a formal Kano exercise, including customer surveying and data plotting/mapping, one can quickly identify areas to focus on which will affect the bottom line and help teams make better decisions on critical design tradeoffs and investments.

If you’d like to learn more about the Kano model and how to make it work for you, Management Roundtable is offering a free webinar on June 10, 2015, “Kano Innovation Collaborative: Finding True Differentiators – Making More Profitable Products.”  Follow the link provided for more information and to register for this session.


Staying in tune with the evolution of the digital consumer…

In an age where college hobbies quickly become multi-billion dollar digital megaliths, keeping on top of what influences customers during the dawn of the “Internet of Things” phenomena seems like trying to hit a target that’s moving at light speed. As soon as companies had websites mastered, along came Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, and just a few years later, those are now graybeard dinosaurs threatened by an influx of new upstarts.  How can we possibly update our approaches to stay in tune when the rules of the game and the players themselves never stabilize?

In a recent webinar with Dave Norton from Stone Mantel, a firm focused on creating meaningful brand experiences, he outlines 8 digital success factors and specific ways in how customers are changing today’s and tomorrow’s rules of engagement.  Below you can review the slides presented at the webinar which discusses how ideas such as Positive Computing and IoT are creating new opportunities to engage customers on deeper and more meaningful levels.

This webinar was produced in conjunction with Stone Mantel’s annual retreat for digital strategists. Called “Summer Camp,” this is a different kind of learning and networking event intended for executives and their families to have a relaxing and fun excursion at a beautiful venue while collaborating with peers to learn the latest tools and methods that bring digital strategy to life.

Summer Camp is strictly limited to 25 participants and will take place August 5-7, 2015 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado springs.  For more information, click here.