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How Tiny Whims Reveal Your Deepest Self

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We've all got the vague notion that our little preferences say something about us. For example, you might assume that someone who wears only tight clothing is both a little vain and maybe fast. But take that one step further: Could you use that to surmise their dominant hand or how many hours they sleep at night?

Tiny whims resized 600

Hunch has used their massive database to correlate millions of personal preferences, and dropped them into this astonishing infographic. For instance, if you don't support the death penalty, you're more likely to have never cheated on a test; if you prefer to squash a bug you see on the ground rather than shoosh it away, you're probably a dog person. See More

Source: Co.Design

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15 Killer Questions to help build a New Marketing Strategy

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So you think you need a new marketing strategy? Or do you want to make sure your current marketing strategy is solid. Review and answer the following killer questions to help you develop maximum clarity quickly. 

  1. Is there a written strategic plan and/or marketing plan with measurable goals? If not, what is the goal of a new marketing strategy? To achieve what?
  2. What is driving the new “go to market strategy” and what are the expectations from the corporate view?
  3. Are the products the same or repositioned? 
  4. Has a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) been formulated and tested? 
  5. Is there a plan for implementing and supporting the sales & marketing through third parties; including: training, allocation of transactions, measurement systems, staffing, etc.? 
  6. If repositioned, have focus groups been used for strategy evaluation?  With ultimate customers? 
  7. What is the risk of product cannibalization? For your company and other similar products?
  8. If products not significantly changed, why the marketing change? 
  9. How does the competition go to market with these or similar products? 
  10. What are the advantages vs. disadvantages of options such as direct selling…different costs, service quality, close rates, margins, training?
  11. How would these products fit into the company strategy?  How would these products, being sold through currently, add value in the eyes of the company customers? 
  12. What marketing vehicles have been explored to assure success…direct mail, solicitation, co-marketed with other products, etc.?
  13. Are there plans to test market this strategy using a controlled study with market segment variables, such as income, geodemographics, age, penetration by competition, pricing, etc.?
  14. To what extent has market sizing studies been performed and corresponding budgets developed?
  15. How have you integrated Social Networking into the strategy?


Option-1: Answer above questions yourself. Distribute the list with answers to your colleagues in your area and outsides your area and in other business units. Ask them to make your answers better (improve) or add new questions and the answers you had not thought of. 

Option-2 (4 hours): Run an ideation session. Depending on number of participants, set up working group (round) tables by assigning equal number of participants per table. Assign a question to each table and have them generate ideas using various idea generation Innovation Tools. Give 30 minute per question. Once completed, have each table pick Top 3 ideas and post them on a Top Ideas list at the front of the room. Repeat for each remaining question.


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Innovation Q&A with Rob Berman

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My friend Rob Berman had lots of questions about Innovation. He discussed these questions with me and had put together this discussion in his blog.

For all questions and answers of this discussion please visit Rob Berman's blog.

  1. Innovation: An Introduction
  2. Innovation: The Process
  3. Innovation: A Look at the Global Picture

 -Jatin Desai

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How leaders in your organization are helping employee become Innovative?

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To stay ahead of the competition, a company needs to constantly innovate, especially in the times when new highways and skyscrapers can change a city's look overnight and new flavors in your coffee at your favorite cafe change as fast as it takes to brew a cupful. 

But, the question is what does it take to innovate? It takes out-of-the-box thinking in terms of smart strategies, the ability to conceptualize something that is unseen by others and to have the courage to risk everything and bring it out first to lead the industry. 

However, in an organization, employees with creative powers and important project managerial roles often lack the organizational support to go with something innovative and brilliant in the fear of being snubbed by the boss or the leader. More often than not, leaders start assuming totalitarian powers over the company's workforce and direct them to work according to certain set parameters and guidelines, such that each and every project starts becoming clone of the other. In our experience, it is this clone-building practice at the level of leadership that causes grave impediments towards healthy and vibrant organizational environment.

In other words, lack of committed leadership support for innovation is the single largest barrier to employees bringing out their very best and being innovative – everyday. 

To check whether the leaders of your company are amply motivating the younger and ambitious work force or not, start by seeing whether they are too much into appeasing clients. If they are themselves in the constant fear of rejection by clients and have restricted the use of their brainstorming and creative faculties, chances are they will lead in a negative manner and discourage the teams working under them from carrying out any innovative plan, idea or strategy. 

Another great sign to look for is which of the ‘Three-S Mindset’ does your leadership predominantly use to run the business? 

  • ‘Start-Up’ attitude: meaning do they love to experiment a lot, fail, learn, and keep experimenting until something new arises? They are customer driven to find solutions to the unmet needs of the market or enhance current portfolio of products to make them better – constantly.
  • Scale attitude: here, the leaders have the courage to invest and grow the business fast. Leaders have demonstrated the required balance between growth and optimization, but are driven by speed to market.
  • Status-Quo: here the leaders are wired for keeping things as is and not rocking the boat too much. Here leaders have very low risk-tolerance, proactive about cutting costs, optimize everything, and do not show commitment to long-term investments? 

In our experience, leaders cannot afford to only use one mindset; they must use all the three above really well. This means organize the company strategies, structure, teams, and systems to leverage all three without causing disruption or disengagement of the workforce. 

Every leadership development program  must address development of the ‘Three-S’ mindsets. The DeSai Groups’ leadership programs are based on the principles of rationality and address the inner conflicts of leaders that restrict them from ‘thinking out the box’ and the invisible biases that limit their full attention to innovation and dynamism. Our leadership development programs are based on achieving two broad goals -- the motivation to motivate by engaging leaders of your company in self-awareness programs so that they come face to face with their own weaknesses and mental block against innovation and to show them how your company is under-performing due to these personal limitations. 

Thus, The DeSai Group encourage and trains leaders to become sensitive to the talents and skills of the work force while leveraging the experience and expertise of the best talent pools within. Leaders are taught to promote diversity, challenge status-quos, practice three-dimensional thinking, and identify emerging patterns for themselves and their subordinates that will propel innovation in the company. Ultimately, this will allow your company to benefit from their power to innovate. 

To build a climate and culture of innovation is a long-term process, which must happen at all levels: leadership, middle-management, work-teams, and at the individual level. 

Do not waste your company’s hard earned money on any innovation training workshops  until you have hard evidences that your leaders at the top are truly ready to walk-the-talk about innovation process themselves. Only then, you can expect teams and individuals to embrace innovation as way of life in your company.

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Nine Excellent Ways To Stifle Innovation

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Innovation doesn't just happen…it comes from awesome intrapreneurial teams. Are you or your company guilty of killing good ideas?

Yes, everyone at the top is interested in innovation. It has become a business mandate in many organizations. But are the leaders serious? We find that plenty of companies are not walking the talk. They want innovation, but also don’t want to recalibrate the organizational systems. These systems are where a good idea has as much opportunity to succeed as me going to the moon. Why so?

For starters, organizations do not have an internal muscle for a creative process. The creative process is not well understood and it is truly a fragile process. This situation promotes uncertainty; something most leaders do not want to spend time on. Additionally, there are very few internal experts who can support it and nurture it like there are for project management processes, customer service processes, budgeting processes, etc. This is very tough in today’s short-term focus surrounded by the fear-inducing environment of rapid technological change and dynamic markets—but this also makes innovation essential.

So what to do? First, kill the innovation killers. Here is our list of innovation killers that will need significant moderation if not surgical removal. You can discover for yourself if you have an environment that is crushing good ideas or allowing growth and change to be welcomed.

  1. Clear(?) and cumbersome approval processes, rules, regulations for every action at every level within the organization. Making decisions takes forever and when they are made, they take forever to implement. Too much process everywhere.
  2. Silos are promoted. The organization loves to allow departments and individuals to compete against one another for resources and protect their areas.
  3. The truth is one-sided the truth comes mostly in the form of criticism without praise. The glass is always half-empty. The focus is so much on execution, that the culture often forgets the impact on human spirit.
  4. Don’t trust new ideas. All ideas are evaluated with great suspicion and ‘yes, but’. When someone contributes a new idea, the first thing someone says is ‘yes but…’ followed by ‘not sure if we can do that, or we have never done that before, or management will not approve it, etc.’ Moving away from the status quo is very difficult and not often welcomed.
  5. Control and calibrate everything. The organization is very systematic, dashboard driven, precise, and project managed. Although all of that is very essential, the system does not allow for any quick experimentation of new ideas or technologies with spontaneity. Missing target goals is frowned upon more than the lessons gathered through failure.
  6. Organization is very secretive. Restructuring, product launches, competitive news, and executive changes all occur in a secretive manner. Leaders believe that “the less people know, the better they can stay focused on the day-to-day job.” The firm does not like to share bad news with employees until the last minute. 
  7. Promote class-based relationships. There are seniors and inferiors. Seniority and tenure are heavily used to promote fear-based execution. The culture perpetuates the idea that seniors know everything and they should get the best of everything. The higher you are up in the ladder, the more you are allowed to look down at others. Unpleasant duties can be delegated to inferiors.
  8. The pyramid is inverted. The higher-ups know everything important about the business, and the bottom does not need to know how the business should be conducted; as long as they do what they are trained to do.
  9. Leadership is invisible. Leaders are not able to connect to employees. Employees do not have confidence in the leaders based on their action and those of the top management team.

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Design Thinking: 11 Ways to Open Your Innovation Lens! (Part 2 of 2)

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In my last post I talked about organizations tapping into the collective pool of Design Thinking to unleash the Intrapreneurship in everyone.  Through this process I strongly recommended to learn to see “with a new lens” Here are 11 practical ideas that I believe will spark innovation! .

Here are my suggestions on how to come up with some great new ideas and build your new lens: 

1.    Think when you are not thinking. For example, going on a run or a walk, cooking at home, cleaning the house, doing the yard work, etc. Asking questions to stimulate curiosity and creativity has proven helpful for all kinds of endeavors, whether problem solving, product development, inventing, or communication. Begin by The Journalistic Six:

1.1 Who? (Actor or Agent) Who is involved? What are the people aspects of the problem? Who did it, will do it? Who uses it, wants it? Who will benefit, will be injured, will be included, or will be excluded?

1.2 What? (Act) What should happen? What is it? What was done, ought to be done, and was not done? What will be done if X happens? What went or could go wrong? What resulted in success?

1.3 When? (Time or Timing) When will, did, should this occur or be performed? Can it be hurried or delayed? Is a sooner or later time preferable? When should the time be if X happens?

1.4 Where? (Scene or Source) Where did, will, should this occur or be performed? Where else is a possibility? Where else did the same thing happen, should the same thing happen? Are other places affected, endangered, protected, and aided by this location? Effect of this location on actors, actions?

1.5 Why? (Purpose) Why was or is this done, avoided, permitted? Why should it be done, avoided, permitted? Why did or should the actor do it? Different for another actor, act, time, place? Why that particular action, rule, idea, solution, problem, disaster, and not another? Why that actor, time, location, and not another?

1.6 How? (Agency or Method) How was it, could it be, should it be done, prevented, destroyed, made, improved, altered? How can it be described, understood? How did the beginning lead to this conclusion?

2.    Listen to classical music. Go to a concert or a play or sit quietly in the park to daydream. Scientists at Stanford University, in California, have recently revealed a molecular basis for the "Mozart Effect", but not other music. Dr. Rauscher and her colleague H. Li, a geneticist, have discovered that humans perform better on learning and memory tests after listening to a specific Mozart's sonata. Recently, a Book called The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell, has condensed the world's research on all the beneficial effects of certain types of music.  According to the research outlined in the book, musical pieces, such as those of Mozart, can relieve stress, improve communication and increase efficiency. Creativity scores soar when listening to Mozart. In 1996, the College Entrance Exam Board Service conducted a study on all students taking their SAT exams. Students who sang or played a musical instrument scored 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and an average of 39 points higher on math.

3.    Read periodicals you would not typically read - a scientific magazine, for example, if you are more interested in business; or books outside your typical genre. In order to generate Diverse Thinking. Diverse Thinking has proven to be a critical competency in the creative process. Howard Gardner notes in Creating Minds (1993): "In contrast [to convergent thinkers], when given a stimulus or a puzzle, creative people tend to come up with many different associations, at least some of which are idiosyncratic and possibly unique. Prototypical items on a creativity test ask for as many uses as possible for a brick, a range of titles for a story, or a slew of possible interpretations of an abstract line drawing: a psychometrically creative individual can habitually issue a spectrum of divergent responses to each item, at least some of which are rarely encountered in the responses of others." If you really want to be inspired, here are top 50 inspirational website.

4.    Attend a conference or a meeting outside your field. By learning about other fields, you will develop some knowledge that eventually connects to other ‘dots’ in your life. Every sector is changing at a great pace. Be open to learning about how another industry works. Conferences and networking groups are the perfect forum to help you accelerate in a new subject. There are countless stories of how someone invented something because they were in a totally neutral environment. Being ‘away’ from your daily routine is a sure bet to help find creative solutions for your existing challenges. One of my favorites learning venue is the TED Conferences, along with the Discovery Channel when I cannot travel but still want to get away.

5.    Surround yourself with creative thinkers. Most organizations do not hire creative people. They hire for skill and “fit for task”. The hiring process is designed to improve predictability, reliability, and conforming to organizational culture. So, the chances are there are more ‘alike’ people in your area than there are ‘different’. This does not mean people are not creative. It means most working people do not practice tapping in to their natural creativity. According to Wall Street Journal, Mr. Marc Parker, current CEO of Nike, loves to look for that creative edge in unusual places and with unusual people, a perfect example of how to do this. So, it is up to you to bring out your own because others are not likely to help you, especially your manger. So, find some creative thinkers who are comfortable looking at things through a different lens, or are not afraid to challenge assumptions, or who naturally love to explore ‘newness’ in everything. Find people who love to doodle, draw often, or who are exceptional storytellers. 

6.    Immerse yourself in a ‘real’ problem. Ask questions, investigate possible outcomes. Nothing really can be explored without asking great questions. Most of us have never attended a course on ‘how to ask questions’. But, we know, without questions, there can be no new answers. Many people focus on results first and not enough on understanding the problem first. In our training workshops, we often teach a technique called State-Restate. In this exercise, the student starts with writing a current challenge they are working on; in an open-ended question format.  We then teach them to restate the questions in eight different ways. By the time they are done with the entire exercise, 100% of the people experience much greater clarity of their ‘problem statement’ than before. This exercise clearly illustrates how people often attempt to solve something that really was not the actual problem needing a solution. Once the problem is clear and concise, then dive in. Most likely, you will want to jump to a solution fast. Don’t. Follow these ‘innovation process’ steps instead: 

  1. First, find a small team (3-5 people) to work with you on this problem for an hour.
  2. Second, diverge – without judgment, without limitation, without constraints. Do not converge or select ideas yet. Look at your problem from 360 degrees (we call this Lensing); from everyone’s perspective – your boss, your colleagues, customers, suppliers, intra-company stakeholders, etc. Do not be ‘biased’ by your own thinking. Keep diverging until you are exhausted. If it is a small challenge, you should have at least 20 ideas to consider. If it is medium or a large challenge, you should have at least 100 ideas to pick from. We have generated over 400 ideas in 15 minutes when we have worked with groups of 30 or more.
  3. Finally, converge and select the few best ideas needing further nurturing. There are many voting techniques you can use. Contact us, and we can send you some ideas.

7.    Keep an idea journal.  Find your strong hour of the day and have your journal ready (maybe AM). What is an Idea Journal? An idea journal is accomplished when we take the time to commit our ideas to paper. It makes no difference whether it's done with a notepad or a fancy journal. The effect is the same. All your ideas need to be recorded. Why is it important? Throughout the course of any given day countless ideas come and go our way -- even though many of them may appear to be unrealistic to us at the time. For most of us, we simply discard them as a passing thought. The problem with this is that what we previously believed to be unachievable can change drastically as our minds are expanded with each new success that comes our way.

My best hour is from about 5:00am-6:00am. Some days it extends through the 30 minute car commute to the office. That is the time I have the most coherent concepts and feel a flow of what next actions are ready to get done. If you have a smart phone such as BlackBerry, iPhone, or Droid, you can use one of many ‘idea’ recording applications, such as from Dragon Software, where you speak your idea into the phone and it will transcribe as text. Then email it back to yourself or to someone else, to record into your journal. This is an excellent way to use technology to capture any ideas, anywhere, anytime. 

8.    Take a course to learn a new language or some other skill outside your expertise. Across the world, the emphasis these days is on a multicultural working environment. If you are in the US or in India the chances of you getting a job in Europe has increased, if you speak at least one European language. Companies place premium on communication globally and if you are able to communicate in the local language of the company, you already have a lead. It is also proven that people who speak and write in multiple languages seem to score better in life. In the US, The College Board, the primary testing authority for college admissions, calculated correlations between length of study of certain subjects, including English, math, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social studies, and Scholastic Aptitude Test(SAT) scores, and found that in almost all cases the longer a student studied one of these subjects, the higher were the scores. However, the verbal scores of students who had taken four or five years of a foreign language were higher than verbal scores of students who had studied any other subject for an equal length of time. Similar results have been obtained by other researchers who have examined foreign language study and SAT scores. 

9.    Be curious and experiment. Curiosity leading to innovation has been a hallmark of American society and was provided for in Article 1 of the Constitution: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." President Obama reminded us in his inaugural speech by saying "upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism...” In today’s no-nonsense environment, where everything is on a ‘machine-like’ pace, those who can stand out will rise to the top faster. Those who demonstrate curiosity and tenacity to experiment will become visible.

In our experience, we have noticed that leaders value people who display a never-ending curiosity for the many facets of the business. Similarly, successful employees as intrapreneurs display a never-ending curiosity that emerges as "passion" in a meeting room filled with people. What better measure of passion than curiosity? You can see its presence or absence in interviews, meetings, telephone conversations, or luncheon chatter. You can display it and you can discern it. Be curious about everything with everyone, and in every part of your life. If anything seems ‘boring’ to you, you have not been curious about it.  

10.  Articulate your idea, seek feedback from co-creative’s, or other people you trust. Put structure on it, harvest it. Everyone thinks they have the next big idea, just ask a venture capitalist. Over 95% of new small businesses fail because the owner had an idea that he thought was great. The problem was no one else thought it was great. Since the early days of modern commerce, there have been plenty of ideas to exploit in every sector across the globe. According to the TRIZ theory, there is no such thing as a ‘new’ idea. TRIZ says, all ideas and innovations follow one of 36 patterns of possibilities. So practically speaking, real innovation ideas are those that solve an unmet need in the market. So it is not about having new ideas or not, but it is about getting them out there first and fast. If you have an idea, quickly test it within your network, especially with those who have no affiliation with your idea. Testing an idea with your coworker is one thing, but testing it with your customer or with people who are not current customers will give you the best insights on the applicability of the idea. You will get more precise feedback about the need and impact of your idea without too much effort. If you keep finding ideas and testing them with the same people every time, you will get the same results you get today. Seek feedback from collaborators and creative’s. 

11.  Create a Greenhouse for your ideas. Young ideas need a Greenhouse for protection. In most cases, environmental forces within an organization will kill the idea before it becomes real in the explicit world. Locate who or what brings down your energy level. There are four primary negative forces designed to kill your ideas immediately. The first is time, the second is money, the third is people around you, and the fourth is yourself. For each, identify how to reduce the negative influence on the fresh ideas that desperately need ‘Greenhousing’; some attention, protection, nurturing, and growing. Greenhousing means keeping the ideas safe, then growing them naturally by being more curious, researching the elements and finding possibilities for impact. Don’t force them to sprout too early; that is, don’t tell others or discard them. Give these early ideas timely attention in the Greenhouse until they have some viability. Once you have confidence in the idea, share it with others for further discovery and testing. 

How can you add some of these to your list of ways to find inspiration and problem solve?

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Design Thinking: 11 Ways to Open Your Innovation Lens! (Part 1 of 2)

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I believe that innovation arises from ideas. Ideas show up when one applies a process of being creative. Creativity is shaped by an individual's engagement. Engagement and commitment to one's work is directly linked to clarity of Personal Values and the Organizational Values of an institution for which one works. Personal Values are molded based on one's Spiritual Integrity (alignment of thoughts, words, and actions). Spiritual Integrity is the expression of one's deep self-awareness of their inherent Human Values. Human Values are the same in all human beings. One's ability to unearth the Human Values distinguishes one's moral compass vs. that of another - sometimes we call that Character.

Therefore, if an organization wants to create a climate and culture of innovation, the best possible lasting solution is to help every employee and leader become more self-aware; more in touch with who they are and what they personally value. And I don't simply mean the definition of personal values but rather the expression of those values; i.e. how do those values show up in their work? - In their projects, in their email communications, in writing a proposal, in negotiating terms with a vendor or a customer? This self-awareness will allow everyone to 'tap into' their inner source where very powerful ideas are sitting dormant.

Great innovation leaders figured this out a long time ago - i.e. innovation arises from one's (or the team's) deep passion for something much bigger than themselves. These leaders have learned how to create ‘drive’ (as Daniel Pink describes in his recent book with the same name) for themselves as well as for their teams. We call this Design Thinking. When an organization taps into the collective pool of Design Thinking, they unleash Intrapreneurship for all.

Practicing Intrapreneurs, using Design Thinking, are the best source for Innovation.

The problem: It is difficult to find such leaders. Even if you do, it is harder to find organizations that practice Design Thinking and Innovation as a core expertise. So, how does one become an Intrapreneur inside an organization irrespective of corporate culture?

The first step we strongly recommend is to learn to see “with a new lens” – which is easier said than done. (My next post will include 11 Practical Ways to Open Your Innovation Lens!) 

Chuck Palus and David Horth, authors of The Leader's Edge: Six Creative Competencies for Navigating Complex Challenges, speak about the need to “see with new eyes”. Human beings are magnificent, imperfect, and predictable, and do not like change. That is why the entire Change Management field was born – to help organizations adapt to a constantly changing world. Since the days of Adam and Eve, Man has learned to lead his life through habits; looking at things with the same eyes, analyzing it with the same logic and creating the same perceptions. It is easy to get used to this routine. Most managers act the same way. According to the authors, most managers “act on what they expect to see”, take shortcuts, do not spend enough time analyzing information and making a sound judgment. It’s as if the managers are walking around blind-folded since they have already created built-in perceptions of what they see. 

In my opinion, the only way Man changes, is through the emotions of Love or Fear. Love as passion, to desire, to achieve, to give,  and Fear as the feeling of failure, loss, negative judgment by others, and death. These two emotions are at the center of human motivations.

Without motivation, permanent change cannot occur.

Without change, nothing new can be innovated. 

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