That historic moment when the perfect team unifies beyond an opportunity, pregnant with possibility, is the essential scene of any great innovation legend: think Jobs and Wozniak when they created Apple, Gates and Allen with Microsoft, or Page and Brin with Google.
As a leader, encouraging your employees to innovate isn’t just a nice thing to do for them. It also delivers tangible value for your business. But what exactly can you do to motivate innovation from within your organization?
What you measure matters. Consider a bridge built in Laufenburg, a town that straddles Germany and Switzerland. As the two halves of the bridge being built came together, it became (embarrassingly) clear that they would not align because they were at different heights.
With technology’s modern pace of change, how can companies (and humans) best adapt? In March, I had the pleasure of leading a workshop with Tracey Zimmerman, President of Robots & Pencils, to answer this very question and offer a few potential solutions for today’s executives.
In 1968, Olympic fans and athletes watched in bemusement as a college sophomore jumped over the high bar backward. Until that day, every gold medal winner, indeed every Olympic athlete, who had competed in the high bar had gone over forward. Dick Fosbury literally turned his back on that tradition … won the Olympics … and forever changed the way the competition is played. Within eight years, 90% of high jumpers were using what came to be called the “Fosbury Flop.” Today, the Fosbury Flop is just the way you do things.
Professor Moran Cerf contributed research and insights for this article.
I’ve had a few conversations with Sophia the Robot, an invention of Hanson Robotics making the rounds of tech conferences worldwide. Preparing for a session at Webit 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria, I had a surprisingly engaging exchange with Sophie. (Unfortunately, she didn’t cooperate during our interview in front of 5,000 people. Stage fright, perhaps?) It’s unsettlingly easy to see how one day, after the clunkiness resolves, it will feel natural to engage with our technological colleagues. I feel I’ve gotten to “know” Sophia in a way and look forward to our next conversation.
In 1977, James Eyster, then a Ph.D. student at Cornell, published a book that would completely change the nature of the hotel business worldwide. His idea could not sound more boring—unless you saw the impact it would have. It involved the negotiation and administration of hotel management contracts.
Sometimes they don’t know it themselves. When they do, they hide it. But they are out there. Executives, managers, and business owners who want to stem innovation. If you no longer want your organization to try new approaches, if you believe that the best path to growth is to keep doing what has been working for years, this guide is for you.
In 1956, Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon infamously predicted, “Machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do.” While Simon missed by over 40 years (and counting), Artificial Intelligence (AI) entrepreneur and investor Manoj Saxena believes this time is different. While hype obscures the near term, Saxena explains, “AI is not a 50-year trend. It’s a 500-year trend.”
In my forthcoming book, Seeing Around Corners (now available for pre-order wherever you buy books), one of the major themes is that a major blind spot for organizations is that they tend to see the world through the lens of their existing industry. There are a lot of good reasons for this, but it can cause otherwise smart organizations to stumble.