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Talent or Skill

What makes someone good at their job? Talent or skill?

According to research by Stanford professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues many people believe that people’s performance reflects either their innate talent for that activity or the amount of work they have done to acquire a skill.

In reality, of course, any performance reflects a combination of talent and skill. You can improve on just about any task with a lot of practice, though if your goal is to be the absolute best in the world at something it is also helpful to have some talent for it.

In order to put in the hard work to acquire a skill, you need to believe that the activity really is a skill you can learn. When you believe the activity is a talent then you don’t bother to work hard at it, because you attribute any limitations in your performance to your lack of talent.

Everything We Design, Designs Us Back

What is Ontological Design?
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ROWAN GIBSON is widely recognized around the globe as a thought leader on business innovation. Labeled by the media as "the Innovation Grandmaster," Gibson provides some of the world's most successful organizations with services and tools to help them deepen their innovation capabilities. He is also the cofounder of, which is now the most popular innovation website on the Internet.
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1. How can I challenge conventional wisdom and disrupt the status quo?

The first lens of innovation is "challenging orthodoxies," according to Gibson. "It's challenging conventional wisdom, deeply held beliefs, or common assumptions," he says. "If the world is zigging, why can't we zag?"

Elon Musk is a great example of someone who turns whole industries upside down by taking this approach. "Look at what he's done with Tesla," Gibson says. "Experts in Detroit told him he'd never be able to build a high-performance electric car, make it something people wanted to buy, build it in volume, or build enough electric charging stations. And he'd never be able to sell it directly to people on the internet."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again. "He challenged all those assumptions and gave the industry an electric shock," Gibson says. "The market cap for Tesla is now about half of GM's. And he's done the same thing in the rocket industry."

So next time you want to get more innovative, try overturning some rules of the road, or question the things that "everyone" knows. You may wind up shaking up an industry yourself.

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Get Off AutoPilot

We are Addicted to the New
The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself

Do your innovation efforts work?

The question you need to ask is not whether you are developing creative products, processes or business ideas, but whether your innovation efforts work - whether they serve your customers, serve your employees, and ultimately serve your shareholders.

Innovation is not about change for change sake. It is about purposeful change that creates value that reduces costs, increases sales, or improves cash flow.

In these troubling times, asking the right question is more important than ever. Do your innovation efforts work?
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Value Creation: The Ultimate Goal of Innovation by Robert F. Brands with Jeff Zbar

Why innovate?

Some would argue that companies innovate to achieve a heightened competitive advantage, streamline the organization, or create intellectual property - including patents, trademarks and other protected property - that create value in the portfolio.

Many reasons and rationales can be argued for the pursuit of innovation. Yet no purpose for or result from innovation can be more compelling than Value Creation. This metric is the ultimate measure of return on investment when measuring innovation's role in creating value.

Simply put: Innovation done well drives value creation - for the organization, its customers, its internal stakeholders and its external shareholders.

Successful innovation turns ideas into money. All the processes, creativity, time, sweat, research, dreaming, refining, modeling and retesting transform effort into tangible, valuable results.

This includes innovation that touches all sectors in the company or organization - not just in the creation of a new product or service. Enhancing the business model or networking, enabling a new core process, creating a new channel, brand or customer experience delivery model, or offering a new product system, boosting product performance, or providing a new service each creates value.

2. How can I harness the power of a coming trend?

Jeff Bezos did just this, Gibson says. "Before he was at Amazon, he was on Wall Street. He picked up a report and read about the explosive growth of the internet and wondered what kind of business would make sense in the context of that growth. Why didn't Walmart do that? The report was publicly available. Anyone could have read it."

So try looking at the world with an eye to the changes that are coming in politics, lifestyle, technology, and other domains. What businesses or products will those changes demand? Finding answers to those questions can lead to innovations that will make you wildly successful, Gibson says. "Innovators are able to pick up the signals," he adds. "They can see there's an oncoming tsunami that right now looks like a ripple."

The Need for Awe to Engage

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3. How can I leverage what we already have to create new opportunities?

Richard Branson is a perfect example of this approach, Gibson says. "He had a small record store in London, and now has this empire with 400 companies in different industries. It was taking the skills and the brand they'd developed in one industry and moving it to another." And it was a lucky thing they did, he adds, because if Virgin had remained in just the record business, it would be dead by now in this age of Spotify and iTunes.

Anyone can do this, he adds. "Every single company, and every single individual has a set of skills and assets. How do we repurpose and recombine those?"

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Needs-Based Innovation

Architectural Innovation Driven by Necessity. Lord Norman Foster at TEDx Institut Le Rosey

Get Over "Time Famine"

Melanie Rudd: How Awe Expands Our Perception of Time
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4. What customer needs aren't being met yet?

"Consumer research helps, but this is going beyond that and getting in the customer's skin," Gibson says. It's particularly powerful if you can fill a need that customers don't yet know they have. "We didn't know we needed an iPod," he says. "We didn't know we needed Airbnb or Uber or Nest."

Steve Jobs was a master at figuring out what customers needed before they knew they needed it, he adds. "He knew that customers don't know what we want, and I think he put himself in our shoes."

So try doing the same. Try to look at the world from your customer's viewpoint. What do they need? What are the pain points? Answer those questions, and you may find your own fountain of innovation.

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Declutter Innovation

People need time to innovate, but corporations tend to "tax" employees with time-wasting bureaucracy. As reported inThe Economist, clutter is taking a toll on both morale and productivity.

"Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School studied the daily routines of more than 230 people who work on projects that require creativity. As might have been expected, she found that their ability to think creatively fell markedly if their working days were punctuated with meetings. They did far better if left to focus on their projects without interruption for a large chunk of the day, and had to collaborate with no more than one colleague."

Endless meetings aren't the only forms of corporate clutter. Complex organizational design forces people to waste valuable time and energy figuring out how to get things done. Emails overload, especially when employees don't know how to use filtering techniques. Status reports dull the mind and waste energy by forcing employees to regurgitate old news.

Closing Questions

  • You do have to turn off your auto-pilot and turn on your childlike curiosity about the world around you. Are you ready to start your own innovation renaissance?
  • Which of the four lenses would you be most comfortable trying first?
  • Where might you use that lens to generate some new insights?
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Applying What We Know

Our approach to innovation is dead wrong | Diana Kander | TEDxKC