Sharing is Critical for Innovation
I regularly get emails from innovators looking for advice or feedback on an idea and most are very appreciative. Some of those have resulted in major new products – and a few cases — a surprise of stock windfall since the start-up couldn’t afford to pay me.
Why would I be willing to do this? It’s part of “sharing” which I think is critical to the innovation success.
My first mentor taught me to “give away more than you take” because it’s the right thing to do and you build up a relationship you can call on when you need help.
I was immersed in this culture when I went to Silicon Valley the first time in early 1984. It’s the way things operate in the valley. People will answer your questions, give you access to the contacts, make introductions and provide you advice and feedback on whatever you're working on. Without the expectation of getting anything back – within reason. If you’re asking for ongoing extensive help and advice, then you should be willing to either pay for it or offer equity as a way to compensate.
Sharing is critical to building an ecosystem that helps innovators be successful. Let’s face it – its lonely out here as an innovator. It's only through sharing and support that any of us are successful. It's that one person who gave us that one piece of advice or introduced us to someone who turned into a great customer or the introduction to the VC that funded our start-up.
Special Guest: Bryan Kramer – author of Shareology
Bryan Kramer is one of the world’s foremost leaders in the art and science of sharing, and has been credited with instigating the #H2H human business movement in marketing and social. With over 300K social fans and followers, and an intimate understanding of the intricacies and interworking of both social technologies and social behaviors, Bryan is both a practitioner and authority on the subject.
In January 2014, Bryan’s first book “There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H” rose to the #1 top selling spot in Business Books on Amazon in its first week. In January 2015, #H2H was named as the number 1 buzzword for 2015 by The Writer. His second title, “Shareology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy”, published by Morgan James Publishing was released in July 2015.
Blogs at bryankramer.com
Brain Hack/Killer Question
Who is the source for your innovations? Where else could this be done?
What is your organization’s philosophy about innovation? Do you keep everything in-house, or do you outsource as needed? There are two schools of thoughts on this. By keeping the innovation process in-house, a company can build a sense of continuity and cohesion that links the entire family of products together in a satisfying way. Or you can outsource as needed, hiring talent for specific products and moving on once that product is complete. Neither is right or wrong; the more important point is to have a rationale for whichever strategy you choose, and to extract the most value from it.
Herman Miller: Outsourcing Innovation
Look at a company like Herman Miller. Their Aeron chair is an iconic design for the technological age, but it wasn’t designed internally. Instead, Herman Miller outsourced the innovation to leading designers that have their own firms. The famous husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames designed the classic 1950s Eames chair the same way. The point is that Herman Miller knows what their strengths are: manufacturing and distributing the final product. They also have a huge amount of practical expertise. For instance, they have experts in ergonomics, the less obvious details that are critical to the overall comfort and practicality of a product (e.g., the way a chair distributes the body heat generated by the user). They share this very specialized knowledge with designers, and then throw the company’s expertise into selling the final piece of furniture. Herman Miller has a very different idea of where design, research, and development should take place. Herman Miller has adopted the philosophy that it’s more important to ensure that the best and brightest are working on your product, and that this is a higher priority than making sure the work is done in-house.
Innovation Skill Gaps
You need to be aware of the fact that your team will have gaps in their life experience, their beliefs, and their focus. This may not matter in 99 percent of the projects you assign them, but there will be times where these gaps are a problem. Consider the possibility that you need to look outside your walls to find the right brains for specific tasks. You aren’t going to have 100 percent of the resources you need inside your organization; it’s just too costly to keep these highly specialized people on the bench until you need them. If you are an employee in one of these specialized departments, you need to be aware of how this shift is going to change your value to your organization. If you believe there’s a coming transition to the creative economy, then your future worth and career is dependent on your ability to come up with ideas for a number of companies rather than just one. As soon as you go dry, you are out of luck.
Another element of this Killer Question that you need to consider is the concept of open innovation, which has been a hot topic for the last few years. Open innovation is the approach where organizations go outside to secure a “funnel” of ideas. One example is companies who partner with state universities to leverage government-funded research, or companies who sponsor promising high school students in the hope that they will join their workforce after graduation. The US government is using programs like TopCoder to create open-source idea channels. Companies like Procter & Gamble post tough engineering problems on dedicated websites and offer prizes for the first person to come up with a solution.
Innovation used to be all about confidentiality, funding your own projects. The future is different. This shift from the knowledge economy to the creative economy requires that organizations think differently about their funnel of innovations. The fundamental value in the new economy is ideas, and ideas can come from anywhere. You don’t need machinery or a lot of capital to have ideas. The creative economy relies on the individual ability to come up with ideas that are interesting and compelling. The sourcing of those ideas can come from anywhere, and you need to recognize that there are really, really smart people all over the world. In order to stay in the game, you have to be on the constant lookout for where that next great idea is going to come from. Because even if you aren’t looking for it, I can guarantee that your competitors are.
So ask yourself …
- Are you doing your innovation 100 percent internally or externally, and do you really understand why you do it this way?
- How confident are you that you have the best possible innovation teams working on your projects?
- What would be the result if you radically changed your approach to innovation?
To get connected, text the word INNOVATE to 33-444. If outside the US, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to the audio for Why is Sharing so Important to Innovation? S11 Ep23