Thursday, August 20

Web site coming soon . . .

I've decided to convert the content accumulated on this Blog into an Innovation Study Guide Web site -- something along those lines. Stay posted and if you'd like me to send you notification when it's up and running, just send me an e-mail: gordon[at] Thanks to everybody for reading this blog over the years!

Wednesday, April 29

Decline of the US?

Remember all the talk about the so-called rise of Japan in the 80s? Replace those conversations today with China and you'll hear similar themes: the West, and particularly the United States, is past its prime etc. etc. There is little mention of two key issues in these discussions: the cultural attraction of the United States (including its brands) and its ability to attract the best and brightest from all nations. Look at any American university and you'll see a list of professor's names: Choi, Lee, Wang, Park, Fukuyama, Ibrahim . . .

I've been here in the United States for just over a year and I am completely blown away by how many people from all over the globe have found their home here. Now that is an innovation asset that is extremely hard to emulate. Like Japan, the rise of China may turn out to be something that we have to wait a very long time for.

Monday, April 13

What's wrong with being a sheep?

We have this tendency in the West to think that being second, or a fast follower, is in some way taboo. Uncool. You know, you're not allowed to copy other people's ideas -- as if the original idea was idependent of either historical or horizontal inputs. This is MY IDEA and nobody else contributed in any way to its genesis. This view treats "first" as the ultimate achievement. Fine, but it's only one take on things. Others may view it as overly risky and, perhaps, downright dangerous. Here, second is a far more attractive proposition.

Being second has its advantages: you can avoid the headwinds of being first with something that requires considerable change of behaviour on the part of the market. Being second is like cycling directly behind Lance Armstrong -- let somebody else do the hard peddling. You also avoid the risk of developing something that has a good chance of flopping.

Yet, how many business owners/CEOs will stand up and say proudly: "Our innovation strategy is to follow the leader?"


Wednesday, April 8

Tactical Innovation

Forget about all that strategy talk. How about some on-the-ground ideas from every member of staff?

So you're in an expensive five-star hotel and the hotel has those coat hangers without the hook. You know the ones: they are designed so that if you were ever to steal one, you would be unable to hang them on anything.

These coat hangers are an industry standard -- and reluctantly accepted by hotel guests. Imagine, though, if the hotel was to apply a bit of innovation to the hanger issue. Get rid of these hookless hangers and replace them with real hangers and a sign that says: "Coat hangers, $5 each. Help yourself."

[The hangers would be added to your bill like the drinks from the bar fridge]

PS. I read about this story in the Harvard Business Review magazine a while ago. I think it's a good example of how we can apply the innovation process to every part of a business.

Sunday, March 29

Innovative ideas from old sci-fi shows

There was a show I used to watch in Britain called Thunderbirds. It was about a group of international rescuers who were available to solve some of the world's most challenging problems. There were different Thunderbird vehicles for different technical problems and each episode would highlight a different member of the team and his special vehicle. My favorite was Thunderbird 2 by a long shot -- it was just so cool. Anyway, there is an interesting article here on how a common day-to-day problem, parking cars in a driveway with limited space, may have been solved using ideas from the show.

The funny thing is, when you see the solution, you are forced to ask, "Why didn't they think of that sooner?" Brilliant!

Sunday, February 22

Innovation Video

Haven't been blogging much about Innovation recently. I'm thinking about turning the blog into a Web site for business students doing business-related courses. Or engineering courses. Basically, I'll have all the definitions, steps and elements of innovation laid down on the site so that people can arrive at the site and get a handle on innovation quickly.

I've added another key element to the list I had before. In addition to trust, curiosity, a lack of fear etc., I have added empathy to the list of things that must be present if you wish to innovate at the individual or national levels. Why empathy? Because empathy leads to market insight. Human insight at the micro economic level.

Anyway, here's an interesting video on how one company creates a culture of innovation. Thanks. Gordon


Sunday, January 11

Innovation in advertising: copy the masters!

One of the hardest things to do when establishing a brand is choosing the one idea that your brand stands for. Coming up with a list is easy. Narrowing it down. Rejecting. Now that's the hard part. I recently had to do this for a muffin business and it took a long time. In the end, though, it was a very satisfying experience and it really helps you clarify whatever you're trying to do with the business.

I came across an old ad for a breakfast cereal that exemplifies getting one idea across. I used to eat this stuff before I did my paper round in the morning before high school in Scotland. The cereal is called Ready Brek.

Check out the ad and notice two things:

1) The tagline: "Central heating for kids." It states who it's aimed at (kids). At the same time, it doesn't state that adults shouldn't eat it. Also, it positions itself as a hot cereal -- thereby re-positioning other cereals.

2) The ad exaggerates visually a key dimension of the brand. The kid who has Ready Brek for breakfast has a red glow around him. This is sometimes called "concretizing" and is something that often gets overlooked -- it's a powerful technique as it hammers home the message. You can do this with the following formula: It's so (adjective) that it/you (VERB). Just take it to the extreme and visualize. Enjoy the ad!


Monday, December 29

What does it take to innovate?

"An iconoclast . . . A person that does something that others say can't be done."
- Gregory Berns, Iconoclast

"Fear is the greatest inhibitor of innovation."
- Gregory Berns, Iconoclast

Anybody with even the tiniest interest in innovation knows the importance of "thinking differently" or "thinking outside the box." These phrases are often thrown about willy nilly without spending much time digging down to discover just how we actually go about thinking differently. Or, better yet, what stops us from thinking differently? I've worked in many business environments in different parts of the world and I can say from my own experience that, for the most part, it is continuity, not thinking differently that reigns supreme. In the context of innovation, this is the "C" word. Fear is the "F" word. Of course, continuity and fear are often garnished with the usual "we value our people" or "we are an innovative firm/city/nation etc." lacquer. Horse crap. As you can tell, I've become quite cynical towards this whole innovation thing. But we should also remember this:

"All businesses, no matter how strong they seem to be at a given moment, ultimately fail -- and almost always because they failed to innovate."

- Thomas K. McCraw, Prophet of Innovation

So we have a strange situation: we know we must innovate, but, at the same time, we are incapable of doing so. Unless . . . ?
Below is an interesting talk from Gregory Berns, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, on what happens to individuals in group settings at the level of the brain. I love this bottom-up approach to innovation.

By the way, please note the new Blogspot address for my Blog: or simply

Have a great, bold New Year. You deserve it!

Tuesday, December 16

Innovation's ingredients: imagination and trust

Trust is at an all-time low here in America. People have been burned financially and it may take some time to get back to the good old days. Looking at many of the recent financial scandals, including the recent one concerning Madoff, it's worth pulling one of innovation's key ingredients back in from the cold: come on in imagination. Take a seat at the fire.

Remember those silly creativity games that people in workshops play: "Think of as many uses as you can for this toothbrush!" or "How would a heavy metal guitarist solve this problem?" You know: all that "airy fairy" stuff. The stuff that really hurts the brain to even think about. The stuff that adds nothing to the bottom line.

But, you know what, if somebody had actually asked some crazy questions, some people would still have a lot more money in their pockets. It's good to question "conventional wisdom": Maybe that guy in the suit is a fraud? Or maybe, even, all those Ivy League schools don't produce people quite as clever as we are all lead to believe.

You know that many in North Korea believe that Kim Jong-Il is an expert horseman and scored 11 holes-in-one in his first-ever round of golf? Yet North Korea isn't the only country whose people are force-fed fabrication.

Imagination. Trust. Never underestimate their contribution to innovation.

[Link]: Andy Xie, a U.S.-born Chinese economist, talks with Peter Day about the Chinese economy in the BBC's Global Business podcast.

[Link]: The FT comments on Madoff with an article entitled "No questions asked."

Saturday, December 13

Brand innovation

I remember hearing a podcast a while back and one of the speakers made a comment that has stuck with me for quite a while. He said that one of the problems with making money online is the fact that the psychology of the Web is different from more traditional retail spaces in that it is free. Yes, there is a tendency to expect stuff for free on the Web. There is also a vast amount of business knowledge out there and it has had a massive effect on people who previously wouldn't have been able to access it. It's all there for the taking. And people are taking, taking, taking. This is good (I think). It's pretty neat that somebody with a computer and the will to educate themselves can sit down and access a world of knowledge without having to pay a penny for it. Even if this humble little blog helps just one person learn something, it has served its purpose. Some people have asked me, "What's the point in blogging?" This usually pisses me off. Isn't it our duty to help people? And forget about giving money. I'd rather be sharing knowledge than sticking $5 in an envelope as a way to feel better about myself! Give a man a fish . . . and all that.

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: innovation branding)