The SIMPLE way to become an expert at Innovation Engineering

The best Innovators and entrepreneurs soak up every bit of stimulus they can find. As they “fill their mental food processor” they make connections. As they acquire more stimulus and experience new connections are made – and powerful ideas revealed. I was reminded of this recently when doing some stimulus mining for an upcoming Eureka! Inventing project. Our mission is to invent a framework for how to make a step change improvement in student interest in and learning of science. During the stimulus mining one spark set off a chain reaction of 6 connections. The result is a change to these weekly emails.

Stimulus #1: The stimulus that started the chain reaction to follow came from a book by R. Barker Bausell called Too Simple To Fail. The premise, that is too simple to fail, is that the primary determinant of success is the number of hours spent learning. By “hours spent” Bausell means all hours – hours by parents, in class, doing homework, etc.. He documents how hours spent is far more of a determinant than “learning styles.” (Which even Dr. Cronbach – who sparked the movement toward learning styles later admitted could not be confirmed scientifically).

Stimulus #2: I connected this finding to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success. In the book he concluded that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. This is 5 years if you assume 8 hours a day, 250 days a year. Or a little over two years if you go at it 12 hours a day 365 days a year.

Gladwell cites how the Beatles amazed over 10,000 hours of performing time in Hamburg Germany from 1964 to 1969. He also cites how Bill Gates amassed 10,000 hours of programming time in his teenage years. Galdwell’s findings are based on the research of Anders Ericsson on experience.

Stimulus #3: I also connected this idea that you need to invest significant time to my children’s experience with the Kumon Math program when they were younger. It’s a program that’s focused on lots of repetitions to build confidence and skills.

Stimulus #4: The “experience effect” is also something we teach in Innovation Engineering. It’s based on Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert of Bain & Company’s book The Breakthrough Imperative. Studying dozens of categories they found that with every doubling of the experience curve — 1 to 2, 2 to 4, 4 to 8, 8 to 16 – costs went down an average of 25%. In class we visualize this effect through a chart on the productivity improvement in the construction of Liberty Ships during world war II.

Stimulus #5: Connecting to my own life – I realized that my skills at creating ideas, doing market research were also built over many, many years of intense experiences.

Stimulus #6: Lastly, as my Hero Dr. Ben Franklin said: “It is true that there is much to be done, and perhaps, you are weak-handed; but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects; for constant dripping wears away stones; and by diligence and patience, the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks.”

My net conclusion was simple — or as Bausell says “Too Simple to Fail” – we need more homework in Innovation Engineering! Given that I can’t get students to do any more than we give for homework already – or get executives to work longer than from 8:00 am to 10:00pm at night I need to try something else.

My next best option for building your skills is to use these weekly e-mails to give homework assignments. Thus, in 2011 the 13 Virtues E-mails will become — Innovation Engineering Homework – Hands on Learning Assignments to build your skills and confidence in leading innovation.

As a side benefit – I’ve had trouble finding the time to do these each week – as many of you know. In part it was because I didn’t know if they mattered – if anyone was reading – and what the purpose was. With this new focus, I have a new energy – as I can see with clarity now how this homework can make an impact. So here we go.

Homework for the week of March 14: Tech Mining

Your assignment this week is to find 10 new technologies that could transform how you work, your company, your products and or your services. You don’t need to “turn in” this assignment (in the future many weeks you will) – but you are expected to write down what you found in a personal journal on your computer.

I’m not picky – the tech mining can be as simple as a new app or service to make it easier for you to do travel (if you’re not using it check out Tripit) Or a new tool for keeping you focused on exercise (check out I use it and love it).

You can also go big time – and do a dig at the USA National Innovation Marketplace – searching for benefits as well as innovations. Or go for a bigger dig at TechMining101.

Good luck. Till next week.

Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute Dates

The dates for Innovation Engineering 2011 — the “Way to Wealth Tour” – public programs include:

April 4-6        Washington State April 11-13        Wyoming May 2-4            Louisiana May 23-25        Missouri June 13-15        New York State June 27-29        Kansas September 12-14    Arkansas September 26-28    Virginia October 17-19        Maine November 14-16    Washington State

Sign up information is available at

For details on special Institute packages where your team can have a PRIVATE coach to work with you in the evenings of the Leadership Institute contact Corie Roudebush Spialek at 513.271-9911.

Background on Innovation Engineering 13 Virtues Postings: Ben Franklin identified a set of 13 virtues for living. He found that working on all of them at one time was too difficult. To address this he created a plan where he worked on each virtue once a week. In 52 weeks he could complete four cycles of the 13 virtues. In the same manner, each week I post a writing on one of the 13 Virtues of Innovation Engineering. The goal is to provide practical ideas for helping you take action this week – every week – on thinking smarter and more innovatively about your life and career.