Innovation Culture Change 2.0 Beta -- Looking for Ideas & Advice

Good Morning Innovation Leaders, In my last post I outlined the principles of transformation for the Leader and the Worker.

The purpose of this post is to get ideas, advice and suggestions on a step-by-step process for transformation.  Pasted below is a pre-release 2.0 Beta for How to Create a Culture of Never Ending Innovation within your company, non-profit, government agency or university.

IMPORTANT: This is a BETA release - please provide ideas, advice and suggestions on this blog or on the Black Belt Blog  - because as you know “We don’t know!, We need help!, We fail a lot!”  - If you have private questions feel free to e-mail me directly. Innovation Engineering Cultural Change 2.0 Beta Overview

Background:  Version 1.0 of Innovation Engineering Cultural Change followed a path of 1. Acceleration, 2. Education and 3. Cultural Change.  The game plan was to build success then move out to the balance of the culture.

Over the past two years we’ve been thinking deeply about this. The Innovation Engineering Cultural Change 2.0 Pre-release beta is strategically the same as 1.0.  However it has greater step by step clarity.  Special thanks to the hundreds of Fail FAST, Fail CHEAP cycles run by Innovation Engineering Black Belts and Innovation Pioneer CEO’s in the development of this process.

The Innovation Engineering Cultural Change process involves five methodical steps.  Each step builds on the next.  In truth the “doing” of the process is easy. It’s easy IF - you have constancy of purpose for transformation to an Innovation mindset.

STEP 1) PROVE the Culture can InnovateThe process starts with a set of willing volunteers who prove that innovation is possible within the culture.  They do this by accomplishing dramatic innovation success with either an existing idea or fresh ideas.

They are usually a small group of pioneers with an intrinsic passion for personal learning and a commitment to the long term success of the organization.  Sometimes this is a specific business unit.  Sometimes it’s a dedicated innovation team.  Sometimes it’s simply volunteers from across the organization.

The group is lead by either the company Leader or by a member of the senior leadership who acts as their Management Coach and link to the Leader.

The key is that the success is so meaningful that even innovation skeptics have to rethink their position.   The success is of such a magnitude that it provides organizational confidence in their ability to innovate.  Classic methods of achieving this level of organizational confidence building include:

1) Dramatic increases in speed through discovery and/or through development


2) Dramatic increases in meaningful uniqueness - yet with less risk

3) Tech Mining & commercialization of breakthrough technology or technical wisdom

4) A breakthrough invention and filing of a Provisional Patent Application

The easiest method for implementing STEP 1 is a 3 month trial of the process.  It starts by defining and accelerating existing ideas for profitable growth. When existing ideas are used up, or not viable, fresh ideas are created for accelerating profitable growth.  This method has the advantage of having a lower investment cost up front and a “week by week” slower learning cycle. 

The most effective method for implementing STEP 1 is a four month Accelerator format.  This involves: a) a month of Stimulus Mining, b) 5 day Accelerator involving 2 hour Fail FAST Fail CHEAP cycles from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM and c) 3 Months of weekly project coaching and monthly process improvement leading to a quarterly pipeline review.   This method creates faster impact but it also requires a greater investment up front of time, energy and money. 

The timing of when to move to STEP 2 is highly variable -- it can be 6 to 18 months - to years - to never it all. 

The timing is a decision of the Leader of the organization. This is because while Step 1 is easy to implement as it’s done in a contained fashion - separate from the core culture (similar to a Skunk Works).   It’s easy to manage  - all workers are all volunteers - the group is kept small and very nimble.  However, Step 2  always results in significant conflict (adults hate change).  Therefore, the Leader of some organizations wait till they feel it’s the right moment.   Sadly, for many older CEO’s we’ve worked with that time to institute cultural change is “after they retire”. 

Leaders who do want to commit to cultural change start by declaring “amnesty” for all previous work - and make a public commit to their direct reports of the plan for transformation.    With this declaration the next 4 steps can proceed very quickly. 


STEP 2) PROVE Never Ending Innovation is the Priority of the Leader:  There is no better way to make a statement of the importance of Never Ending Innovation than to require that the organizations most important growth projects use the Innovation Engineering system to increase speed and decrease risk.

This requires the Leader to demand that every major project be managed using the Innovation Engineering system.  It needs to be demanded - as some project teams resist.  The primary reason teams resists is because they fear “transparency.”   Under the old way of working - where the workers were blamed instead of the system - they are right to fear exposure of weaknesses.  Under the new way of working - Death Threats and Milestones are simply problems to be solved.

The process starts with each project team getting training (I.E. Green Belt) and Black Belt coaching to help them define:  Customer, Problem, Promise, Proof, Passion, Profit and Math Game Plan.  Each project is categorized as being in Define, Discover, Development or Delivery.   For projects in the first two stages Death Threats are defined and being worked.  For projects in the last two stages Milestones (Stage Gate, Design For 6 Sigma, Lean PDD, Fail FAST Fail CHEAP) are defined and being worked.  30 Minute update meetings keep the team focused and keep the leadership engaged resulting in increased speed and decreased risk.

A key outcome of this step is the first quantified innovation pipeline for how the organization will grow in the future.  In effect, the innovation pipeline is how the organization will grow in the future by “working smarter” as opposed to by simply working harder.   The organization’s Innovation Pipeline becomes the first priority discussion point at regular Board of Director / Advisor / Leadership Meetings.

With the leader’s commitment to cultural change -  this is when the company leader and key managers often commit to the Innovation Engineering Management and Process Black Belt learning and certification process.   The leader’s follow the Management Black Belt track - the managers the Process Black Belt track.  NOTE: for Higher Education professors the program is known as IE Blue Belt and has a separate set of homework.  The process is as follows:

Step 1: Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute - IE 100 Class.(Note: New class identifier) Participants learn the theory as well as a broader breadth of methods than those taught in Green Belt.


Step 2: Innovation Engineering IE 200 Class(formerly known as BB 100) Participants learn and apply advanced coaching and management tools.
Step 3: Application Homework:  Participants apply what they learned to their current work.  Individual, one on one feedback from Master Black Belts ensures productive cycles of learning. At least 50% of homework must be completed in order to attend the next class.   As noted above, Higher education professors do Blue Belt homework.
Step 4: Innovation Engineering IE 300 Class (formerly known as BB 200) Participants build their confidence by completing two high intensity real world experiences that are significantly more challenging than anything they have experienced in the past.


Step 5:  Innovation Engineering Final Exam:  This is a comprehensive final exam that indicates that the leader has the skills and confidence to be certified and to use the appropriate certification trademark on business cards and resumes - Innovation Engineering Black Belt or Innovation Engineering Blue Belt.
STEP 3) EVERY Department Innovates Every Week:  With the top projects accelerated new cultural stresses soon become evident.  Some business units feel “left out” of the process as they are not one of the leader’s top priorities. The managers in all business units are provided training (IE Green Belt) and Black Belt coaching support in defining their innovation pipeline.Additionally,  some staff groups become barriers to the new innovation mindset and need to innovate their work processes to help the culture achieve Never Ending Innovation.  They too are provided training and coaching in defining their innovation pipeline. Examples of projects include:

• Finance: Creating a transparent ROI calculation & norms for project teams.

• R&D: Mining the Innovation Engineering patent opportunity database

• Legal: Support Innovation Engineering fast provisional filing system
• HR: Modify reward system to recognize innovation system leadership
• Sales:  Identify customers willing to run Fail FAST Fail CHEAP experiments

STEP 4) EVERY Employee Innovates Every Week: The next step is to educate every employee in the new mindset through the Innovation Engineering Green Belt training - ideally taught by your newly certified IE Black or Blue Belts.

An importantly learning we’ve had is that you should not train the mass of employees until you have something for them to apply their new learning on.

The simple way to do this is through creation of a private Innovation Marketplace for the organization.  This is a special section of your private IE Lab site where Requests for Advice, Requests for Innovation and Company Innovation Success stories can be posted.  Best practices are to challenge every employee to post three innovation success stories (where they used innovation to solve a problem) or requests for ideas and or responses every week.  Each month, a group reward - breakfast, lunch or even happy hour is held for those who posted at least three each week during the month.

The benefit of this approach is that it breaks down silos and encourages employees to think smarter - think more innovatively every week.

A key output from this process is a list of innovation success stories - both large and small across the organization.  Transparency of innovation efforts amplifies cultural change.

The Leader and leadership needs to ignite the change in this step.   Historically we’ve found that most cultures are so obsessed with fear of admitting weakness that the managers and workers won’t post any idea requests.  Thus, the process starts with the Leader and Leadership posting requests for ideas every week and responses to every request that’s posted to model the proper cultural behavior.

STEP 5) AMPLIFY Innovation Supply Chain Collaboration:  The purpose of this step is to create Innovation Supply Chain collaboration with key suppliers and customers.  Supplier collaboration helps you accelerate innovations with increased speed and decreased risk.  Customer collaboration helps your team proactively think about how you can use innovation to help your customers sell their customers.

This step requires the Leader to institute “top to top” meetings to create trust.  It often starts with a few “volunteer” departments within a few suppliers and customers.  It also requires a transparent conversation about how secrecy and intellectual property will be handled.

The process starts some IE CREATE sessions to accelerate successes, trust and belief in the power of collaboration.

It then moves to more educating them using the IE Green Belt training to provide a common language and process for never ending innovation.

Finally, key suppliers and customers are connected via a special link to portions of your organization’s private Innovation Marketplace so to increase day to day collaboration.