As the Leader Your Job Is Leading To the Future not holding onto the Past

Hello Innovation Change Agents, It’s been a glorious week.  A week focused on the here and now.  A week looking towards the future.

This week I felt like I was inside the secret building at Apple where the next three years of innovations are laid out.   At Apple their Innovation Pipeline is not a 30 day, 90 day or one 1 year pipeline but rather a 3 year pipeline.  And everything has a looks like prototype built for it.  Jony Ives, Steve Jobs “soul mate” for design describes it this way in the new book Steve Jobs.

The great room is the one place in the company where you can look around and see everything we have in the works.  When Steve comes in he will sit at one of these tables.  If we’re working on a new iPhone, for example, he might grab a stool and start playing with different models and feeling them in his hands, remarking on which ones he likes best.  Then he will graze by the other table, and see where all the other products are heading.  He can get a sense of the sweep of the whole company, the iPhone and iPad, the iMac and laptop and everything else we’re considering.  That helps him see where the company is spending its energy and hot things connect.  He gets to see things in relationship to each other, which is pretty hard to do in a big company.  Looking at the models on these tables, he can see the future for the next three years. 

For 25 years I’ve been on a mission to change the world of innovation.

"¢ To turn the art of innovation into a science.

"¢ To create systems that increase speed and decrease risk.

"¢ To empower the worker and enable the leadership to lead.

It's been a long journey.  There have been great moments and sad moments.  Over the last two years as the Innovation Engineering Institute has come to life with the support of:

Government (NIST/MEP Network of 1,300 field people)

Education (University of Maine + 5 other Universities) and

Industry (Eureka! Ranch and corporate for profit & non-profit clients)

This week over a two day period a group of visionaries from NIST/MEP, the Ranch and the University (I was the link to the University) presented their visions for Innovation Engineering for the next 3 years.  We showed each other "works like" and "looks like" prototypes of the future that are MIND BLOWING.   (Sadly – they told me they want to keep the ideas secret as they have much to do – and they swore me to silence).  We shared ideas for 2012, 2013 and yes even 2014.   We shared ideas for new editions of Innovation Engineering Leadership Institutes, IE Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt programs, new methods of improving our teaching, new web tools, new web site designs, new metrics systems for reporting impacts, integration with new government services, new sales systems, new tools for helping organizations go even faster with innovation and with less risk.  We even shared a new system for yes — increasing speed and decreasing risk with the ideas that are for 2013 and 2014!!!!!

Together we got a sense of the sweep of all of Innovation Engineering. together we could see where the whole system is headed. 

I am here to report – that the Future is Bright. In fact it’s WICKED GOOD!  This meeting inspired your homework for this week.

Your Innovation Engineering Homework for This Week is Future Mining and Developing  your longer term Innovation Growth Pipeline 

Step 1:  Write your mission.  Mission is your higher purpose.  Your reason for existence.   Note: mission is not a financial goal.  It's not x% increase in sales.  It's not y% increase in market penetration.  For Innovation Engineering it's simple:

To Change the World —- of how people innovate

Specifically – a Sustainable Innovation Management System For Increasing Innovation Speed and Decreasing Risk.

Our method for accomplishing this is by teaching students (on campus, in government and in industry) an integrated system of tools and building within them the confidence to Create, Communicate and Commercialize Meaningfully Unique Ideas.

Step 2: Do some Future Mining  Gather a small group of proactive thinkers (3 to 6).    Note, I'm not interested in any REACTIVE people participating.  Give them the mission in writing and have each of them them do some Future mining.  Talk to thought leaders, do some internet mining, stop and trust your gut instincts about what the future could be.   Download the Future Mining worksheet from if you want a more structured approach.

Step 3: Leverage Diversity  Get the small group out of the office – and spend an evening – or half a day thinking about the future.  Again, I'm only interested in having proactive people attend – there will be plenty of time for reactive nay saying later.

Three stimulus prompts for you to ponder:

1. What are ideas that are NOT POSSIBLE TO DO TODAY – but that would create a meaningful leap forward for our mission.  Note, if you can do them today – they don't count.  I'm saying this so to push you towards thinking further out.

2. What are the IDEAL solution to our mission 20 years from now?

3. Assume that your organization has gone out of business.  What is the product, service, customer change, cultural change, government change that caused that to happen?   Then – what could you have done to prevent it from happening.

Talk about the above for 2 hours and no longer.   Then in the next 2 hours – build a bridge from some of the future ideas to today.  Put the idea for the future on the right side of a chart pad or piece of paper.   Then Mind Map back to the left – to today.  What things would you do today to make the future ideas become reality tomorrow?

When you're finished.  Download the Pitch Package – or if your organization is deploying the Innovation Engineering Management System then use the on-line forms and put your ideas into DEFINE.  Define the customer, problem, promise, proof, math game plan and the death threats.

Then, bring together a multi-disciplinary team to review the ideas and pick two for moving into Discovery.

The week after next Maggie and I are in Seattle with the Leadership Institute – December we are in Little Rock

We are close to announcing 15 more dates for the 2012 Edition of Innovation Engineering Leadership Edition.  It’s going to be WICKED COOL.

In addition in January you’re going to see….darn, they made me swear to secrecy …I’m not allowed to tell you what’s coming….:)