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Beyond The Obvious by Phil McKinney - Killer Questions Sparking Game-Changing Innovation-Assumptions

February 11, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 147

Innovation is one of the most ubiquitous twenty-first century business buzzwords; tossed around in boardrooms and company meetings more than any football during an NFL game.

Phil McKinney is the author of the new book, Beyond The Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation. He's an innovation expert who has served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for major technology companies and also leads innovation boot camps.

McKinney acknowledges that innovation isn't easy. It requires work and effort, but that's a good thing. Innovative thinking can honed by anyone with practice. It also demands an organized process to generate, prioritize and execute great ideas.

He provides a dynamic set of Killer Questions that force you to look "beyond the obvious." Those Killer Questions are divided into three categories: 1) Who your customer is, 2) What you sell them, 3) How your organization operates.

Before you can use the Killer Questions to engage game-changing innovation, you need to get past your industry and company assumptions, manage the jolts; and neutralize the corporate antibodies. Here, the focus is getting past your industry and company assumptions.

Assumptions. Companies replete with people who "know-best," operate from a false sense of safety that can feel pleasant and positive. This feeling is a by-product of certainty and certainty can lead to dangerous assumptions about who you are, what you do and how you do it. Only when you can see those assumptions can you release them and advance toward new ideas and breakthrough innovations.

Be Your Own Outsider. McKinney admits it's a delicate balance act between speaking confrontational, difficult truths and relaying those same realities in a way that doesn't risk you career or job. Sometimes companies look for validation of ideas from outside sources due to fear and uncertainty about change. "Whether you're an insider or an outsider, you need to become the voice that challenges yesterday's answers," he says. Force yourself to look around your organization with a disassociated, less emotional perspective.

Get Past the Obvious First Answer. "Individuals who feel confident need to be shaken about their complacency to realize how narrow their vision is," says McKinney. Consider the following exercises:

Exercise I. What is half of thirteen? Write down your answer.

The obvious answer is 6.5. Other answers include: Thir/teen, when written as a Roman numeral (XIII), the answer could be XI/II. Once you start looking for alternative answers there are many different ways to respond to the question.

This exercise helps you realize there are answers beyond the obvious.

Exercise II. Why are manhole covers round?

The answer is simply based on geometry: There is only one shape that prevents a manhole cover from falling through a manhole-a circle. This question highlights your visual biases. It's easy to look at a familiar object and impose your own sense of order on it, depending on your particular interests or ways of processing information.

Exercise III. What's in a Bic? Envision an empty Bic ballpoint pen barrel. Record ten possible uses for the barrel in one minute.

This exercise illustrates that nothing is ever really "new," and that you shouldn't discount an idea because it's not 100 percent original.

It also demonstrates historical biases: a pen is a pen is a pen. But, potential uses for products evolve over time. Don't miss out on new applications for a product or its separate elements due to limited thinking.

To move beyond assumptions about your industry/company, you first must be able to identify them:

What are the assumptions under which my industry operates?What are the assumptions under which my company operates?What are the rules for how your industry/company interacts with customers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, etc.?

McKinney's Killer Questions featured in Beyond The Obvious underscore that innovation is a process available to anyone willing to commit. Prepare for that methodology by first defining your industry and company assumptions.

For innovation at its finest, check out the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Each year, 25 global entrepreneurs spend 6 weeks a the institute to create products and services that will benefit at least one million people:

Timothy Zaun is a blogger, speaker and freelance writer. Visit him online at

Source: EzineArticles
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