Create the world you want to live in—#BIF9

2013-09-18 10.28.10When one is compassionate it has profound affect on the severity, occurrence and length of disease. Dr. James Doty, the CEO and Founder of CCare shared that this has been identified scientifically to be true.

He asked, how can a privileged, white, male have a leg to stand on in the face of the ridiculousness of the lawmakers in Washington DC who have little understanding of physiology expounding on women’s reproductive health? By declaring where they stand. Doty declared: “I am a feminist and a humanist.”

Every person has a right to dignity, to flourish and to thrive.

Doty made it very clear that everyone will suffer in their lives. He said, as others have before him, that it is our lot to suffer but it is also within our nature to care and intervene to alleviate the suffering of others. Human gestation and the need for care developed the depth and the range of nurturing required for humans to survive.

These social bonds also resulted in the development of culture, society and religion, and this paradigm has worked for the last several hundred years. But it is not a sustainable model. Change happens over generations and we are experiencing a tumult of change. When people are authentic and connect with others based on who they are, they derive the maximum benefit from those interactions. When we are compassionate our immunes system is boosted. These behavior traits will ensure our continuity.

Observing another being compassionate results in you being more compassionate.

Doty left us with a recitation of the following poem by Nancy R. Smith, “For Every Woman”

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,” there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.

For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.

For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.

For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile, there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.

Evan Ratliff shared three powerful lessons:

  1. Sometimes you have to create the world you want to live in
  2. You have to appeal to or assume the better nature of your audience
  3. You have to go all-in

He, and his partners have created a new publishing site called The Atavist—and to do that they found that they needed to create a new platform to be able to tell those stories which is call Creatavist.

Ratliff shared more of his motivations in an interview after sharing his story here:

Primed-in-5-logoPrimed in 5 with Evan Ratliff





There came about a movement for long-form storytelling online across both old and new media which Ratliff recognized. More and more people are looking to tell these kinds of stories. The people who care about what you have to say will give you their attention and loyalty.

Bruce Nussbaum is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City, is a former Managing Editor at BusinessWeek and blogs for Fast Company and Harvard Business Review. He taught third grade science in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and studied anthropology, sociology and political science in grad school at the University of Michigan. At BIF-9 he shared the power of transforming the world around us through our intention. His new book is Creative Intelligence.

When we think about what is meaningful to people, big data can give us information but without cultural context it can be misleading.

There is a huge difference in generations. And what is meaningful to each of them. The fastest way to change an organization is to change generations, at the very least you need multi-generation teams. You also need to pay attention to the translation and transition between the two. You are inattentive at your own peril.

2013-09-18 13.36.25Xiao Xiao took the bench at the piano and then simply plays, along with herself! She developed a new piano media enhancement as part of her work on her PhD with the Tangible Media Group at MIT, the result is the Mirrorfugue.

For Xiao, she sees the utility of mapping analogies for music – classical = score, jazz = more sparse but based on theme. Both of which can describe landscapes and terrains like cities. The projection of yourself onto the city occurs in the same way that projection onto music creates layers of meaning leading to unique interpretations. And is so doing transporting your audience to new realms.

The way we understand things is fundamentally shaped by the way we capture our experiences. With the proliferation of recordings it precipitated a shift in the art of classical performance from interpretation to correctness, taking the energy out of the music. You more easily recognize wrong notes rather than the energy of the interpretation.

The approach to classical music that is thematic is the order of the day, but it is in the variations that the true meaning lies. Themes and short form interpretations lack the physical, emotional and intellectual engagement of variations.

Two prove her point Xiao played with two others across the Mirrorfugue! Brilliant! Bach Two Part Inventions.

futurama-6Peter Hirshberg of Re:Imagine asked, how do we turn our cities and into platforms for innovation? By way of an answer he shared the notion of the World’s Fair as an immersive form. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York was perhaps the worlds greatest World’s Fair. A canvas like no other. The vision was a very controlled and structured one—certainly as offered by GM.

The notion of turning the city into a lab was also shared by Walt Disney – see EPCOT at Walt Disney World as a classic 20th Century example of that. A community of tomorrow that will never be completed. The future was to be given to us by American enterprise and not something that could be co-created. The present day version of the city of tomorrow should be something like Burning Man. It’s 60,000 people to a desert. You have to participate (no bystanders) and you have to reframe the world.

Make ideas worth stealing.

Art becomes a tool to fundamentally reframe how we see the world. The next World’s Fair is the one we create ourselves.

Saul Kaplan moderated a discussion between Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos & Bill Taylor (Founder of FastCompany magazine). Taylor has come to BIF 7 out of 9 times. A writer and an editor who loves to meet people who are not in the headlines every day. This is an important part of his year. Hsieh has been to BIF 3 times and has shared his story, too.

life-is-beautiful-festivalOctober 2013 is the 20th Anniversary of the FastCompany business plan. To celebrate they are hosting a mini BIF. The theme is “What are you working on?” Best-selling novelists, TV network directors, investors (Tom Peters), gadflies (Seth Godin) will be participating. Taylor sees himself as being a skunk at the garden party, “It is hard and difficult to make deep-seated, long-lasting change,” but you have to talk about that so that you can be ready for the hard and challenging work involved.

Hsieh shared the challenge of transforming downtown Las Vegas and the serendipity of meeting someone who was leaving town because she didn’t want to work in casinos any more. They funded her lunch spot. He also shared the promotion for the Downtown Las Vegas, Life is Beautiful Festival – a multiple focus festival. He spoke to the action of making change a reality.

The last storyteller who shook up the room was Rabbi Irwin Kula founder of Clal, who said of his honorific: “It’s like any title, it is being rapidly deconstructed today.” Much in the same way he said, we need to innovate in religion. As secular spaces become sacred. And the most religious are the least.

Religious leadership has nothing to offer because we are reinventing religion. Through that reinvention how the hardware of humanity gets used will be very dependent on the software of humanity.

Cognitive and physical enhancement also demands moral enhancement.

We have to be disruptive moral innovators. As with most religious leaders Rabbi Kula left as with more questions than answers…

What do symbols mean? What do practices mean? Do they work or do you become a bastard. What would it mean to be incented by acceptable behavior?

How do we disaggregate wisdom and practices that designed to help us become wiser, kinder and gentler? How do we move people from the cathedral to the bazaar? Real religion is happening in our lives all the time. How do designs reflect the products that shape consciousness and awareness? We need metrics on what practices work.

When the fastest growing religion is “none” – how do we engage our complete selves in ways that are meaningful to us and to those around us? Which regardless of religion is what BIF-9 was all about—engagement to make shared meaning.

My recommendation: come and be a part of the story to unfold in 2014. You won’t be disappointed.

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Business Innovation Factory 9 — #BIF9 – The Gift of Stories

Business Innovation Factory

Business Innovation Factory

Lessons in Innovation (and Life) from BIF-9

On September 18 and 19 I had the great good fortune to be in the room for the Business Innovation Factory’s annual symposium/happening/gabfest/love-in, BIF-9. What transpired over two days was a phenomenally inspiring exploration of the ways we can engage ourselves and others in the creation of breakthroughs to make our world a better place. Yes, I know this sounds hyperbolic. The simple fact is that this event was a shock to the system in unanticipated and exciting ways.


Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.  – Hannah Arendt

As the founder of BIF and the host for BIF-9, Saul Kaplan framed the experience at the outset citing the need for catalysts and recognizing the need to include youth in the co-design of solutions, “they will, after all, be the ones to inherit this world after we depart.” BIF-9 continued to drive home the expectation that this was an occasion for “random collisions of unusual suspects” in service of new and better ways to address the most pressing social, economic and business issues of the day. It did not disappoint.

Over the course of two days there were over sixteen vignettes during which individuals and small groups shared their personal stories, presented their work, held conversations. The storytellers ranged from Easton LaChapelle a prosthetic roboticist and student who is seeking to revolutionize the way in which prosthetics are developed, to Rabbi Irwin Kula who exhorted the audience to seek new ways to engage with the practice of faith and spirituality in that they are being rapidly disintermediated. We also managed to pull off a live Innochat, streamed via Ustream and moderated by Renee Hopkins.

Rather than providing a blow-by-blow account of the presenters (a not-so-subtle incentive for you to sign up for BIF10) here are five of the broad lessons I took away from this experience:

  1. The value of your network is how well you use it for others
  2. Everything is an opportunity to experiment, learn and grow
  3. Problem-finding is more powerful than solution-creating
  4. Risk is critical for change but the spectrum of acceptable risk is personal
  5. Create the world you want to live in

Each of the lessons is explored in a separate post (one a day the week following BIF-9). Take a look at some of the surprises shared by the great storytellers and ask yourself, “What story could I share that might inspire another?” We all have a story (or more to share). What’s yours?

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New at WaPo: How To Breed Big Innovation Inside A Small Business

WaPo-MediumAn endless list of priorities often relegates “innovation” to the list of buzzwords small business owners read about but can never tackle – something for the well-funded R&D labs at big corporations, not for the entrepreneurs on Main Street.

But innovation is about being competitive and inventive in your approach — and small firms already have everything they need to be a big player in the innovation game.

Read more: 

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Excessive Innovation – Making Choices About The Value We Create

ShoppingCarts_ThumbnailNothing says “success” like wretched excess, or so it would seem. A challenge of innovation today is the overwhelming perception of its strong bias for fostering rampant consumption. The drive to acquire the new and improved has overwhelmed a mid-20th century view of making do an repairing things to extend their useful life. Now new products and services are created and go in search of markets and customers placing burdens on resources, ecosystems, and personal economies. The necessary is trumped by the pretty. The essential is supplanted novel. The vital and nourishing is squeezed out by the unimportant and artificial. To what end?

To convert the business man into the profiteer is to strike a blow at capitalism, because it destroys the psychological equilibrium which permits the perpetuance of unequal rewards. The businessman is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.

– John Maynard Keynes

(Quoted in Keynes and Capitalism, Roger E. Backhouse and Bradley W. Bateman, History of Political Economy, 2009)

Innovation should be about creating value; not only the short-term value of satisfying basic needs, but addressing long-term complex challenges that require sustained attention and focus. Much of the innovation we acknowledge is focused on a customer, their experience, and the momentary satisfiers at play. Innovation is being wed to the bright and shiny in a shotgun marriage of inconvenience. We need more and should expect more from innovation than something new to buy.

I create nothing. I own.

– Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street

As a short-term game innovation without an eye to longevity yields hit and miss return. When it works it might be a tremendous success (think fads, like Crocs – the ugliest shoes on the planet) but often market-focused innovation responds to a surface need and does not address the deep and abiding need present in a customer’s circumstances. Perhaps we need to consider innovation in deeper and more abiding terms and ask ourselves:

  • How might we truly seek to create value?
  • How might we create in a ways that are both additive and generative?
  • How might we practice and foster stewardship in lieu of ownership?

Something tells me that there has to be an innovation-based answer to the issue of rampant and unflagging consumerism. What do you think?

After posting this a link came our way from an interview between Joel Makower, Group Chairman of GreenBiz Group, and Yves Chouinard, the Founder and CEO of Patagonia that is very relevant. The full post is here.

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Collaborative Innovation – Primed Associates is a Contributing Blogger

The Collaborative Innovation site is an editorially independent thought leadership community around Business & Collaborative Innovation.  It is sponsored by Dassault Systèmes and produced by Human 1.0. Primed Associates’ CEO/Principal, Drew Marshall, has been invited to contribute.

Collaborative Innovation, has been defined by the originator of the term, Peter Gloor (a Research Scientist at MIT Sloan’s Center for Collective Intelligence) as “a cyberteam of self-motivated people with a collective vision, enabled by the Web to collaborate in achieving a common goal by sharing ideas, information, and work.”

It is a topic that is written and talked about around the world and they decided to offer a place where thought leaders could expand the landscape.  The blog, in conjunction with the Dassault Systèmes Customer Conference 2011 (DSCC) aims to drive and deepen the conversation.

Here are links to the series of posts by Primed Associates’, Drew Marshall, at Collaborative Innovation:

A Twofer from a Hurricane: How Transportation Innovation Might Transform the Energy Sector

Too Smart For Our Own Good: Why choosing wisely is critical in innovation

Placing Innovation Bets: 5 Lessons from 5 Big Players

3d Modeling at Scale – From Aircraft to Embroidery

Launching FashionLab – (ad)dressing haute couture, jewelry and beyond

Trends in Retail Pointing to Innovations in Services

Take a look at Drew’s and others’ posts, there’s lots of great food for thought and participate in the conversation.

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Interview at Inmagic: Lessons learned from Steve Jobs

3 qualities of innovative companies: Lessons learned from Steve Jobs

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by the good people who run the podcast for Inmagic (Janelle Kozyra, the host, & Hannah Messenger, the producer).  We had an interesting discussion about the differences of innovation between B2C and B2B enterprises. Which eventually led to Steve Jobs, as all things had that week…

When Steve Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO last week, it seemed he was taking with him everything that makes Apple the innovative powerhouse that it is today. Or did he? Apple is arguably the #1 poster child for innovation. But was it all a result of Steve Jobs’ genius, or rather the culture of innovation he’s developed over time?

Head over to listen to the full podcast (about 30 mins) and see a full transcript.

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Innovation Illusions: It’s not the idea it’s the action – innovation only exists when value is created in the market

Creativity. Invention. These are core elements in the process of innovation. They are not innovation itself. Mistakenly identifying them as innovation creates confusion and dissatisfaction. An idea, fully formed, but not realized in any tangible manner, creates little value. It might spur other invention or other creativity, but unless it is directly applied to meeting a particular need or providing a solution to a defined challenge, it cannot be labeled innovation.


What can this piece of paper do; Imagine?

–       Alamgir Hashmi

Mistakenly regarding something shiny and new as an innovation is commonplace. Innovations are concrete and make a meaningful difference to a user. That doesn’t mean all innovations are serious or universally appealing. I give you exhibit A: the Slap Chop. (Note: I’m not linking to the official Slap Chop site as the number of pop-up ads is a nightmare. Think: “innovation as annoyance.”) This device, one in a long line of “As Seen on TV” kitchen gadgets, is designed to save one from the drudgery of using a knife to actually, well, cut things. As an innovation it’s not a big stretch, but somebody somewhere must consider it of value: it’s one of the biggest-selling gadgets in recent years. Its popularity has also given rise to fantastic remixes of its commercials, such as DJ Steve Porter’s YouTube hit.

Infomercial lunacy aside, the Slap Chop demonstrates what has to happen to an idea before it can be considered an innovation: it must make it into users’ hands.


Ideas as a false focus

It is our illusions that create the world.

–       Didier Cauwelaert

For many intent on fostering innovation in their organization, the front end (i.e., ideation) is most likely their primary target. The reasons for this are many: it’s easier to engage with the generation of ideas than the work of implementing them; the notion of producing ideas gives a false sense of accomplishment (“Look, I filled up the whole whiteboard/easel sheet/napkin. I rock”); and it’s simpler to pitch idea creation as a sign of innovation success to senior leaders and peers, especially when looking for a quick victory.

The ongoing pursuit of idea generation means that we neglect to build the infrastructure necessary to support their systematic and repeatable production for customers (be they paying customers in the marketplace or internal customers). Ideas are valuable only in relation to the problem they solve for a particular constituency. If there is no human target for your ideas, what’s the point? Action is required, the kind of action that breathes life into an idea, that makes it useful and of value, that requires more than the appearance of effort. Usually that effort is provided by more than one person.


Many hands make faster, lighter, easier work

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

–       Daniel J. Boorstin

Often we think we know more than we actually do. A while ago, we posted on the topic of fundamental attribution error. In that post we described how easy it is to delude yourself into behaving as though you have all the answers. If you are only concerned with the generation of ideas, the notion that you should be concerned with their utility in the market would be quite foreign to you. Many people and organizations fall into the trap of doing the same thing that worked before over and over again, even when the circumstances are no longer appropriate.

Inventors invent. Because people are more likely to take the actions indicated by the thinking foremost in their minds, coming up with “wild and crazy ideas,” this means that people whose perception has been affected by intense subjectivity are more likely to think of and take actions that underestimate the effects of relationships and interactions. They have an illusion of progress without all that horrible effort. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)

Neglecting relationships and interactions also reinforces the “ivory tower” syndrome, the idea that only a single great mind can come up with the truly world-changing idea. Thomas Edison, the great American innovator renowned for his amazing ability to produce inventions, was no lone player. While he took sole credit for many inventions, people fail to realize the wealth of additional resources he had at hand to produce his ideas. His Menlo Park laboratory was a hive of industrious activity with men (mostly men) producing prototypes of his ideas and experiments to test his theories. Edison knew the value in an idea was the ability to deliver it to market. And he was tenacious about delivering.

That perspective runs completely counter to the creative genius of Nikola Tesla, an Edison rival, who died alone, in debt, in a New York hotel room. Tesla decried the scale of Edison’s efforts in producing his innovations, he saw it as wasteful, yet history bears out the greater impact of the more productive man.


A culture of creativity tied to a culture of execution

A really great talent finds its happiness in execution.

–       Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sharing the creative process with others in a collaborative manner can unlock ideas and bring them to market faster and with greater impact. It requires an organizational mindset that binds idea generation tightly to their execution and delivery to meet users’ needs. This requires a resilience and flexibility that accommodates different perspectives, synthesizes them, and integrates them into a common purpose. Rather than being focused on the declaration of impossibility, for innovation to succeed it must take a leaf out of the improviser’s playbook and adopt the art of the possible.

In improv, the phrase “Yes, and…” is used to begin responses to an idea that’s been offered by other actors, driving creative outcomes. The original idea is merely the starting point, a place for departure— it is not the destination. To treat the idea as the hardest part (or the most valuable part) of an innovation is to be led into a false sense of security. It offers the illusion of success. Those with more experience as innovators know the truth.

With an idea in hand, they recognize that the hard work is about to begin.

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Innovation at Scale: A foundation for growth means minding the store while shooting the moon

It’s not that we are confused about the necessity for innovation. Most organizations, their leaders and members alike, recognize the need to innovate in order to stay relevant to their customers and to continue growing. Confusion arises when organizations don’t recognize that the systems and processes that serve their current needs are not particularly suitable for creating, introducing, and supporting the new innovations coming to life. Like an ill-fitting suit, an unchanged organization attempting to dress itself in innovation will just look…wrong, and will probably feel uncomfortable, too.

Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.

–       Stephen Kaggwa


It’s necessary to keep the doors open and the lights on. To foster an innovation-capable culture does not mean that you have to abandon all the stable processes and actions that enable you to produce products and services as profitably as possible. What is required is the adoption of a mindset that is additive, risk-aware, resilient, and which enables the exploration of the new while tending to the old.

Keeping an eye on the things that fund innovation

The basic drivers that support an enterprise are its ability to produce a set of products or services for which a customer, or group of customers, is willing to pay enough to cover their production while providing some margin for profitability. Those seeking to increase their rate of innovation within their organization must pay attention to the things that are at the heart of why the organization exists.

In the early 1970s, the newly elected president and CEO of Kimberly-Clark, Darwin E. Smith, saw that the company couldn’t survive in the long-term as a paper manufacturer. Procter & Gamble, the large consumer products company, was beginning to challenge Kimberly-Clark in the marketplace, and if there was no direct response, they would likely be overwhelmed. Smith decided that to compete properly in consumer product markets, Kimberly-Clark had to prune its coated-paper business. Within one year of taking control of the company, Smith initiated changes that included the sale or closure of six paper mills and the sale of more than 300,000 acres of prime land. This was unheard of in the company’s history.

Smith recognized that he had a make-or-break situation on his hands. If he and his leadership team didn’t find a way to compete (and win) against Proctor & Gamble, then Kimberly-Clark would be lost. With more than $250 million in reserve, primarily from the land sale, Smith began the process of transforming the paper manufacturer into a consumer products powerhouse specializing in paper products. An aggressive research campaign was launched by hiring specialists away from competitors. Smith also increased the company’s advertising budget substantially, and plans were made for the construction of additional production facilities.


Marketing was central to Smith’s strategy for growth, as Kimberly-Clark emphasized its commitment to consumer products. He realized that the transformation of the company required not only research and development efforts but also new manufacturing facilities, human resource capabilities, and sales and marketing prowess. Only by selling the old business was Kimberly-Clark able to create the foundation for something new.

Similar stories of transformation could be told about Nokia, the mobile technology giant which still sells more handsets than any other manufacturer in the world. It began its life as a paper mill, rubber mill, and a cable works. There’s also that other innovation powerhouse, 3M, which began life as a mining and metals company. Each company had to fund a transition to something new, without which they would not exist today.

How did they make the transition?

Each company had leaders who had a vision of where they needed to go next. They effectively shared and spread that vision so that others would believe in it and commit to it. Each company also took steps to tend to their baseline business so that they could effectively fund the transition to the new business models and product lines that would ensure their future prosperity. And they invested those funds and energies as wisely as possible.

Focusing on the future

The key traits of the organization that can transform itself, creating innovation from its core businesses, are deceptively simple. They understand the need to keep customers pleased, engaged, and actively purchasing existing services. Without that effort, the resources required to fund a transition to a new set of products or services, or a whole new business model, would rapidly dwindle or even become absent. The effective stewardship of available resources also means that organization leaders understand how to foster and promote the risk-accepting practices and resilience across the people in the enterprise, so they can deliver the needed present business results and strive for the business results demanded by change.

The people unable to commit to transformational change are like barbed wire (protectionist or defensive specialists) or drag chutes (slowing down the rate of progress until it collapses in on itself) in an organization. Those companies that do manage wholesale shifts, essentially placing innovation at their core, are composed of people who are steadfast and true, the mainstays and anchors that provide stability and endurance in the face of challenging conditions. Their focus on the possibility of a brighter future is a beacon to all.



Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

–       Mary Anne Radmacher

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New from Primed Associates – Primed for Innovation Issue 1

Primed for Innovation Issue 1 - The Innovation Ecosystem

Primed for Innovation Issue 1:

Welcome to Primed for Innovation a primer on things to consider when you are interested in improving your organization’s approach to innovation. The following topics are offered as thought starters. [Read more…]
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Resource Acquisition: beg, borrow, steal or bargain, rent, reuse—innovation resources are a matter of mindset

For those coping with the annoyance or pain of resource scarcity, it is required that they go on the hunt. Some people think that in order to get a thing done any means necessary might be used. “By any means” usually causes more damage and heartache than success. Rather than begging, borrowing, or stealing, what if a more expansive approach was adopted? By avoiding zero sum or negative stakes game-playing, a more successful path to addressing the need for resources might be followed.

Neither a borrower, nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
William Shakespeare

Beg or bargain
I wish I could stand on a busy street corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.
Bernard Berenson

In its most simple form, begging is requesting a donation in a supplicating manner. It places the person requesting resources in a submissive position and creates an unhealthy power dynamic which is not conducive to the spirit of innovation. The issue with begging when seeking resources for innovation efforts is that it devalues both the effort and the outcome. The one-sided exchange that begging represents actually has a detrimental effect on the ability of the team working to produce an innovation, too. It can be demoralizing and can de-energize the pursuit of breakthrough ideas. A better alternative is to bargain, which may mean that the exchange will take on a much more dynamic quality.

Bargaining is an alternative strategy for acquiring needed resources. Optimally, if it costs the provider nothing to engage and allow bargaining, they can position themselves for either present service or future benefit. It allows for capturing hidden organizational or operational surplus as it allows value discrimination, a process whereby a provider can “charge” at a higher rate to those who are most eager (or more desperate) to use their resources. Haggling may be a part of the bargaining experience, but a better alternative is to use a bargaining approach that accounts for and supports common interests.

Integrative bargaining (also called “interest-based bargaining” or “win-win bargaining”) is a negotiation approach in which parties collaborate to find a win-win solution to their dispute. This strategy focuses on developing mutually beneficial agreements based on the interests of the parties providing and seeking resources. Interests include the needs, desires, concerns, and fears important to each side. They are the underlying reasons why people become involved in a conflict, and integrative bargaining seeks to neutralize them by balancing needs across a time continuum.

In this way a resource-poor innovation team can gain access to things that may have been previously unattainable. Another alternative is to “rent” the resource required.

Borrow or rent
A great pilot can sail even when his canvas is rent(ed).
Seneca (rented to fit)

Those of you not on the East Coast of the United States the day after Christmas Day (aka Boxing Day) missed “Snowpocalypse 2010.” At least, that’s what the local news media wanted to call it after over a foot of snow (more in some places) was dropped. To say that it put a crimp in post-holiday plans, for example returning home, would be putting it mildly. And as someone, among many, who had to dig through a few feet of snow to clear footpaths and restore access to pedestrians and automobiles alike, I found myself wishing for a better way.

Regardless of the impacts of global climate change, we can expect to experience about one or two severe storms in a given season where I live. If I was foolish with my money (I try not to be) and in love with loud and expensive gadgets (I have weaned myself off them), I would have taken this storm as a sign that I need to purchase a snow blower. For those of you in warmer climes, a snow blower does exactly what its name suggests. It takes snow from one place and blows it someplace else, essentially making the snow someone else’s problem. Think of it like a wood chipper on wheels or a lawn mower without a bag—in its place is a spout that sounds the snow flying. All good fun.

Snow blower-less, I was left with limited alternatives: dig and keep digging, rely on the kindness of snow blower-owning neighbors to share, or go rent a snow blower for the day. Given that the rush on snow blower rentals was likely high (and I was a day late and a dollar short), the only options left to me were kind neighbors and my own brawn. Thank goodness the kindness of neighbors prevailed and my digging was somewhat lessened.

The choices we face as innovators are somewhat similar when our resources are tight. We can muscle our way through as best we are able. Often the end result is a longer effort and a poorer-quality output. Or we can rely on the kindness of others to provide support or material, but that usually is at their whim or disposition. Borrowing always leaves us open to question. A better choice is to plan for the resource shortfall and respond accordingly by scheduling your rental of the required resources.

More often than not, flexible, time-bound, contracted resources can meet our needs better than we might anticipate. An example of this is the abundance of application development in the App areas on the iPhone/iPad ecosystem, the Google Android Apps Market, or BlackBerry’s App World. There simply aren’t enough developers on these platforms to create the range of apps as fast as desired if they were all to reside as employees inside the companies who want their creative output. Instead, these developers have mostly formed cooperative project teams focused on delivering apps on a per contract basis for third-party clients. They are the quintessential “guns for hire.”

By using this kind of resource, what first appeared as limits are soon realized as assets. You now have access to the latest development methods, you can pick and choose from the best developers in your price point, and you can build new products and services without adding large overhead to your operation. Renting doesn’t seem like such a bad idea now, does it?

Steal or reuse
We won’t even begin to consider building a case for stealing. It is simply an inappropriate (and illegal) method for addressing your resource shortfalls. Instead, we should consider the concept of reuse.

Two recent books have made a compelling case for reuse as a worthwhile pursuit that can certainly fuel innovation. The case they make is not necessarily to address any shortage of resources; mostly it is to prevent the needless waste of resources by acquiring things for which we will have limited use. The first book is Mesh: Why the future of business is sharing by Lisa Gansky. The second is What’s Mine is Yours: The rise of collaborative consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers.

Gansky tackles the value of sharing as a way to supplant rampant consumerist tendencies, many of which fueled the recent global credit binge and subsequent (no so) Great Recession. In her view, “mesh” companies use social media, wireless networks, and the abundance of readily available data from a multitude of sources to create goods and services at the exact moment they are needed—and without needing to own them outright. For Gansky, it’s all about helping your customers buy less but use more. She cites Zipcar, the car share program, and Kickstarter, the artist and design funding network, as two models of the mesh principle at play.

In What’s Mine is Yours, Botsman and Rogers explore the changing face of consumerism (which may have profound consequences for those of us in the innovation space—but more on that another time). The authors see a growing dissatisfaction with people who perceive they are being treated as robotic consumers manipulated and made voracious by marketing. They see the beginning of people turning more and more to models of consumption that “emphasize usefulness over ownership, community over selfishness, and sustainability over novelty.” What drives this new behavior is the enabling technology of the internet and social media in particular to create networks of shared interests, a spin on the communities of practice model in learning organizations, and the establishment of trust in unknown people as a viable currency addition to simplify the logistics of collective use.

In both these books we see the early stages of ways in which we can release ourselves from the limits and restrictions forced on us by resource constraints. Reusing resources in new and meaningful ways after they have already had a useful life in another’s hands creates a remarkable abundance just waiting to be tapped.

Which brings us to the key questions: If resource constraints and scarcity are not the major impediments to innovation that we believe them to be, why do we treat them as such? And why beg, borrow, or steal when bargaining, renting, and reusing can get us just as far (or further) without the associated pain?

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