What have you learned?

For as long as I can remember I’ve stopped each January 1st and July 4th and asked myself “what have I learned?” in the past six months.   This was the ritual that kept me at Procter & Gamble for ten years.  My learning curve as a Brand Manager and then leader of the P&G Invention Team seemed endless.  Then, one January, I realized I wasn’t learning. That was my signal to retire from corporate life and start Eureka! Ranch. As I type this on New Years Day 2011 I realize that the learning I’ve experienced during 2010 might well be the most ever.   The learning of 2010 actually started in the fall of 2009 when I took a sabbatical and lived on the campus of the University of Maine and taught three Innovation Engineering courses.  There is nothing like higher education to heighten your learning.

Starting at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in January and ending at The National Wildlife Federation outside Washington DC in December – the Ranch team and I delivered a dozen Innovation Engineering Leadership Institutes.   Each month was another Fail FAST Fail CHEAP cycle of learning – as we continuously modified and improved the way we taught the content.   We will be holding Webinars during the first few months of the year that detail the new learning and tools.

From this experience – I’ve learned three things:

1. Teaching is EASY – getting students to LEARN is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE! Everything we are teaching is simple in concept.  However, it is hard in application.   This year I’ve found that teaching undergraduate college students – is actually easier than teaching executives.  With executives there are lots of “assumptions” that are made that get in the way of learning.   We’ve found that the more we deconstruct the learning into step-by-step tools or “recipes” the easier it is for executives to learn new behaviors.

2. The Importance of fully IMMERSING your WHOLE BRAIN There is simply no value in “big dreamers” or “detail people.”  To be wildly successful you need to work the Dream and the Details simultaneously.   This year I learned that to win – you must really want it.  You must really immerse your whole brain – sweating the details, understanding the feelings of those involved, the science and technology and the bigger picture vision.  The days when a manager can micro-manage from “on far” are gone.  The days of handing tasks from silo to silo are gone.   The complexity of managing the product, promise and profit require a renaissance style of holistic thinking.

This learning reinforces the most important part of the Innovation Enginering system.  Someone has to “own” the idea.  Someone has to have a passion for making it work.  Without passion – driving, never ending passion there will be no success. Without passion there will be no willingness to fully immerse the brain in all aspects.  The consequence of this is that today’s managers need to “step back” and allow their staff to take full responsibility for innovations.

3.   We Need to Change Faster! The situation is urgent. The world is changing fast – we need to adapt and change as fast or faster.  Doing nothing is not a viable option   Sadly – 60 to 85% are not even willing to change.  I can’t do anything for them.   Fortunately there are 15 to 40% who  are “willing” to change.  But very few of them are “able” to change.  They don’t know what to do.  This group the “willing” but not currently “able” is the purpose of my life for the next 25 years.  The best way I know to accelerate change – is to empower the people working with and for you – i.e. go back to number 2 above – someone has to “own” the changes – and have a sense of urgency to make the changes happen faster!

This Week’s HOMEWORK Assignment – Your homework is to step back think — What have you learned in the past 6 months – past year?  What did you learn at Innovation Engineering and have applied?  What did you learn and have not yet applied?  What’s keeping you from changing?  How can you “change faster” – “learn faster?”

Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute Dates

Doug is taking the month of January off to work on a book about Innovation Engineering.   When he’s back – his blog postings will take a new format – with space for you to add comments and discussions.

The dates for Innovation Engineering 2011 Edition – public programs include:

February 14-16 Vermont
March 7-9 Kansas
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
December TBD

Sign up information is available at www.InnovationEngineering.info

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.