Welcome! Within these pages, I will explore the many facets of compelling ideas I've encountered with the hope that you will find inspiration for your own life. I encourage you to explore some of the Big Ideas that I support with my time and energy. Also, check out the Spark Chamber where we can explore possibilities together.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why do we oversell our ideas?

The worst thing in strategy is to introduce something with great fanfare and great hope that it is going to change the world, and five years later say, 'Well, it's doing all right. It's a little specialty.' That's failure. That's misallocation of resources. - Peter Drucker - Managing The Non-Profit Organization

Truer words have not been written.

The challenge for nonprofits is that unlike in the business world where promising ideas are tried all the time and just a few succeed, the nonprofit world of today expects every promising idea that is funded to succeed. It really shouldn't be surprising or even scary that some ideas fail.    What is surprising is that a whole lot more don't. After all, failure frees up resources for the truly successful ideas to flourish.

Our society has come to the right conclusion - that there are many marginally successful or duplicative nonprofits and nonprofit programs - and has prescribed the completely wrong medicine: Don't start new nonprofits and don't fund anything that has not yet been proven.

This medicine leads to a broken funding model.  It forces individuals and organizations with new ideas to "sell sell sell."  They need to convince the powers that be that their promising idea is so good, that it is worth funding even though it is too new to have a proven track record.  If the would-be ideapreneurs aren't successful with the selling, there won't be any funding at all.

So where do these ideapreneurs allocate their resources?  Idea marketing, fanfare, hope mongering.

Where should they allocate their resources? Good design, execution, evaluation.

What we need is a new path forward that allows us to take risks if the payoffs are promising enough without the need to over-analyze them or resort to exaggeration.  We need a way to design programs, monitor them, and then evaluate whether they truly are a good allocation of resources.  Ideas that don't measure up need to be tweaked or pruned, not in a manner that destroys the people supporting and executing them, but in a way that frees up those resources to pursue other promising ideas.  What we need is good innovation practices

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Get Inside the Box

A recent Wall Street Journal article observes that people are most innovative when they put constraints on their work based on what they already know. 

The article highlights five techniques that can add juice to the innovative process:
  • Subtraction - Removing seemingly essential elements like the teller from the bank (ATM) or the eyeglass frame from the glasses (contact lens).
  • Task Unification - Bringing together unrelated tasks and functions like straps on a Samsonite backback that double as a back massager.
  • Multiplication - Copying a component and then altering it like Gillette did by adding blades to a razor.
  • Division - Separating the components and then rearranging them like airlines did when they first started printing boarding passes at home.
  • Attribute dependency - Making the attributes of a product change in response to changes in another attribute or in the surrounding environment like transition lenses that get darker when the sun comes out.
For those who are looking to have impact on the world, or disrupt an existing industry, the lesson here is how important it is to understand and immerse yourself in your field of interest. So, as you are considering how your skills can be leveraged in a new way, try to find ways to get involved.  You can do this through the Business of "Yes" or by networking.  But, what's most important is getting inside the box.  It is only from in there that the truly innovative solutions can be found.