Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Accelerating Innovation: A Five Minute Recipe + The One Word Secret to Success

My experience has helped me summarize how to begin to accelerate value generation in the media linked below: “Mindful Innovation: How to build a solid CAT” – the first in a series on how to accelerate the change your organization wants.

…but first, some context on how I came to these insights as a result of taking a path to becoming - what some would call these days - “an x-shaped” person.

I’ve had the fortune to spend much of the last couple of decades helping folks figure out what’s next, chart a course to achieve their aims and steer clear of threats, and develop the knowledge and capabilities to serve their stakeholders.  This includes established enterprises, investors, founders, startups, non-profits, and educators.  

My professional life began with science and humanities learning, practice, and teaching – simultaneously being steeped in breast cancer research at the University of Chicago Ben May Labs under Eugene DeSombre while also working as a student teacher. Teaching visual arts, creative writing, math, and computer skills immersed me in “Generation Y” when they were first graders. Assisting in novel breast cancer research treatment honed my analytical and synthesis methods. While my mentors might argue that being of “Generation X” makes me a “Digital Immigrant”, I am also blessed to have grown up during the percolating Information Age in the depths of the University of Chicago (main) Regenstein Library. It was there that I surfed the Internet (via Gopher and FTP) and chatted with academics (via Talk) on Teletype machines, taking in all that the early connected world had to offer. I did equities research using printed volumes of Standard & Poor’s and Value Line’s latest data and insights on the A level, underground. I took in a wide array of news - practicing my English and German - on the second floor with its periodicals from around the world ranging from Barron’s, Life, Look, Die Zeit, The Christian Science Monitor, The FBI Bulletin, Interview, Variety, Vanity Fair, and National Geographic - often drawn to explore issues from past decades for context in the stacks or on microfiche. It was also there that I was introduced to the work of Herman Kahn. Little did I know then that I’d find a calling in “connecting the dots” in my own future.  At the time, as I still do, I simply relished the glimpse of the world each dot of information afforded.

Thus developed, my curiosity can however at times get the best of me and hold ransom my most precious resource: time. Even back then in the ‘80’s, helping my immigrant parents integrate into the American life I was born into while also caring for young minds in loco parentis, I’d ruminate over individuals’ joys and sufferings and how each circumstance came to be – that of my friends, family, and other acquaintances. Over the years, I’ve kept up with many of the people I grew up with and helped, growing the reflections I had as the number of my relationships grew through my existence as a social being. I believe this diversity of perspectives on the evolving world has helped me “see the future” as much as the future is now and simply unevenly distributed. I chalk it up to serendipity and barely conscious instinct that trend analysis, market research, and systems thinking became part and parcel of my professional career. It wasn’t until 2000, tasked with leading design and front-end development for Fidelity Investments’ institutional digital properties that it became abundantly clear that being curious about and knowing how to study people’s wants, needs, and motivations at the intersection of technology applications gives us an edge in service of stakeholder demands.  Find evidence of even your own claims.

In 2004, I joined the Fidelity CTO’s office, bringing that lens on humans and ecosystems to its technology practice. I researched, evaluated, and integrated the best tools and techniques of the day to gain insight into markets and help prioritize strategic initiatives. This was the time when the budding Internet giants of today first published their APIs and otherwise enabled methods for understanding consumer behavior and delivering more satisfying and trustworthy experiences. 2005 was when my boss and I co-authored the business requirements that served as the foundation of the current customer experience, one that is about investor interests and priorities rather than trying to get their attention through interactions organized like the org chart of the enterprise. Since then, I’ve armed executives, associates, fellow analysts, affiliates, direct reports, interns, and students with the tools and techniques for how to discern signal from noise, chart a course to achieve the future they desire, and develop eminence in their fields of practice.

The embedded media (below), How to Build a Proper CAT, is a playful summary of how to start building a capability to innovate, a sort of five-minute recipe, if you will. There are devilish details like identifying trusted sources, maintaining stakeholder engagement, and how to democratize innovation in one’s organization on the path to accelerating such efforts – but that’s where you can reach out. Which brings me to this: Even though Scott Kirsner tells me to never write a piece that attempts to boil the ocean for “innovation”, I want to leave you with the one word secret to successful innovation anywhere - because, after all, you hire me and my team to make complex things simple to execute: Alignment.  Even with the recipe linked below, the conditions of the kitchen – including the cooks you have, their pedigree, and what provisions they have on hand to craft a menu of options – varies between each organization. 

That’s when you reach out to us at BESPOKE R&D.

My team and I, along with our affiliates, have seen a lot.  Our pattern recognition and association capabilities are well developed as life-long learners.  Get in touch and let’s sharpen our knives together to prepare a proper feast for your stakeholders.  We’re not like most consultants.  We put ourselves out of work so we can help you with the next opportunity. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Starting this blog anew. I'd let it languish & the content got blown away (oh, if only!). Happy no one else took the URL.