Archive for people fatigue


The Sturm und Drang of Innovation

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The journey of innovators is virtually never without great stress and trials. Some novice inventors think of something interesting and imagine that it’s just a matter of taking the idea to someone and collecting a fat check, but few can anticipate how difficult the journey can be and how many lessons must be learned. Even seasoned business leaders guiding teams of innovators rarely appreciate what happens at the personal level in their team–the threats to success from unexpected corporate antibodies, the pain of misplaced credit, the disappointment of unresponsive corporate systems, and the multitude of dynamics with other groups and individuals in and out of the corporation.

Sturm und Drang is a great term to describe the experience of innovators or prospective innovators, whether on their own or in corporations. That term means Storm and Stress in German, and refers to a nineteenth-century literary movement that treated the struggles of emotionally-charged individuals going against the grain of  society. That is so much like the journey of successful innovators. The fire in the innovator’s mind makes that individual stand out, or indeed, stand against the tides of society to offer something new and to influence others to adopt it and use it, even when most say it is hopeless and crazy. The journey of the innovator is so often a Sturm and Drang saga.

In Conquering Innovation Fatigue: Overcoming the Barriers to Personal and Corporate Success, we reveal some of the often hidden fatigue factors and some of the personal barriers to innovation success that can add to much of the Sturm and Drang that innovators face. The journey will never be easy, but some unneccesary stress can be reduced when you know what the barriers will be and how to face them.

Christmas is coming. May we suggest that this book could be a great gift for the innovator, business leader, inventor, or new product developer in your life? A simple way to preview the book is using this short URL:

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Self-Defeating Selfishness: How Win/Lose Thinking Creates Innovation Fatigue and Failure

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The world of many two-year-olds and far too many business leaders seems to be dominated by one word: “MINE.” Like the seagulls in the old Disney movie, Finding Nemo, everything within reach is a potential casualty for the chanters of “MINE, MINE, MINE.” Their business model seems to work: kids get what they want much of the time, the birds get fed, and business leaders get their way. But none of these creatures are who we should look to for real leadership and innovation.

Innovation and real success in business requires attention to one’s ecosystem, the network of partners and other players that participate in your business. If you neglect these relationships or abuse them, you can destroy the willingness of these partners to help you succeed or to share valuable knowledge and ideas that can be essential to innovation. Selfishness and business narcissism are ultimately self-defeating. Healthy business requires a healthy ecosystems with partners who trust you and are motivated to help you succeed. Squeezing every last penny out of your partners and suppliers doesn’t do that.

The automotive industry in the U.S provides a painful example of self-defeating selfishness. Here’s an insight from commentator Roger Wiegand in his recent article, “Gimme a Job“:

Another largely unreported statistic says that for every auto job lost, six more auto supplier company jobs vanish as well. We all know what a major role the auto industry plays in the economy. For most consumers a house is the largest asset and cars are next in line.

The amount of jobs lost within the big three is just the tip of the iceberg. Suppliers are filing bankruptcy right and left. The bigger question then becomes: How can the remnants of suppliers produce parts to build all those cars? Suppliers are not earning any money. The Big Three has crushed them with their own problems.

Both GM and Ford have had to buy back spun-off parts companies just to ensure mandatory parts delivery to build their cars. They have either helped them with millions-billions in fresh cash, or in fact bought back their parts suppliers outright. Even the premium, top drawer parts suppliers are filing bankruptcy.

The Big Three has historically treated their suppliers like economic enemies. The Asian manufacturers take the view their suppliers are their partners and work out problems together to ensure quality and that everybody makes a profit. If your suppliers fail you fail with them. The Big Three has never seen the light on this get-along notion.

Treating suppliers as economic enemies – treating any partner as an economic enemy, including one’s own employees – is a short-sighted approach that can reap economic benefits for a time while casting a magic spell of doom over one’s future.

The blinders imposed by greed and selfishness makes sufferers of these ailments miss the rich opportunities that can be created by win/win attitudes and a generous heart. Further, it makes would-be leaders far less likely to actually lead and influence others, and more likely to create enemies and opposition.

Scientific data supports an important conclusion that is counter-intuitive to the practitioners or greed: generosity and kindness create success. Those who refrain from the mantra of “MINE, MINE” and think of the well-being of others are not only more likely to have economic success, but also to gain credibility and success as leaders. This is borne out by significant bodies of data, as discussed by Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, in his recent speech, “Why Giving Matters.” I consider this a must-read article.

Brooks discusses the surprising results born out by extensive data showing that the act of giving, whether it be charitable donations, volunteering time, or even giving blood, leads to increased economic success. Part of the reason is that this more selfless approach makes a person happier, and happier people do better in work, in managing relationships, and in many aspects of productivity. People who give also gain respect and credibility from others, which enhances their ability to lead and inspire. I would add that people who are willing to help others and be kind are more likely to not ignore the needs of partners, more likely to not alienate them by being oppressive and greedy, and more likely to stimulate cooperation and the sharing of ideas.

If you care about innovation and business success, look to yourself first. Do you care about others? Understand and respect their needs? Do you give to charity? Do you inspire trust and respect through your integrity and character? If not, your iron-clad contracts and Draconian negotiating skills will be like cursed relics from a bad mummy movie that only drag you down to a dusty doom.

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The Most Painful Innovation Fatigue Factor: Innovator Deficiencies

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Fatigue Factor #2: Innovator Deficiencies

Fatigue Factor #2: Innovator Deficiencies

Among the many barriers that we inventors, entrepreneurs and would-be innovators face is the one we can’t blame on others. Fatigue Factor #2 in our grid of fatigue factors is innovator deficiencies. It refers to the barriers we create for ourselves through excessive pride, unreasonably high valuation of the invention, arrogance, unwillingness to share or collaborate, stubbornness, unwillingness to delegate or gain the help of experts, and a host of other personal weaknesses. So many good ideas are killed by these personal flaws. They are painful to admit and recognize, but an awareness of our own weaknesses is not only the beginning of wisdom, it’s the beginning of innovation success.

The icon for this fatigue factor was designed by Mark Benyo, an artist in Appleton, Wisconsin (owner of Benyo Designs). It depicts a long chain (wrapping back and forth across the window of the icon) in which one of the links is replaced with a paperclip. The individual innovator/inventor in this case is the weak link in the cain of innovation. Unless that link is strengthened (perhaps with the help of strong allies or experienced guides), failure is likely. We offer more detail in the book, of course, and outline some steps that can be taken. Prospective innovators, take note. Look to yourself first to understand why your innovation goals are not being reached, and then find the right help to take you to the next level.

One of the most common innovator deficiencies involves excessive pride, which translates into unreasonable expectations regarding the value of an early-stage invention or concept. Valuation of inventions is always difficult. However, if you think your embryonic invention is worth many millions or even billions, chances are you’re way out of line at this point. An idea alone usually has very little marketable value. An idea converted into working prototypes and a valid patent has more value, but the real value comes only by addressing the many risks that potential licensees or acquirers face. Can it be produced economically? Is it safe? Does it meet unmet needs? Can it be marketed successfully? Will it sell in the marketplace? Can it withstand the competitive response? These risk factors take time and money to address. The idea may ultimately be worth billions, but no one is going to hand you a truck load of money for something that is just a twinkle in your eye and maybe a piece of government paper on your wall. Not yet. It will take time, diligence, and investment for the potential to be discovered. Until then, have reasonable expectations as you collaborate to bring your concept to the market place, so that ultimately you can enjoy a cut of the potential returns your innovation can bring.

Icon for Fatigue Factor #2

Icon for Fatigue Factor #2

Erratum in the book: An unfortunate but minor error in the printed book is that the icon for innovator deficiencies (shown at the left) is not at the beginning of the chapter on Fatigue Factor #2, as it should be. Instead the icon shown there is the one for Factor #5, “Flaws in Judgment and Decision Making.” Sorry about that! The icons in the fatigue factor grids are correctly displayed.

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Our Mission is the official blog for the new book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue. Here we provide supplementary innovation, news, tips, updates, and, when needed, a correction or two, to keep those who are using the big on the inside edge for innovation success.