Two Ways to Light A Fire Under Your Butt!

This past week was a great one.   It's always a great one when I learn a lot.  And you always learn when you are out of your office and out in the real world – with real customers.   During my travels I had the opportunity to work with Innovation Engineering Black Belts in New York and Louisiana. In 24 hours of various meetings I was able to observe how the Innovation Engineering Management System is being implemented.   Here are just 2 of the 12 things I wrote down that I learned this week.

Lesson #1:  To Go Faster – Document Learnings Each Week Recall, last week I reported that a year after attending the Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute confidence in Commercialization declined while confidence in Create and Communicate grew.    The research also found that those attendees that use the Innovation Engineering Labs web site to manage their projects (or the Pitch Packet – see updated version inside had the greatest commercialization confidence.

I saw it myself this past week.  I sat in weekly project meetings that were focused on going through the boxes on – customer concept – math game plan – death threats.  These meetings were highly productive.  In one case the company has made more progress in 3 weeks then in the two years previously!!!!!

I also sat in a couple meetings where it wasn't used.  These meetings were far less productive.

GREAT BLACK BELT SUGGESTION:  In one case the Black Belt didn't use the platform because they were working on a marketing message test and she thought it didn't fit – as it wasn't going into Discovery.   I had never thought of that issue.  We talked about it and it was suggested that in the case of Marketing Message projects you should first put them into DEFINE to get ready – then DEVELOPMENT as it is not a project that has "risk or unknowns" rather it is simply something that needs to be Developed.

Lesson #2:  The Power of RESTARTING  I had an opportunity to connect with a great company that is helping us prototype a new Innovation Engineering RESTART project format.

It's a very innovative company that has lost it's way.  As the owner said 3 years ago they were doing great.  Then the economy changed, their customers changed and they didn't change fast enough.

To get them going again he had 5 people from the company work for 5 days with a couple Innovation Engineering Black Belts.  The team worked from 8 in the morning till 10 at night creating, communicating and commercializing ideas.   They ran Fail Fast Fail Cheap cycles that were as fast at 1 hour.  Ideas were created – died – more created – more died.  At the end of the week – the team presented their recommendations for how to grow the company to the CEO – who had not participated in the week.

The CEO said yes to the ideas – and I had the honor of sitting in during the weekly update meeting with their Innovation Engineering Black Belt.   I wish all of you had been there.   It was very impressive to see what these folks are doing.  The Owner and I talked about how great it was to have projects being lead and moved forward by his team – without him.

By the way – the title of this Blog Post comes from the RESTART CEO – he said his company needed the RESTART and the weekly coaching from the Black Belt to "Light a Fire Under Their Butt"


1. Document your learnings.   Take a project you are working on – and document the customer concept, math game plan and death threats/learning plan.   Use either the online or downloadable version inside

2. Do a 2 Hour Restart:  Assemble your team and take a death threat and have them find a way to Fail FAST Fail CHEAP in 2 hours.  Have them learn more from others, dig for wisdom on the internet, make it real and run customer research or build a prototype.

I can't wait for this week to continue.  We have the largest ever Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute going on – over 300 People!   As you'd expect – Maggie Slovonic and I have some wicked cool new things we'll be testing all week!

We've come a long ways since that cold and snowy January week at Sugarloaf in Maine.