In this episode of In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with strategist Susan Reed about innovation. Reed is the founder and CEO of EdgeDweller, which for 30 years has transformed organizations and individuals through front-end innovation practices that are powerful, practical and proven. She and the team at EdgeDweller have helped launch more than 150 products and services for 122 brands representing more than 25 industries. EdgeDweller specializes in creating high impact programs for corporations, strategic business units, nonprofits, individuals and small groups. Reed is passionately committed to driving up profitability while sustaining high growth through insightful analytics and intentional creativity.
Disruptive thinking and making it safe
According to Reed, there is a love-hate relationship about disruptive innovation. She believes the key is actually about learning how to make the planning process and the ultimate launch safe. Businesses can reduce the risks and better develop the ideas by working within the organization, or with consultants such as EdgeDweller, to better formulate those ideas and develop very incremental paths to get to the launch. Reed says, “We create those ideas but show organizations a very incremental path to get there from where they are today. So if you can prove it in step one, you move to step two. That’s the only way, until you see it through.”
In one of our most popular podcasts to date, Reed discusses how to reach innovation faster. In essence, one needs to get rid of bad innovation habits. Check out her guide for innovation don’ts to effectively speed up your innovation success.
Innovation Don’ts (according to Susan Reed):
1. Never, ever start with ideation
Starting with ideation is the least effective path to implementation of innovation. And this is very often where we start. “Really?” you ask. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have success decision metrics in place, hence, there is no agreement on what equals true innovation if you start off with ideation. As a result, little if anything will get implemented.
2. No more one offs
As we all know, things move very quickly in this day and age. So if you believe that you can create an innovation and then give it an incremental upgrade, it’s going to be out of date before it even launches. It’s important to realize that you’ve got to have that long-term plan that requires a series of actions that need to happen behind the first innovation.
3. Forget skills-based or cross-function based teams
The idea behind this statement is that if you use these types of teams, you will only receive incremental ideas, versus real innovative ideas. These teams are working in this space daily; hence they know the rules and boundaries.
4. No more fun fest creative extravaganzas
While clearly not intentional, you are setting up your organization for failure if you don’t have a way to capture ideas and implement the really good ones that are suggested. Having an idea party or meeting will lead to frustration. You’ll end up in a worse place than you were when you started. Reed also refers to this don’t as “the rise and fall of excitement” – it is just that.
5. Never tell people that the innovation project starts with R&D or customer insights
Companies are beginning to realize this. A recent study showed that these practices are actually limiting growth and innovation. So while experts agree that organizations need R&D and customer insights, they recommend that you wait until future states are created, then use it for the feasibility of those ideas, to support them.
So are you ready to innovate or do more of it? Susan Reed recommends the following: Have a serious conversation on how you define innovation, what you’re willing to do and really understand that and communicate it very clearly to your team. Everything is based on that. When you articulate what it is you’re going to do, make sure that it’s going to work. Also remember that most initiatives don’t have a chance of working. “That’s crazy too.”
Want to get the full conversation on “Speed up Innovation. Dump the Junk?” Stream this episode in the player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes to receive new episodes of In Process Podcast directly on your smartphone.
This podcast originally aired in July 2017
Speed up Innovation Success. Dump the Junk.
Susan Reed is a strategist and CEO of EdgeDweller.
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
John: Hello, and welcome to In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn: And I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John: And we are partners in Trusted Counsel.
Evelyn: Let’s talk about innovation. Let’s talk about building creativity and harnessing it inside of larger enterprises.
John: I think that is a very hard thing for large enterprises to do as they grow their innovative cultures that got them there. They usually don’t grow with it, and they find it harder and harder to come up with good ideas and innovate.
Evelyn: Often suffer, and I think sometimes because we think of innovation as something that kind of pops from your head, and then you hope to be able to implement that into something that becomes of real value inside a business. It might be more interesting to actually look at it from the perspective of, well, you should have a process to help, basically, control how you decide what innovations are important and how they actually do get implemented inside of an organization. Everything requires, really, a process to get real benefit out of it.
John: Absolutely. And it’s just such a hard thing to do. We see it all the time and the effects of not having innovation in our work. Because some of our companies are acquired, because they are innovative, by large companies who were unable to create that culture and the processes within their own.
Evelyn: Or lose it during the growth process.
John: So they’ve had to go acquiring. Luckily, we have someone who is an expert on this issue. Susan Reed is the founder and CEO of EdgeDweller, which for 30 years, has transformed organizations and individuals through front end Innovation practices that are powerful, practical, and proven. She specializes in creating high impact programs for corporations, strategic business units, nonprofits, individuals, and small groups. She’s passionately committed to driving up profitability, while sustaining high growth through insightful analytics and intentional creativity. Susan has worked with brands representing over 25 industries. Her clients have included GE, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Disney, to name a few. Susan, welcome to the show.
Susan: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Evelyn: Great to have you. So, Susan, talk to us a little bit of what put you on this path of helping companies with their innovation processes.
Susan: Well, I started the real world, the working world, as a creative person. My first job was actually a copywriter, and I was very excited to be doing that. And the first thing I actually published ever, that I wrote, was titled “Your head, empty space, and what to do with it.” Interestingly enough, I’ve spent my entire life working on this theme and this thesis.
Evelyn: It was your life’s work. You just weren’t aware of it at the time.
Susan: I didn’t know it. If I had only known. So, in terms of getting started, I went from there as a copywriter. I, then, was asked to do this big, first campaign. It was for a bank. I was 22, 23. I didn’t know anything. So they said, “Hey, you need to do this bank campaign. Savings and loans can now charge a quarter of a percent more in interest. Well, you gotta say, ‘The bank, build up the credibility, the bank, etc., etc.'” I’m like, “Okay, wow, okay. Is that it?” So I said, “You know, so, wow, a quarter percent interest, 100 bucks. That’s a quarter. That’s 25 cents, right?” So I’m using my own thinking. So I come back with this campaign that says, “You just drank a year’s interest. You just ate a year’s interest.” The visual is this glass of Coke and this straw, and it’s sucking the drink out of the thing, and it’s talking about how silly it is to change locations. So present it to my … The person that I’m presenting, that is my boss at that point. Then he goes to the creative director, and he’s like, “Susan, you can’t talk about banks that way.” He said, “It’s very clear that you have lack of financial industry knowledge, and this is way too flippant.” I was like, “Wow, you know, I just, I didn’t know.” I was like, “Oh, bummer!” And so I’m sitting there at my desk.
Evelyn: It’s a great campaign.
Susan: Two hours later the creative director, comes and goes, “Wow! Look at this great campaign!” And he presents it to me. This guy had ripped me off. He had gone and he had changed, like, one or two words. And so, I’m this, again, 22, 23 year old, and I’m, like, little girl from South Carolina. I would go and knock on the door and say, “Hey, what’s the deal here?” I was fired.
Evelyn: Oh my god!
Susan: Fired me on the spot. I was devastated. Luckily, the next day, the client, who I had met several times, they were the biggest account, the agencies bank. They called and said, “Not only can you not fire her, but we want her to lead our business.” And so what happened is, because I was put now in this other position of being creative and leading product and services [inaudible 00:05:49] the regulation and banking, etc., that I had to create my own process for doing it. So that was sort of phase 1 of the career where … Okay, so I learned how to do it.
Evelyn: Forced by opportunity but in a youthful position. And yet, I mean, bravo. I don’t think that many early 20s people would actually say, “Oh, I have to have a process now because I can’t rely on other people to support me on this.”
Susan: You know, I even looked at the MBA stuff that was going on. And because I hadn’t been to school for that, it didn’t make sense to me. And of course, it didn’t make sense because I think differently, right? So I said that doesn’t make sense so we’re just gonna do it like this. So long story short, I did this for a while and other stunts in the agency world. And then I started phase number two, which was, we actually started a firm based on disruptive thinking. So the focus was to do it really fast. We’re gonna get these great solutions of the future. We’re gonna do it fast, and we’re gonna do it for just a little bit of money. Well, that was an interesting process because we put it together in 10 days. So we would come and get input from a client, turn it around in 10 days.
Susan: Okay, so, this was a long time ago. We had two different responses to this proposition. Number one was, “How dare you. How dare you even suggest that not only can you know my business that well in 10 days, but you can come back and tell me what to do with it.” So that was one response. And the other one was, “Cool, let’s try it.”
Evelyn: Way too short, or, oh, just right.
Susan: Yeah. And the tough part was, though, is that 95% of the people were in the “how dare you” because it was either you have to have industry experience. That was like the norm then. So, we wanted-
Evelyn: And I could still see that today in industry. I’m sure that there are many areas like financial services still. These are cruise ships that move really, really slowly.
Susan: It is. And it’s interesting because people that talk about innovation now, “It’s really taking off. It’s zooming.” It is. It’s still a small percentage, but it’s a lot bigger than it used to be. So that’s the good news. So we take this process and we said we want to prove that it works. So I sometimes laugh and say, yes, so we added six months to it and lots of zeros. And you know, people seem to buy into it.
Evelyn: We became traditional consultants.
Susan: Exactly. Exactly. And this whole time I’m also learning how there is this love-hate relationship about disruptive innovation and how you have to make it safe. So we learned a lot about it. So we go through this period of working with lots of different clients. We probably worked with over 150 different brands in the traditional consulting mode. Then-
Evelyn: So, but, what does that mean, we had to make it safe disruptive thinking?
Susan: We started off by saying, here’s the idea of the future. It’s like an Apple launch or a whatever, where you come up with a big idea. And so a lot of startups … It would be like a Facebook idea, it would like a whatever. They can’t get there, it’s too risky. So today we create those ideas but we show them a very incremental path to get there from where they are today. So they can prove it in step 1, move to step 2, etc. That’s the only way people do it, or it’s the fastest. So now people have a way of … So these are the things that we tested-
Evelyn: Seeing your way through it.
Susan: Yeah. 10,000 years to say, “Okay, what makes this thing work?” So at this stage, of course, we’re at a point of scalability in our organization, and this really gets back to where we are today. The clients were saying, “Teach us to fish.” The staff was saying, “We don’t think like you do.” And my personal life was falling apart. I was traveling all the time. I was going through a divorce, and I had a child. So I went to a shrink, “Help me!” I spent one hour or I spent many hours. But the first hour with this person was the most impactful hour that I would say I have ever had. And she said, “Well, Susan, you know, you’re an edge dweller.” And I’m like, “Oh, God, here we go. Here we go. Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She goes, “You sit on the edge of the earth and you see the future as clearly as most people see a cup of coffee on the table.” And she goes, “You aren’t weird.” I’m like, “right.” She goes, “But there aren’t many people like you and so you have to understand that you speak a different language. And so, unfortunately, you have to take the initiative to tell people how to communicate in your language, so you’re gonna have to do that.” So it was very … Oh, it’s just all the implications of everything I had sort of struggle with. So it was a great, great thing. So-
Evelyn: So, you go because you’re overwhelmed. And so then, a psychiatrist gives you a little more overwhelming stuff to do.
Susan: Yes! Yes! Yes! Exactly! And the reason it’s overwhelming, of course, is because number one, and I don’t know if you think about Herrmann Brain Dominance, but I’m yellow, I’m way high creative. Well, the thing that you hate the most is green, which is process. And so, I say, for seven to 10 years, I was a very active, yellow creative, living in green process hell. I said that’s how we move to process and scalability and also move in this creative scientist mode, proving it, making it fast, and etc., etc. So that’s sort of how we came about.
John: Susan, we talked a little bit about how you’ve helped clients with innovation. But, how would you describe what you do to perspective clients?
Susan: Well, that of course, is a big challenge and the language and simplifying, so I have a very simple answer for that. It is. We create big ideas and make them work. And big ideas to us are ideas of the future that have the ability to generate above-average performance or growth for a minimum of three to five years. It used to be seven years. Things are happening faster. And the “make them work” part of the definition is our focus on implementation. If it doesn’t go to market, it just flat out doesn’t matter. That’s why the end-to-end process, we created that because, let’s get it to market or we’re wasting our time.
Evelyn: Right. You can never know.
Susan: Right. Right.
Evelyn: So, before we get into more detail on the process itself, talk to us a little bit about what you see is the difference between creativity and innovation.
Susan: Creativity is the intentional use of imagination and original ideas. So it’s about how you use it. It’s intentional. It has to be in this world. Innovation is actually growth or performance at above industry average rates. So that means that it is in the marketplace. So innovation equals, it’s in the marketplace, it’s working, and if you choose, you can have way above growth or performance. But that’s your choice. The process gives people the choice.
Evelyn: I see. Interesting. So, the concept of innovation probably would be embraced more easily by large companies. I can see that would resonate with them. We’re not talking about, “Wow, we’re gonna grow 50% over this one idea.”
John: So it’s not always necessarily disruption?
Susan: No. We like to actually create disruption as the eventual point. Our laws and rules in this are that the first launch has to look and feel incremental. It has to produce short-term results. And it has to also prove the next stages of the process. So it isn’t a huge leap, but it is a very important piece to get you moving in the right direction to this future state. So it sets you up.
Evelyn: So, I know one of your key premises is, “Let’s focus on the don’ts before we do the dos.” Talk to us a little bit about what that is.
Susan: Well, in the process, the creative scientist phase, we studied everything on planet earth about what keeps it from getting into implementation. And so, we’ve outlined a few things that are just … we talk about these. And the first one is never ever, ever start with ideation. And it’s interesting because … We start with those because it is the most frequent bad use of innovation process.
Evelyn: Yeah. Because you would assume that if we’re going to be innovative, we’re gonna ideate first.
Susan: Exactly. But the problem is that if you don’t have any agreement on what equals innovation, what are the boundaries? How are we going to tell you what is successful based on what you’re creating? If you don’t have those decision metrics and that consensus upfront, it won’t get implemented. And the typical process that people use is, “Oh, these are great ideas, these are really good, can’t do those. Oh, these aren’t so good, but we could do those.” And then they default to incremental ideas. So we found that by putting decision metrics in front of the process, it triples implementation rates right off the top. So we feel so strongly about this. We won’t even start and just do ideation. That’s how strongly we feel about it.
John: What’s one of those decision-making criteria that you would have? What’s an example?
Susan: We have success metrics over time that are, for example, there’s certain kinds of innovation that create double-digit growth, 15% growth. There’s certain types that improve margin or whatever. So we put all of these specific metrics as part of that. But then there’s an even bigger part of the process where you actually go into what types of innovation do you need to fill our growth gap. So we have this series of things that we map out and have them agree on. And they actually use these frameworks now as a strategic plan. That’s pretty interesting. And we just did it to get to decision-making fast. It’s like, great, use it for that, I don’t care.
Evelyn: So let’s back up just a little bit because you did say that one of the criticisms that you got when you first introduced the 10 days was how can you possibly know my industry. So talk to us a little bit about, what is the preparation for going in with a client and starting through the process? How much study is there?
Susan: Okay. We use portfolio of your frameworks and it gets a little technical, and let’s see if I can push it up a little bit. But the bottom line is, we look at all the products and services that a company is offering and stages of maturity. And we show companies, like, “90% of your portfolio is maturing or in decline.” And it is eye-opener. And they have never … People say, “We have 3,000 people in our departments. What could you possibly tell us?” And we show them these views, and they’re like, “Oh my gosh. I never thought of it that way.” So it gives them a view of all their products and services, what their growth gaps are, which identifies the kind of innovation they need, which leads to the specific metrics that they need. So now they all agree on it as an executive team before we get started. And then we pull it out when we show them ideas. And it drives objectivity.
Evelyn: And so then it’s all supported in the plan overall.
Susan: Right. Right.
Evelyn: Okay, so, we start the process. We are building off of metrics and putting the agreed process in place, the boundaries in place. So Susan, what the next don’t?
Susan: The next big one is no more one-offs. Now this means that you take something, you give it an improvement, and that’s it. And the reason you can’t do that is because of the speed of change today. Things happen so quickly that if I create an innovation that’s a little incremental innovation, I am lucky if I get 18 months out of it, lucky. Before, these one-off innovations may have lasted 5, even 10 years, if you go back far enough. So the problem today is that, and people, all the CEOs, shake their head and go, “Yeah.” It’s like, your wheel spinning. Before you even get this thing launched it’s out-of-date. So, no more one-offs. And we talked a little bit of how we create a future state first. We use this example with GE when we were doing meters, dumb meters, a long time ago, so I could talk about. We said, “Okay, here’s the deal. You do one-offs. The dumb meter gets smart. Then it gets smarter. Everybody’s got smarter, and now it’s a feature’s war, and then it becomes a commoditized insert into the whole practice. We’re gonna take dumb meter. We’re gonna make it smart, and we’re gonna make it the portal into the household.” And this is, like, zillion years ago. And it actually is going to take the control from the utility company, and put it in the control of the consumer. So now the consumer has to manage. Well, that whole thing turned into a whole retail services industry in the energy space. So that’s an example. And this particular client called and said, “Oh my God. I’ll never do a one-off innovation again.” Because he could see the sequencing of events.
Evelyn: He knew that there was a chain that was going on [crosstalk 00:19:44] a reaction.
Susan: He knew it was a chain and the first stage was easy.
Evelyn: That makes perfect sense. So if we’re going to innovate, it’s a long-term plan, and there’s a series of actions that need to happen behind that first innovation.
Susan: Exactly. This is the future. This is where we’re headed but we’re gonna get there with these. And now they can buy into that.
Evelyn: So what’s the next don’t?
Susan: The next don’t is, forget skills-based or cross-functional based teams and creating innovation teams. We’ve tried every practice on planet earth, and tested and tested and tested. And most people today … I mentioned these specifically because most people today are resorting to these. If you use a skills-based team or a cross-functional based team, you will get incremental ideas and tiny ideas that everybody’s already thought of. And basically, these people know too much to innovate and to create because their heads are a little bit too deep into the space. And today-
Evelyn: So now, probably managed by the fact that if I’m skill-based and I’m in that area already, and I already know there are boundaries on what I can actually do.
Susan: Absolutely. There’s a lot of rules.
Evelyn: And then if I’m cross-functional based, then perhaps I’m weary and I don’t really understand who those other people are and [crosstalk 00:21:12].
Susan: And I’m also moving to how this idea impacts my particular part of implementation. So it builds in all the things that you don’t want. And testing all these methods, we created a method that’s based on cognitive diversity, and that is the unique ability to blend critical and creative thinking. And there’s six different types that we had to distinguish, and each type has a very specific role in the innovation and creativity process. For example, if I’m an ideator, I use low levels of critical thinking, very high levels of creative thinking. I thought a zillion ideas, they don’t mean anything. People on the critical side, their jobs is to take those ideas and interpret them into better ideas, and so everybody has hero tasks. And the interesting is because of this, it is an inclusive process and not an exclusive process. So now we have stabilizers and optimizers can make us saying, “Wow, I really feel valuable in this process.”
Evelyn: So how do they choose the team members?
Susan: We profile them. We had to create a profile. You know, we didn’t want to do it. We tried every profile on earth, but we couldn’t find one so we actually used a critical profile that currently exists. And then we had to create our own creative profile. It tests four different levels of creativity because it does not exist.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Susan Reed of EdgeDweller. Susan, when we left off, we were talking about all the don’ts that you should not do. And I like this next one. It’s called “No more fun fest creative extravaganzas.” What do you mean by that?
Evelyn: It sounds disappointing that we can’t do that.
Susan: Well, I’m glad that you said that.
John: It’s weird that I like the no fun.
Susan: It’s just funny that you said disappointing because we refer to this as the rise and fall of excitement.
Evelyn: We’re all excited we’re gonna do innovation, but now we’re not gonna have fun.
Susan: If you’re looking for creative engagement and excitement, then do it. It’s a fun day or two. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these things. It’s insane. But if that’s all you’re going to do, then you are setting up your organization for the biggest crash on planet earth. Because now, you’ve had them engage in this wonderful thing. And you aren’t really gonna doing anything with it. And this is not intentional. I don’t think clients really intend to do this, but we see the results again and again. So if they don’t have a way to capture ideas and pick the ones that are really good and put business plans and whatever’s behind them, they just don’t work and a lot of people find that it takes way too much time. So we say no more teasing guys. It’s just leads to frustration and you’ll end up in a worse place than you were when you started.
Evelyn: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. It probably completely demotivating if I’ve experienced one or two days of high creativity, thinking that something’s going to get implemented and then nothing ever happens.
John: Yeah. This seems to be a common theme across organizations, not even just for this process, but for all processes. You have this great day. All these-
Evelyn: And it’s just a waste of time. It has a negative impact in the long run.
John: And then, we have one more don’t. I’m sure there’s a lot more don’ts, but we have one more that we’re going to discuss here. And it’s never, ever tell people that the innovation projects start with R & D or customer insights.
Susan: Yeah, this is a biggie. Companies are finally starting to realize this. As a matter of fact, there was just a study done that said 84% of executives, of a survey of 200 people, said that they feel like these practices are actually limiting their growth and innovation. You know, it’s like, “Yeah.” So here’s why. And it’s interesting, and you understand, this is very traditional method. If you think about the way people think, only 1% of the population is actively disruptive. Okay? If you interview people and ask them what they think about something, they are giving you their point of view about today. If you look at research and data, it is giving the point of view about today. So whatever you create from that data, is going to limit your ability to create anything outside of, at this point, yesterday. So what happens is, it does limit them and it gives them these tiny incremental ideas and they spend hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on this stuff. So what we say is that you do need to use research, innovation, and customer insights, but wait until the future states are created, then use it for the feasibility of those ideas.
Evelyn: To support them.
Susan: To support them. Okay? Because we used to use this banks. I love this. A zillion years ago, you ask customers what they don’t like about being in a bank, they say, “Well, it takes too long.” So they do all this stuff. We said, “Well, you never asked them if they wanted to be in a bank.” Right? Because that was proven immediately after that. So those are the examples that we use.
John: This reminds me of, and I think I might of mentioned on the show before, when Facebook first started doing all of these updates and all these other new functionalities. It was overwhelmingly just hated by everyone. And Zuckerberg basically said, “Nope, this is the way. You’re gonna love it. People don’t know what they want.” And he ended up being extremely right. But had he had a customer insight, he would of missed it.
Susan: Yes, it is true. Exactly. And if anyone is disruptive, this is what we found in the research process, it’s kicked out as an outlier.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Evelyn: Right. Yeah. It’s crazy. I think the other thing that we hear all the time, the buzz word of “customer insight”. Everyone is so focused on, “What are my customer insights? And how do I actually make changes based on my customer insights?” So, it’s interesting that it really is a misnomer if you’re looking at it from future.
Susan: It is. And it really puts you down a tiny path and you don’t have a chance.
Evelyn: Amazing. Okay. So, Susan, you said that you started out with 10 days is the process, then it was 6 months, and so where are we now? How long does this actually take?
Susan: Well, we could move pretty fast. It depends on the clients. No. Actually, we’re back down to 10 days if the clients can do it. Because it’s been proven. We have all the stuff in between so we’re back to the starting point.
Evelyn: And so what’s included in that 10 days? You spend 10 days with the clients?
Susan: Well, the fast track is this. I can give you an example of a project that we just did. We did a project with Heifer, and there were lots of different nonprofits associated. We flew everybody down to East Africa. We went through the set-up, the decision metrics. We had profiled the teams in advance. But people were from all over the place, so we had to have the decision-makers at the table. We created four ideas of the future while we were there and paths to get there, including things like new dairy ecosystems, new distribution system that we evolved from Hawker’s to drones, new ways to donate with government, U.S., whatever, all these different entities, so totally reinventing all these things, and also a microprocessor unit that traveled according to this landscape. So it was good for emerging markets. And in 10 days, we did it in 10 days. It was insane.
Susan: But all the decision-makers at the table. Here we are one year later, and three of the four concepts are in implementation already. In 30 days, after the session, everything was refunded. It was crazy.
Evelyn: Wow. Complete return on investment.
Susan: Complete return within 30 days.
Evelyn: That’s amazing.
Susan: So now, these people understand what we do. They know how we do and they understood that they could get the decision-makers at the table. So, sometimes it takes 30 days or as long as people want. We’re like, “We don’t care. We can do it this way.” So but-
Evelyn: So is that an anomaly? It is an anomaly that Heifer International was able to actually mobilize all of those people for 10 days and get to work.
Susan: I would say that it’s growing in interest, probably 15-20%. The work that we do now occurs like that. Probably the big average is more like 4-6 weeks. But again, it’s mostly based on decision-making. You know, we get to this stage. Now you got to prove this. But if you have everybody there, you can do it super-fast.
Evelyn: So is the client typically in a stage where they have a bleeding problem inside the organization? And so 10 days sounds like a really good results or really just because we do want to go fast. Is it, or is it all of those things?
Susan: Yeah, it used to be 90% of the clients we’ve worked with had a real issue that needed to be resolved. But they still wanted to do it in six months.
Susan: But now more people are concerned about the future. There is a huge fear of irrelevance that the C-Suite shares. They say, “Wow, I see all these other industries being toppled by all these scenarios, so could it potentially happen to me?” So now there’s a little bit of preparation of moving into innovation mode and embedding it in their culture. So we have a lot of work there in terms of why people are coming in. And then probably, still half of it is based on … We have some real growth issues that we need to address immediately. But it’s not, it’s doesn’t skew as much as it used to. And so again, it’s depends on how fast they can get together and make decisions.
Evelyn: To actually move forward.
Susan: Yeah, yeah.
Evelyn: So, I’m really curious about the process. I want to be inside one of these. I want to experience one of those. What came to me while we were talking is, we had a guest last year who basically was focused on artificial intelligence and robobosses as a thought leader inside of [Avanade 00:32:02]. And he was basically saying that they’re going into companies and talking about, “You need to start thinking about these things.” And I’m so interested by the idea of a very short amount of time, a fairly diverse group of people and the source of the extensiveness of concepts that could be implemented inside the business.
Susan: Okay. This is a really good question. We were like this to government business more than anything else. Because are all kinds of artificial intelligence, blah, blah, blah , blah. Now, the thing is that you don’t start there. With us, we use emerging trends of the future. There are universal emerging trends because we do so many different spaces and industries. So we have a list. And so instead of reinventing the technology, we reinvent the purpose of what it is. So we may reinvent the supply chain. We may reinvent what the process is going to be. And then we determine the role of technology and the role of AI in implementing that process. It is very, very different. So we [inaudible 00:33:10] AI as a future, and then we bring the specialist in to fine-tune that path because we have all this infrastructure. Technology’s is always one of them. So we’re reinventing tons of stuff in the IT world. But it’s not based on reinventing IT. We’re reinventing the solutions that IT needs to drive. And that is a huge difference.
Evelyn: Using my system that we’ve created to actually take advantage of those technologies and opportunities that can help with this.
Susan: Right. So it’s very interesting.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Susan Reed of EdgeDweller. Susan, we’ve talked about the process and certain people that need to be involved in the process for innovation. Can you tell us a little bit about genius thinking patterns?
Susan: Yes. This goes back to the question that the staff was saying years and years ago, “We don’t think like you do,” and the notion that a lot of creative people think it’s magic, and a lot of people think they’re more magical when they’re quiet in meditative mode, etc., etc., etc. So I actually didn’t think there was anything to prove. I was like, “I don’t have a clue.” So this is a very, very long, lengthy study and program but we took really, really, highly creative people. We started with me just because I [inaudible 00:35:01]. So we started to say, “Okay, when I start here.” I was packing to go to a Key West one day. And then we were doing the session. And I go from there to five second content everywhere. This is like 20 years ago, whatever. How did I get there? And so anytime that happened, I would stop and write down all the thoughts that I would have in between that and the end point. And so doing this a zillion times with … You know, when people say, “Hey, where did you go? Where did you go? How did you end up, start talking, etc.” So long story short is, we took disruptive thinkers and started to have them record what idea, what idea, what idea. And what we found is that there’s seven patterns that repeat themselves. Opposition, what we call perspective that you use something funny to change your view, etc., etc. So we go into all and we found out that they are the same patterns. So it’s weird. And these disruptive thinkers, they do it, they string them, and they do it at lightning speed. So the premise became, okay, if this is true, then we will make these exercises and we will have you create a transformational idea by using the same patterns that this person uses by giving it to you in this sequence. And that’s what we did. And we proved that you can create …This is six hours of one-on-one coaching, that we were able to improve an individual’s ability to create transformational ideas by 240%. That moved it from, I don’t know how to do it to making it intentional. So it is nuts. And we call it a genius thinking pattern because there was a report that was going at the same time. And the only thing they could do to get genius people … That was the way they problem solved, and they kind of fit except for one. It fit very closely with this-
Evelyn: Into that process.
Susan: So we call it igniting your genius. Because 98% of people at the age of 5 have it, by the way.
John: That’s cool. What are the seven steps that they go through?
Susan: Well, there’s seven different patterns.
John: Or seven different patterns.
Susan: It’s a little bit complicated.
John: It might be more involved than we can actually through right now. So does this process happen inside of the 10 days? Or is this something-
Susan: Yes. Oh, I love this question.
John: Oh, okay. Because is that something that you have to sort out at the beginning?
Susan: So if we have genius thinking patterns, the right team at the table, we already talked about profiles, we use our emerging trends. We have 4 hours with 8 people. We get 300 to 500 ideas. 100 of them are individual ideas, really good. 10% at least are disruptive. Of those disruptive ideas, we get 5 to 7 that are ideas of the future that make perfect sense. And of that, the client will have a very difficult time choosing between 2 or 3 that makes sense for them. It is nuts. We didn’t set out to do this. We just started to review what we were doing. And so it is so fast, intentional when you use the right tools. And we can cover these emerging trends. We can cover more research just with the trends than you can cover with 3,000 pounds of documents.
Evelyn: That’s incredible.
Susan: It is. It’s stupid. It’s nuts.
Evelyn: So you’re taking 10 days now down into 4 hours.
Susan: But that’s just in the ideas now. And we don’t actually turn them into that, but we have the ideas in that length of time. We do 3-minute exercises. We actually say, “We spent, like, 290 minutes and we got this.” It’s crazy. But you got to have the right people at the table.
Evelyn: So you go through the profile.
John: So what are some good starting points for effective innovation?
Susan: Well, the first thing is to know how to choose and then use, of course, and then the end process. One of the biggest obstacles to innovation in this process, people don’t know where to start, which is fair, because they’ve tried all kinds of things. There are tons of things being offered to them. Don’t have a way to evaluate, so you need make sure that it’s end-to-end and you need to know how to choose it. That’s number one.
Number two is you have to make sure that that whole consensus building and decision-making frameworks are upfront so that you can clearly define what kind of innovation you’re willing to commit to, and specifically, what are those success metrics, and there’s a whole process that it goes through. So that’s very important as a step number two. Then, and only then, do you assemble your teams because you know what kind of innovation you need, right? So now I know how to put the teams together.
Now that I have all these pieces in order, now I’m gonna do ideation. Ideation is I think it’s like step number five in our process. Only then, because now when I create those ideas, I present them back to you, decision-maker in this decision-making framework. And then you remember, and you have to be objective because this kind of a contract, right? From there, you have to go into the next stage. So we call give creativity a chance, make it intentional. And then you go from there in a series of steps that, “Have you define it, evolve it, create infrastructure, etc., etc.” So it basically gets you from the ideas to the …
Evelyn: To the implementation, how you actually go about it.
Susan: Yes, to the implementation.
Evelyn: And so, because we talked about, this is not one-offs and future innovation. The implementation, though, is for short-term innovations?
Susan: Yes. Those are great, great questions. You go from the idea, you convert it into a future state, then you create the innovation series, and that’s a series of launches or innovations that you will do to get to that future state. Then you focus on the first one that you were talking about. The first one is incremental, has all those dynamics, so you use that for feasibility, and testing, etc., etc. So you get to that point. So you know it’s not gonna be impossible. That’s the commitment. That’s the way it works in the beginning.
Evelyn: And then so, taking us back to Heifer, and the fact that you came up with four innovations, basically, and three were actually implemented already, last year.
Susan: Right, or in the works. They’re being implemented now.
Evelyn: Is that a typical process there or is that really a fast one?
Susan: It isn’t typical that you would have that many move into implementation. Normally, you would have one that would go into a series. But they usually launch pretty fast, I would say within six months after the process, if there’s a thumbs up, that’s when they … Because they usually need to get that first thing out there.
Evelyn: Right. So talk to us a little bit about the team because we know that people turnover pretty regularly inside of organizations. There are a lot of layoffs that happen or we’re actually in more of a workforce mentality now where, “Hey, I’ve here for 8 months, 18 months, 24 months, it’s time for me to actually move on.” If you have gone through the process, you have this plan and rollout, what happens if either your decision leader falls out or the team itself falls apart? Is it completely dependent on that team?
Susan: No. The team is easy because you can profile. Because here’s the thing, you got a process, we can teach anybody how to do it. And that’s probably the greatest strength that we have. And we can also replace that thinker with a thinker that needs to be doing that job as well. Because we have all kinds of things, like, if you’re doing an incremental innovation, you need this kind of person leading it. So we match all those pieces. So that’s easy. The piece about, for big changes at the decision-making level, it’s quite a different issue. Because if someone comes in, then they typically, mostly, they have an approach to innovation. Some of them say, “Hey, this is great.” And someone goes, “No, I’ve been doing this for whatever year.” And so that’s the thing, you can’t control that effect. If that happens, then you either get embraced or you get bumped. The better, faster proof, the better. We like to prove it first and then roll it out.
Evelyn: This has been really great. Talk to us a little bit about, is there something that you would put out to our listening audience on, if you’re thinking about doing this, maybe some practical steps. Certainly hire EdgeDweller to help with the implementation. But is there anything that you could offer to them of how to actually, in addition to your process, how to innovate?
Susan: I would say have a serious conversation with yourself in terms of how you’re defining innovation and what you’re willing to do, and really understand that and communicate that very clearly because everything is based on that. And when you articulate what it is you’re going to do, make sure it’s going to work. We take 50 to 75% of initiatives off the table. They do not have a chance of working. That’s crazy, too.
John: Well, thank you, Susan, for joining us. It’s been definitely an interesting and helpful conversation, so thank you.
Evelyn: Oh, this has been great. It’s been fun, too. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.
John: If you’d like to learn more about Susan Reed and EdgeDweller, please visit edgedweller.net. There you will find information on development programs for creating innovations, capacity, developing leaders, and much more. We hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you’d like to download this episode, you can find our show on iTunes as In Process Podcast. If you have any questions on the topic or would like to be featured as a guest on our show, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for joining us.
Evelyn: See you next time.