I saw a quote one time that really drew the line in the sand for me, in as far as the innovation debate goes. I mean, people can disagree over certain tactics, methodology, whatever and not be worthy of scathing insults. However, when it comes to the topic of failure, that’s when I draw my sword and scratch a line in the sand. If you’re caught on the other side of that line from me, then you’re in big trouble because you represent either the dupes, the stupid frickin’ morons that will repeat the most asinine buzzword phrases without thinking, or you’re one of the posers creating this crap and pushing it, to show how smart you are (NOT).
So what was this quote? It went something like “innovators have the duty to fail, fail fast, fail smart and fail often”. I can’t remember the idiot’s name who said it, but it did cause me to wonder just how long, and how it was even possible, that they had been able to keep their head up inside of that long, dark, tight and musky passageway without becoming brain dead. Oh wait, that quote would indicate that they ARE brain dead! You see, anyone wanting you to fail, is not your friend. I am. I don’t want you to fail, unless of course if you have some evil plot to take over the world or ruin people’s lives, or – well, you get the picture.
Failure is not good, failure is bad. If someone is telling you that you should learn to fail, it’s is only because they have no idea in the entire universe on how to tell you to succeed. Or, they’re just a stupid frickin’ idiot that is passing off what they heard because they lack the necessary grey matter to know bad advice when they hear it. I don’t care who it is pushing the idea either. The first sign, that you should get as far away from a innovation hypester as fast as possible, is the very first instant that they start talking about how to fail. That’s when you smile, politely excuse yourself and get the hell away from them. If they’re promoting failure, you can pretty much forget about having anything to do with them, because their minds aren’t on success.
I recently saw a blog where the blogger was pointing out how the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a great movie promoting the ideas of innovation. I hadn’t thought of that film much lately, except in passing, because I believe it was on one of the cable channels. I remember going to see it as a child at the theater when it came out, and how it featured a number of my favorite themes – creative eccentricity, the rewards for the individual from a free enterprise system, determination, and the righteous conflict against tyranny and evil. What the blog post reminded me of is how my mom laughed at the group of scientists and inventors who were couped up in the evil baron’s castle – assigned to replicating the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car. She would laugh and say, “Look at those poor, scroungy old men. They’ve been in there so long trying to make that car and haven’t a clue about what they’re doing, – ‘talking about ‘the roses of success’. They haven’t a chance of being successful at all”. And of course, at the end of the song they perform, about perseverance in the invention process, the car that they’re attempting modify falls apart, emphasizing the fact that, no matter how much they try to rationalize it or put a brave face and a stiff upper lip on their predicament, they are total and complete, utter failures with no chance of success. How could they be? They had no idea how to make a car like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, they had never even seen it before.
There is a deliberate sense of irony in the scene that the blogger completely missed. The blogger thought that it was a great scene because it was pushing the idea of not being stopped by failure. Yes, perseverance is important, but what is more important is knowing what the hell you’re supposed to be doing in the first place. Those scientists didn’t! Seriously. In the film, the man that the evil baron wants is not the older gentleman that he has snatched up and tossed in with the old scatter brain scientists. No, it’s his son, played by my favorite screen father of all time, Dick Van Dyke, but the baron doesn’t know that. Dick’s the one with the real flying car.
So what’s wrong with this whole idea of smart failing, an oxymoronic term cooked up by one Stefan Lindegaard (whom I’ll be taking to task in another post)? If you apply the idea of failure to most professions, then it is the thing that holds you back from success. It has a price that comes with it. If you try to down play it, then you’re setting yourself up for disaster. But forget my opinion, let’s look at some facts. GM had to recall million of cars because of ignition failures. There was property damage involved as well as bodily injury. This failure will cost GM millions and I’d love to see one of the failure promoters, explain why this was a good thing, to someone who’s car had been effected by this recall, or worse. But since then, there’s been something even more disastrous, and I’m going to analyze it very closely.
You may not have known this, but the boys and girls in the laundry detergent biz have been busy, innovating –
Ah, but there’s something more here than just product quality. If you haven’t guessed it yet, here’s a hint –
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s have been thousands of cases where children have gotten their little hands on Tide Pods and have become ill. In the case of this one 7 month old, the little boy died – http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-08-15/news/os-detergent-pod-death-child-20130815_1_detergent-laundry-7-month-old-boy. Now this is a perfect case of what I’m talking about. The failure fans would say, “Well, this is certainly an opportunity to learn from this unfortunate situation and rethink packaging”. There are even some people who blame the parents for not being sure that the product was out of reach of children at all times. Before I comment, let’s listen to this real-life mom explain how this product works, as her children play with it nearby (watch how many times one of them puts it up to their mouth). Notice how she makes sure that this new product isn’t just viewed as a new product, but an INNOVATION!:
Oh look – even their commercial looks colorful and sounds like there’s children singing in the background –
Oh, but guess what? There’s been a FAILURE!
And of course this kind of failure lends itself to potential for a lawsuit –
Well, it would appear that the laundry companies are learning a lesson from their latest “innovation”, but not to worry because after all, this failure did happen pretty fast and it wasn’t even a complete failure after all. The product works, it’s just that the packaging failed…
So, we know what happened, but how would it have been any different if I, or someone I had trained, been involved? Well, if I had trained the innovation team, they never would have come up with this moronic idea in the first place. I’m not talking about the Pod but how it looks, was marketed, etc. Only an idiot would design a potential poisonous substance that would be around children, intentionally or not, so that it looks like candy. In fact, I would consider firing anyone that would have brought such a product idea to my intention. Why so harsh? Because it is a clear and apparent indication that that person has absolutely no historical frame of reference, that they must have been living with their face glued to the Cartoon Network or some other entertainment channel non-stop for the last twenty years. Making adult products appear cartoonish or attractive to children has been a big no-no since the tobacco industry got smacked for things like the cartoon camel for Camel cigarettes.
The only way that that product design got out was that morons came up with the idea, morons did the design and morons OKed it. No other way. Period. My first thought, when I saw the stuff in someone’s home, was “Why the hell does this look like candy?”. It looked like it would be good to eat. It has a pleasant tactile quality and so I’d be thinking, “Who are we selling to this to? Teen moms who are only mature enough to be physically capable of getting pregnant? Don’t you realize that that would mean they’re not smart enough to keep this crazy crap away from their kids – even if we put it in bold type on the box?”
Here in lies one of the most insidious parts of the design, because it is everywhere on the web. Why is it that so many names of companies on the web and elsewhere sound like baby talk? Google, sounds like a cross between ‘goo-goo’ and ‘gurgle’. ‘Twitter’ sounds like what a child might call a bird chirping and ‘tweets’ sound like baby birds. It like those kids that did X and went to clubs with pacifiers in their mouths and stuffed animals on their backs are now running companies or the companies are doing subliminals to get their business. So, is that why that one spot looks like something from a Saturday morning live action TV show from the 70s? In fact, the spot mirrors the typical way Target commercials used to look like, which were aimed at teens and young adults, and modeled after early 70s psychedelia:
So the Tide Pods look young, they come in what looks like a candy jar, which is a concept decision – not one based on utility or any other purpose, and it’s easy to get into. So, at that point, I’d be finding out who was responsible for the packaging, the idea, the marketing and I’d be getting some answers because this was a disaster in the waiting from the beginning and now, now there’s a dead little boy involved as well as thousands of children that have become ill on not one but two continents. This is not rocket science folks – I know. I have friends who are actual rocket scientists and this isn’t it. This is what happens when you have people who have been told all their lives how dad blame smart they are and then they turn around and do something asinine like this, for obvious reasons. This is not just some dumb-ass mistake, like the decision to make new Coke and get rid of classic Coke so that everyone is stuck with that new stupid taste that some corporate jerk-off came up with. No. This is a series of bone headed decisions made by a gaggle of morons who decided “Yes, lets make the Pods look like candy and package them in a candy jar and make the commercial all psychedelic like something from a futuristic Willy Wonka set, so it’ll appeal to teen moms all across America. YEAAAAAH!” That’s what the marketing looks like to me. There’s no two moms at the laundry mat with one complaining about lugging her heavy detergent box with the basket of clothes and toddlers in tow, while other is all, “Oh Sally. You haven’t heard about these new, easy to use Tide Pods…?” Nope. Instead it looks like something that would be part of the background of Katy Perry video.
Every last one of those morons should’ve been forced to attend that child’s funeral and watch as the casket went into the ground while wearing headphones that play a voice track that said, “You see them putting the tiny casket in the ground? That baby should be playing in a sandbox, not lying in a box going into the dirt…And it’s all your fault” over and over again. Because all the adults were asleep at the wheel over at Tide, while morons played make believe, there’s now a little person who won’t get the chance to grow up and buy any Tide products, or anything else from parent company P&G, because this one killed him because it was designed in a way that would be attractive to children. There’s no one good excuse, let alone an answer that can excuse it. It’s inexcusable and unforgivable. But don’t take my word for it – give Paul Fox, the Proctor and Gamble guy you saw in the news video, a call at 513 983 3465 and you ask him how is it that they had a team of people who created a toxic product that they then designed, packaged and marketed, so that it would appeal to children that are too young to read. Let me know what asinine excuse he comes up with in the comments section. Please.
And just so there’s no misunderstanding here, I’m being deliberately harsh in my criticism because I have been in that position of product design before – where I had a potentially dangerous product that presented me with a number of issues to resolve so that no one would be harmed and I would’t get sued. I designed solutions that were so sophisticated that when my attorney’s office at Porter, Wright, Morris, and Arthur had their product liability department look it over, they determined that not only had I done the appropriate thing to protect myself from a lawsuit, but that it had exceeded what the law required to a degree that they had never seen before. I know how to do this, folks, so I can say that people behind Tide Pods are idiots because they are. They should all be fired except for the people in the lab that made the detergent in the Pods. Everyone else should be given a pink slip because this little failure could cost Tide and Procter and Gamble some nice coin. It’s already given them negative exposure and they have to go through the expense of having to do package re-design when, if they had done it right in the first place, none of this would have happened. And if you think that the warnings on the box are enough to protect them from a lawsuit – you’re as clueless as they are. Why do you think those Porter Wright attorneys said that I had exceeded the product liability warning requirements at a level that they had never seen before? It’s because I thought of every potential contingency and had it covered, but in this case, Tide and Procter and Gamble aren’t covered. If I was an attorney, I’d be organizing as class action lawsuit against them because, from what I’ve seen, gross negligence is not out of the question here. At all. Again. This didn’t have to happen. It was designed to.
So that’s what failure looks like, folks. It gets people hurt, it wastes time and money and sometimes gets people killed. But in the name of innovation, the innovation hypesters are promoting failure as a value. Instead of teaching people how not to fail, these innovation hypesters promote failure and not being afraid to fail, because they themselves have failed to learn how to teach people how to think creatively so they innovate faster, better and without failing. And here’s the thing – it is actually possible to do that – if you know how. I do. I’ve done it. That’s why I’m so hard on these stupid jerks who have conned people into thinking that they’re “thought leaders” and have everything figured out. Huh, thought leaders – leading us to think what? To be so clueless that a child’s life ends before he could even have his 1st birthday?
So the next time you hear some stupid frickin’ moron talk about the value of failure, think about the little child going down that hole in a box and remember, when the next big failure happens, it could be your child or even you, but rest assured, the failure hypesters will keep on hyping…
I know that some of the data that I presented is over two years old, but here’s why it’s still relevant – “Although efforts have been introduced in recent years to raise awareness among parents and to make packaging design changes, it appears that the number of reports is continuing to increase. If the current trend continues, more than 11,000 reports will be received in 2014”.
Nothing’s over. P&G has refused to change the packaging enough. This is just the beginning…
Paul Sloane seems to always write the most insipid B.S. about innovation that I see. No, wait, let me change that. I think ONE time I did see something that I liked that made me go, “Wow. I can guess sometime he can pull his head out of there…” but like I said, I’ve seen this maybe one time. I’ve not read much of his material, so it could just be the luck of the draw that most of what I’ve seen was the crap, but hey, I calls ’em like I sees ’em…
And so it is, I’ve got a real problem with the following sentiment from one of his blog posts:
“Change your attitude to failure. If everything you try works then you are not being bold enough. Innovation involves trying some things that don’t work. Treat each failure as a learning opportunity. The innovator’s motto is, ‘I succeed or I learn but I never fail’.”
Really? Here’s the deal – if a person really has it together, knows where creativity truly comes from and how to tap into it every time – at will, then they will be right most of the time. Anyone can fail, big deal. In fact, I pointed out on another blog that Edison’s big quote, about not failing but finding out 10,000 ways that something didn’t work, was really just a defensive comment to cover the fact that he wasn’t smart enough to nail the right solution the first couple of times out of the shoot. However, another man, Nikola Tesla, was and Edison hated him. So who do you strive to be when it comes to innovative ideas – Edison or Tesla?
This attitude that I’m finding, that it’s OK to fail, appears to be becoming a psychological crutch when the real focus should be how to improve insight, vision, creativity so that you don’t fail! When you learn to drive a car are you expected to be allowed to have accidents when you go for a drive for your first year, just because you’re not that good at it yet? In most professions as well, failure isn’t allowed. You do that too many times and you’re out of a job or out of business.
What’s missing is the very simple but obvious fact that few people know how to really be innovative by tapping into the very core of where creativity comes from and that reason is that most people don’t even understand creativity. I saw a TED talk once where Amy Tan said that creativity was the height of compassion. Really? The Nazis had a lot of very creative scientists and they didn’t give a damn about compassion.
Just to be honest, I saw a Youtube video about the worse 5 weapons in use now. Most were from the U.S.. Because they showed actual casualties, I decided not to include it because I didn’t want it to ruin the feel from the other videos here. However, it really puts Tan’s comment into perspective as one of the most asinine statements ever made by a reportedly, intelligent woman. Creativity is a neutral force that can be used for good or evil. Period. The first time you hear someone claim otherwise, feel free to discount anything else they say…
There’s such a thing that I’m beginning to call, SuperSupra™ Creativity. It’s there when it’s needed. People want to say that you can’t force innovation. SuperSupra™ Creativity doesn’t care what the circumstances are, it just provides the answers, the solutions, the invention, the document, the lay-out, the treatment, whatever it is that needs to be done. The suggestions in the piece, where I got the quote, are very good ideas as far as creative ways to problem solve, but they say nothing about the issue of a person being creative themselves. These are simply convenient work-arounds. If Paul really had the answers I’m talking about, he’d come out and talk about them. Instead, as with most innovation and creativity hypesters, we get mostly his slick shine-ola.
Listen to Paul and Jeffery Baumgartner, whom I hold in equal respect to Paul, argue over whether brainstorming is good or whether Jeffery’s latest gimmick is better. Listen closely to see if either one ever mentions at all the idea of training the team in creative thinking first.
So, the thing is that people gathered together with widely varied levels of creativity and knowledge of how to apply it, are like these children, unwrapping music instruments and discovering their instrument’s most shallow and pedestrian potential for the first time.
Yep. That’s what it’s like essentially, from any kind of session where people don’t really understand how to use creativity beyond the most pedestrian level. Now here comes the “facilitator” and see what a difference it makes.
Yep. You can recognize a bit of a tune, but it’s still a lot of noise. But what happens when the children get a little training in what they’re doing before they attempt a song? In other words, when each participant knows their instrument and can contribute to the discussion useful ideas and not just noise. I know I’m veering away from the brainstorm format a bit here but I’m allowed, because Baumgartner wasn’t going along with it anyway. I’m viewing the session as more an orchestration of spontaneous ideas that fit together within a discussion, with a productive outcome. I know, because I’ve been in them before. On average, it would look more like this –
I think you get my point. By the way, I think those little children are very talented and endearing and I hope you enjoyed their performance as much as I have. Within the context of this discussion however, I see them as symbolizing your basic corporate culture that has allowed for creative expression within a conservative context. The ideas flow, and are very productive within the strict, corporate structure that allows them, and they are seen as productive. But, let’s take this a little further. What happens when you have a team of highly trained people in creativity? Ones that know how to tap into the source, the SuperSupras™ who are then allowed to be who they are? Let me give you an example of what I mean by “highly” trained SuperSupra™ with an example of one such person –
Power. That’s the word that comes to mind for me. Imagine the opportunity of being on that stage with this legendary rock star, Ozzy Osbourne, that you’ve listened to and you’re actually jamming with his band while thousands cheer you on. The best part is he’s just a kid and is too innocent to tap into those kind of feelings yet. However, that’s what’s happening all around him. Projections of the power of creativity unleashed. Everyone is feeling, “Wow. Look at what this kid can do, he’s so into our culture he can share the stage with these legends and rock out”! YEAH!!!!!!!!!! So, back to the problem at hand, if you’ve got one person like that, that can really come up with the great ideas that wow everyone, then imagine a couple more on the team –
Now you know what I mean by SuperSupra™. Most people who listen to men like Paul Sloane and Jeffery Baumgartner are going to be like those little N. Korean tykes with their guitars at best – effective but rote. They will have mastered all the gimmicks, but lack the skills to improvise, to know the freedom of being unleashed in their creativity and how to use it.
So, I want to go back to his statement that if you haven’t failed you weren’t being bold enough. OK, so my knee-jerk reaction is who does he think he is to tell anyone about being bold? I don’t see anything is his background that would indicate that he even knows the definition of the word or has even experienced it. The biggest failure in my professional life was because I wasn’t bold enough, not the other way around. I relied too much on other people who undermined what I was doing, which taught me to take the next move and be able to do everything myself. My mentor actually taught me what I needed to know to accomplish that because he knew that I was going to need that ability and he knew that I had it in me to pull it off. So, had that kept me from being a team player? No. But it has freed me from having to rely on a team if there’s no team around. That’s why when I see comments like, “Innovation mean collaboration” I know the person has absolutely no idea whatsoever about innovation. None. They’re like the kids that were buying the KMart, copycat punk clothes off the rack back in the ’80s, instead being punk and living it out of the thrift shops.
I agree that people are afraid to try being creative and that is mostly because they haven’t been trained properly in the process or what it means. Creativity means one thing and one thing alone – power. The rock’n’roll kids had it. Did you see the difference? That’s what SuperSupra(TM) Creativity is like. And I’m sure that there are many bosses in some businesses that actually don’t want their employees to be too creative because it means that they will become more powerful and then they may figure out that maybe they don’t need that job after all or maybe that they can get a better one elsewhere. Again, this isn’t happening everywhere, but it is somewhere and it raises the issue that unlike the easily tossed about branding term that “innovation” has become, it is actually a multifaceted, multidimensional concept that is often beyond the cognitive grasp of bosses, CIOs, motivational speakers, and so-called “creativity experts” like Paul Sloan.
By Marshall Barnes, R&D Eng Copyright July 6th, 2014 ALL RIGHT RESERVED
Part of what I discovered that is wrong with the innovation promotion industry is the proclivity to cover-up one thing by changing phrases, words, or other cosmetic approaches to then claim that you have a new idea. An innovation. In reality, it’s all about as effective as putting a wig and lipstick on a sow and saying it’s Miss Piggy. Or worse, covering up body oder with cheap perfume. In the end, it’s not what it seems and the illusion doesn’t last long.
The worse thing about this practice is that so any people and entities have been getting away with it. How so? I’m an analyst among many other things, and I catch these tricks when I analyze what’s being said. This is a skill that I’ve witnessed in decline among many other people, beginning in the ’90s. It is especially near nonexistence in the media at a level that would be alarming to my senior high journalism teacher. In my case, lot’s of times these manipulations just pop right out at me, but I’m usually tipped off by the title of an article or blog post, because it is in the title that the fakery appears first. This usually manifests itself in trying to sound witty, or ironic. For example, “Go For Discovery and Not Solutions”. The minute someone suggests that I go for something ambiguous over something concrete, I become suspicious. It tells me right away that perhaps they’re doing that because they don’t know how to deal with specifics and they are trying to sell me on a way of doing things that makes their weaknesses look like strengths. So that in turn, weakens me. That’s one of the reasons I say that the innovation promotion field has now gotten dangerous for business.
I’ll give this example, taken from the phrase I listed above –
A commencement speaker at Brown University told the gathered throng that ““We didn’t come to Brown to find answers. We came to Brown to come up with better questions.” which is 100% b.s. Not a little bit. Not a lot. 100%. Here’s why –
OK, they went to Brown to come up with better questions. Note, first of all, this isn’t the result of some poll. This is an unidentified commencement speaker who is speaking rhetorically, it appears. Now why am I being so ambiguous? Give me a second and it will be apparent. So then what did the students do? The last time I checked, in order to get a degree you had to pass exams. The last time I checked, exams had questions to answer. The Brown statement makes you think that it’s all about questions now, instead of answers, but it’s a misdirection. If you’re looking for answers – you already have questions. Better questions are still there to get answered. It’s always about getting the answers, that’s why it’s misdirection. It’s making you think that you have to change something that you’re doing when in fact, you don’t have to change anything. But for the innovation promoter, they have to get you to think that you’ve got to change, otherwise, what do you need them for? So, because they have no real answers, and they have no real solutions, they have to make you think they do and the way to do that is to get you to think that you’ve got to change what you’re doing and do what they say – but it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Now, here’s why the ambiguity. This quote from an unidentified commencement speaker at Brown came from one Deb Mills-Scofield, founder of Mills-Scofield LLC, who claims to be an innovator, entrepreneur and non-traditional strategist with 20 years experience in industries ranging from the Internet to Manufacturing with multinationals to start ups. She is also a partner at Glengary LLC, a Venture Capital Firm and she’s the one that used that example to make a point – to get her readers to go after “discovery” instead of “solutions”. But here’s the deal. She not only failed to identify the speaker, but in her article she has a link to this page – https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/05/orators which names Carolyn Bologna and Joshua Block as student speakers at said commencement but neither one is identified with giving a speech with said quotation.
Now are you starting to get the picture here? The THEME of Deb’s article is discovery over solutions. She uses a quote from an unidentified commencement speaker, suggests, by linking to a page with two students on it, that it was one of them that said it, and she actually thinks that this is credible behavior? Why can’t she say which student it was? Hello? So, we don’t know, actually, if it was even one of them that said it. The quote is not the theme of either or their speeches which means that the comment was probably rhetorical. In fact, it’s not even original as I’ve heard a similar sentiment expressed during a documentary on advanced concept science and technology. In that case, the statement was, “It’s not enough to just look for answers. We need to start coming up with better questions.” However, notice the difference – answers are not discarded as a goal, only that better questions are now required as well. Now you see why I was ambiguous on the details – because my source was needlessly ambiguous.
So now, Deb’s article has a high degree of B.S. already. She uses an unsubstantiated quote to make the point of her article when that quote, taken literally, is problematic. Even if taken at face value, if your intent is to discover something, then by default you will come up with an answer to something. She seems to be arguing for something akin to pure research, which is not a problem – I’ve done pure research and made significant discoveries, but there is no value in doing one over the other. It’s based on the need at the time. As an internationally noted R&D engineer who has even built his own labs, I think I know something about doing something for discovery. That’s why I built my labs. The first was specifically for pure research. In other words, just to do research to see what I might discover. But here’s the point – you do that because you know that what you discover will provide solutions! Case in point – out of that lab I discovered the electromagnetic solution for warp drive and because of that, I am the leader in the world on not only the ultimate potentials for space tourism, going to Mars and interstellar space travel (NASA BTW has none of this capability) but time travel as well. That’s right – time travel. You can look it up. My machine, the Verdrehung Fan™, is already sending RF and IR waves out of our space-time continuum and was the device I used to beat Dr. Ronald L. Mallett in the race to build such a technology. I stand to make more money than the entire innovation promotion industry within the next 12 years. Right now, I’m preparing to do major presentations at Harvard, the International Mars Society Conference and the 100 Year Starship Symposium – July, August, September. So, I think I know just a little bit more about the issue of discovery vs solutions than little Debbie does.
If you look at the overwhelming amount of innovation advice and gimmickry out there, you’d be astonished. It can’t all be right because in fact, much of it is contradictory. I haven’t done a proper check yet, but I would imagine that everything you need to know about doing innovation could be summed up in 10 talking points. That’s it – 10. So why so much material? Why so much yapping and blabbing about something so simple? Because, they have nothing else to do and they have to make themselves appear to be needed.
I’ll give you yet another example along the same line as the quote I’ve been discussing. Warren Berger, the author of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas who was featured in an article on Inc. magazine’s web site. In it Berger, states the following: “I think people can rally around a question more than a statement. A question tells you we are on a journey together: ‘How might we use robotics to make the world a better place?’ A statement says we’ve done it already: ‘We use robotics to make the world a better place.’ The statement is a little arrogant and maybe a little bit of a false claim. The question declares the great thing you want to do with your company. It’s much more empowering.” which is just so much B.S. Why? Because the statement that you make in regards to the robots, if you want to indicate a mission or a journey (because missions are journeys that have a purpose to be accomplished) is not “We use robotics to make the world a better place”, but “WE WILL MAKE ROBOTS TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”. That is both a statement and the indication of a journey. It says that you won’t stop at just one, it implies that you will continue to expand and innovate. Berger was giving a false choice. The issue of using a question was B.S., misdirection, and yet he presented it as if that was the only other option. That’s what innovation hypesters do because just as in this case, they don’t know the answers. But another point occurred to me. Berger made that statement in regards to how to get people to rally around something. I don’t remember any great leader, good or bad, rallying people with questions. As a World War II researcher I remember Winston Churchill’s brave speech of how the British would meet the enemy and fight.
I never remember Hitler getting the German people to rally around the Nazi cause by asking questions, he made statements. Because I don’t have such musings in my head, I decided to look up some quotes. I found no questions, that’s for sure, but of the many statements in relation to the German people, I found one quite in tune to Berger’s comments: “A car for the people, an affordable Volkswagen, would bring great joy to the masses and the problems of building such a car must be faced with courage.” That was Hitler at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show. It almost sounds like a commercial. In fact, with just a little editing – “Introducing the affordable Volkswagen. A car for the people that, with courageous effort, will bring joy to the masses when built…” I wonder what der Fuhrer would have thought about this Volkswagen ad made so many years later –
This stuff is easy for me to see because I haven’t spent the last forty years blabbing to people about innovation – I spent that time doing it. Many times it was on tight time schedules and under the gun. I had to just make things happen, or I wasn’t going to eat that month except Cream of Wheat. So I know what it means to innovate, I know what it means to have to do it where failure wasn’t fast or smart it wasn’t even an option, and I know where creativity comes from because it was my job to use it all, better, faster and on a higher level in order to match the demands that were put on me. That’s a lot different from someone whose only resume entries are for how many seminar and keynotes they’ve given. I do this blog to get the word out about what’s really going on. When I do a seminar I charge a pretty penny for it because what I’m going to train those attending, they can’t get from anywhere else, and it will save them time, money, and resources. But you know what? I’m not going to turn it into a cottage industry because there’s no point. When they take my seminar they’ll know everything I do on the subject. You see, I’m still going to make money doing innovations – alot more than I ever would speaking about it because that’s how good I am at doing them. I have no vested interest in stringing people along for a ride. Its just like that old saying – “Those that do, do. Those that can’t, yap about it”.
In the video below is a perfect example of how people like Deb will manipulate words and ideas to misdirect you. She talks about RCUS – Random Collision of Unusual Suspects. She claims, and I quote “this is when innovation really happens”. NO, IT’S NOT! It is only one way and not even the best way and for a very good reason – if that’s what you’re relying on to get an innovation, then guess what? You’re competition, who knows what I train people to do, will beat you to it because they don’t have to wait around until they collide with the right other person, they’ll have the training to get the job done themselves. This is what I mean by these innovation promoters making things up to make-up for the fact that they really don’t have the answers. Anyone that knows anything at all about creativity and innovation knows that partnerships and collaboration can produce new ideas. But do you want to rely on that alone? You would if you really believed what Deb said. Oh, we have to find other people or we can’t innovate. Meanwhile look at the historical record. Tesla didn’t do that. Leonardo Di Vinci didn’t as far as I know. The man that creatively inspired me in my teens – Todd Rundgren, didn’t. You might say, “But they’re geniuses!” to which I would say, “So? Wouldn’t you like to at least think on a higher level than you do and at least be on the same highway as them, if not moving at the same speed?” because I’ll tell you right now, these innovation hypers don’t promote anything remotely like being on that road, I can tell you that for sure.
So where the rubber meets the road is when the decision is made – do you wanna listen to little Debbie, who uses semantics and word misdirection to make her seem like she knows more than she does, or somebody that shoots straight, gives it to you the way it is and has the track record of doing game changing innovation against all the odds? Let me put it this way. In rock’n’roll, which is part of my background, if you play guitar you have choice. You can concentrate on just playing rhythm and making sure the group has a good solid sound or you can take on the challenge of playing lead. Lead guitarist get most of the attention. They also have the responsibility of creating good improvisations that will keep that attention and invigorate the crowd. But the best guitarists are really good at both. They can be counted on to do the flashy riffs but they can also hang back and do rhythm well. In fact, in some cases, they have to do both because they’re the only guitarist in the band, like Joe Walsh was with the James Gang or Todd Rundgren has been many times. The point is being versatile, but it is the lead player that can be flashy and handle the rhythm that is the best player, not the one who can only do rhythm.
Let me put it another way – in the overall scheme of things, a successful group must have a dedicated songwriter who can be counted on to write some hits. That doesn’t mean that the others can’t do it sometime or contribute, but if a band doesn’t have at least one person who can deliver on demand, that’s a problem. That person, is the most valuable player in the group because he or she’s contributing to making a lot more money than they would otherwise. The point is, collaboration can’t be relied on, groupthink cannot be the main creative mechanism because sometimes things just don’t click. Someone has to be the wiz, the visionary who can do it alone if need be. It’s better if you have a team that can do it but the likelihood of a random team coming together where the each have that wiz skill, is rare unless they’ve been trained. That’s the missing link in all this innovation hype – the lack of effective training because the promoters have no frickin’ idea how to do it. So they invent gimmicks, buzz words and other distractions instead of focusing on what you need to really get down to business. Despite what Ms. Mills-Scofield may think, the answer is it’s still about answers, it will always be about answers – even if you want to question the answers, in the end it’s about answers. And no fuzzy wuzzy, feel good guru is going to change that. You can have all the questions you want, but the purpose of questions is to get answers so you can act on them. Period.
Originally Posted on Blog.com June 23, 2014
By MARSHALL BARNES, R&D Eng Copyright June 21, 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Back, when I was a very small child, my mom began to drill into my head one phrase that I have never forgotten. It has kept me out of plenty of trouble and has also come back to haunt my parents as well, when I decided to drop out of college and pursue my dreams. That simple phrase is “Don’t follow the crowd”. That one phrase essentially translates into another – “resist peer pressure” and that was the thing that really got my parents, because if you can resist pressure from your peer group, you can resist pressure from anyone. It is the phrase, along with most of my heroes growing-up, that made me into the fierce individualist I am today, even now with the focus on groups, crowds, peers, openess and partnering. And so it is with this groupthink about disruption and the hype over innovation promotion, which brings me to the recent blow-up with one Jill Lepore and her New Yorker article against the father of disruption theory, Clayton Christensen, both professors at Harvard, where coincidently I’ll be speaking on the 25th of next month.
Disruption theory, just like the idea of innovation itself, has been over hyped, misused and exploited by motivational speakers and morons to the point that it was becoming obvious to those who didn’t even have a discerning mind on the matter. A backlash not only was due but I predicted as much in comments made on blogs at innovationexcellence.com where I have a community membership. As an innovator, inventor, and creativity scientist/master, I have an over 40 year track record studying and doing creativity and innovation that has reached 30 different fields and with 40 different breakthroughs, so I know what I’m talking about in a way that Lepore can’t. Though I agree mostly with her position, in the overall war against the hype of disruption and innovation, attacking Christensen is only a scratch on the surface because the problem extends far beyond him, and he also regrets the misuse of the word, disruption, or so he says. What lies ahead, however, is a war that she can’t win on her own, however, I’ve been preparing for it for a while now and the date that this blog was first launched and its subheading, is proof of that.
The date of my first post here is May 3rd, 2014, more than a month before the publication of her article, and the sub-subtitle of this blog is “”They called for disruption, Now they’re getting it”. The title of the first blog post says it all – “Welcome to the Beginning of the End of Innovation As You’ve Been Sold It“. You can’t be any more specific than that. As someone that’s a member of a number of the top open innovation groups online, I have an intimate knowledge of what is happening in the industry across the board now, not back in history at some point, and it is that knowledge that led me to realize just how much misinformation and outright B.S. is being promulgated as cutting edge business strategy. In the ’80s I learned about how to be cheaper, smarter, faster, leaner, and meaner when it came to being competitive – when it was required. All of those things lead toward more innovation and subsequently better competition, which of course could be described as disruptive but who cares about semantics here? And that’s one of the biggest problems in this whole situation – the overwhelming tendency for the disruption/innovation hype industry to think that but substituting one word for another, that you change the concept. Sorry, boys and girls, but you don’t, as long as you leave the definitions the same.
Above is a video of Clayton in action. He discusses his theory of disruption beginning with the steel industry. The problem with Chrsitensen’s analysis is two fold. One, he describes the scenario with the steel industry and mini-mills as if the mini-mills continued to take over steel altogether and then failed. I checked and found a whole list of U.S. companies making rebar, the bottom rung steel product that should have been the first to go according to him. He assumes that the problem is the way that businesses react to the effect of smaller competition coming in on the bottom, that they will always automatically just release those smaller margin markets to the competition, yet he says they aren’t “stupid”. Maybe that’s the problem – no one’s had the guts or the gumption to tell them how stupid they really are. The last time I checked, if your total profit from overall operations, is $1B and you let go lesser earning portions that are 7% each, and there’s say 4 of them, that’s a loss of 28% of your business. He assumes that they’ll get more of the higher profitable level, maybe so, but my reactions would be to cut costs of the business you already have and make that more profitable. Innovate improvements, what Christensen calls sustaining innovation. All it would take to undue that scenario he describes is if one of those companies decided to fight back against the upstarts, like a certain company did against me one time. But he says they don’t, because it’s not profitable.
Steve Jobs thought more like me (Hey, I’m older and I was doing it first). In a series of emails he declared “Holy war on Google” , something that I will continue in my own way since I hate them with a passion. Their current actions against indie record labels, an industry that I have been connected to half my life, pretty much seals the deal for me. At any rate, all this talk about disruption is really just semantics. Here, let me wave my magic wizard’s wand and show you – substitute “disruption” for “competitiveness”. See? It’s like it was, back in the ’80s. What doesn’t change are the tactics. When faced with threatening competition (instead of disruption), that’s what you do – you go to war, like Jobs said. You get more competitive. You know what I’m saying and I didn’t even use the word, disruption. It’s the story that got me selected by Julie Anixter, of Innovation Exellence, to be one of 25 featured innovators at the IX Innovation Cities Tour in Boston. Innovation Excellence, who by the way, is connected to Christensen’s Disruptor Foundation. My story of “From The Rebellion VS The Empire to Alexander the Great” (which you can see here ) focused on using creativity as a competitive weapon in the ’80s in a battle with a local video production studio and now again, to beat the competition in the advanced concept physics/aerospace arena on an international level. It’s showing both to illustrate how disruption actually works, but not by focusing on Christensen’s theory (it didn’t even exist in the ’80s) but from the use of military strategy and tactics. In the ’80s we were inspired by The Return of the Jedi as we had to face off against that new production firm, with their massively outfitted studio, that wanted to dominate the entire local video production market on all levels. We saw them as the Empire, with their studio Death Star and we were the Rebellion and we were going to fight back, and we did and we won in a two year conflict which left the studio management split apart and in the end (not by our doing) the loss of the studio itself.
We were the disruption that they brought on themselves by trying to dominate areas of the market that traditionally they should have left alone. Oh, but how did we little 20 somethings ever manage it without the professorial guidance of Clayton Christensen? We used the creativity that all underdog rebels, insurgents, freedom fighters, and revolutionaries do. Was it disruptive? Yeah, but not because of some magical theory. Hell, it’s just common sense! We also stood by and watched as Cranston/Csuri Productions, the first computer animation production house in the world, fell by the same forces (not ours) that Christensen describes – they were under cut by the advent of cheaper computers, software programs and the simple fact that there is break point where, if a cheaper product exists that will get the job done, that’s where the customers go. Charles Csuri was so fixated on doing the best quality computer animation possible that he chose to completely ignore the threat from the little guys until it was too late. In that respect, Christensen’s theory came true, but it didn’t have to.
I want to make something perfectly clear here, as well. In the greater scheme of things, we were on CCP’s side. We didn’t want them to go out of business and for the record, the staff there was always nice to us and helpful. But I didn’t run the shop, Chuck Csuri did, and although I was working on alternatives to some of the things that they did, they weren’t computer animations and they weren’t to compete with CCP but solve issues for ourselves and clients that couldn’t afford to pay $2,000 to $5,000 per finished second to get things done. If CCP had started a discount division, they could have stayed in business, but there were only so many high end clients in the world and when equipment costs started to drop, and digital video effects became better without computer system requirements, the high end clients bought their own systems. The scenario played out the way Christensen likes to call it, but the point is that it didn’t have to go that way. The production studio should have left us alone, according to Christensen and I agree, but they didn’t and so we had to take them on in a two year war. So, the disruption theory doesn’t always play out and many times it is a tactic instead of a business plan.
Jill Lepore accuses Christensen of many things, including overlooking facts that don’t suit his theory, and there certainly are some. I’m not here to repeat her accusations though, I don’t have to. But one thing I did notice from the lecture video that I’ve included here, is that disruption the way he describes it is not often the way people promote it. Lepore has caught on to this herself where she writes, “Ever since “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” everyone is either disrupting or being disrupted. There are disruption consultants, disruption conferences, and disruption seminars. This fall, the University of Southern California is opening a new program: ‘The degree is in disruption,’ the university announced.”
Yeah, all this hype and there’s not one gun put to anyone’s head with the caveat that they had better follow this formula or else. All it takes, in every case, in every industry is for someone to have the brains and the balls to say,”Nope. We’re not playing it this way. We’re actually going to do real innovation and create a new path.” But venture capitalists like Josh Linker, as she points out, only have one strategy, driven by disruption – make money with a company and sell, exactly the kind of VCs I’ve been known to laugh in their faces and get up and walk out of their meeting. Small minded, clueless and stuck in playing the game of investing in a company, having it get profitable and then selling, with no appreciation that you might do that with some stupid start-up that’s just selling a bunch of apps, but you don’t with one developing world changing technology in aerospace that’s offering to buy you out at a 1,000% ROI within two years. But the VCs and the innovation experts and all the rest just continue, lock step in their mindless march toward disruption, totally unaware, as Christensen was, that someone can disrupt the disruption and the disruptors, too.
Innovation commentator Greg Satell cites a landmark study done by Solomon Asch in the 1950’s that showed people have a tendency to conform to crowd pressure even when the idea in question is obviously and patently wrong. Like I said earlier, not me. But because of this, we have seen the viral explosion of the hype of disruption theory on perhaps an unprecedented scale and this is where Lepore and I are in strong agreement. The only problem is that, although she may have sounded the clarion call, she’s in no position to fight the war beyond her little skirmish with Christensen. If things are going to change, it’s going to take a war and it’s going to take exposing bad actors, and bad advice on a regular basis, and certain people are going to get pissed off while others are already cheering what’s happened so far with Lepore, and are beginning to do the same for me. But Lepore is a historian and not in the innovation industry – I am. And she doesn’t have a 40 year track record in innovation, I do. So that means in this war, that needs to be fought to save business from itself and the disruption/innovation hype cult, she will have little to offer because when that cult fires back with “what the hell do you know about innovation anyway?” she won’t be able to point at the same kind of track record I have and the accomplishments I have and say, “more than you could ever fit into that tiny little pea brain of yours” and then prove exactly why it’s that way. If you doubt me, look at some of the other blog posts here already – and I have twelve more waiting to be released and dozens to write after that.
Those milking the disruption theory and innovation hype for all it’s worth, remind me of the yellow jackets that I used to have to contend with as a child. In late August, after the pears from our pear tree had been dropping a while, the ones that were damaged had been left to rot on the ground to become compost during the winter. Well, that’s also the season for yellow jackets to get crazy and frisky, looking for all kinds of liquids, especially sweet ones. My job was to go out back and get up the rotting pears and dump them. The only problem was I was surrounded by yellow jackets buzzing around getting drunk on pear juice. If I wasn’t careful, the yellow jackets would see me and try to sting, thinking I was a threat, and I was. And just like those hyping disruption theory think of it as their great money bonanza, the yellow jackets thought the pears were the best thing in the world, until I would pick-up individual pears by the stem, that they weren’t slurping from, and throw them down on top of the yellow jackets on other pears, with a crushing blow, essentially turning their treasured past time into the weapon of their demise. The same thing’s going happen to the innovation hypers.
Remember this blog’s subtitle?
Originally Posted on Blog.com June 18, 2014
By MARSHALL BARNES, R&D Eng Copyright June 18th, 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Recently I was reading a blog post by Reuven Gorsht that made me scream – THAT’S WHY I CREATED PARANOVATION!”. It had two of the worst things that drives the innovation misinformation promotion gravy train – a faux witty title and then completely misleading content. It also was about one of my favorite subjects – competition in the business world. Titled, Why are we still so Focused On Beating The Competition?, I knew immediately that it was going to be some feel good B.S. because the answer is simple – if you don’t stay aware of what your competition is doing, they’re going to beat you. Depending on who they are, they may even kick your ass and stomp you down and grind you into the ground. I know, because, as you can read in my second post here, I faced such a prospect when I was in my early 20s but, being inspired by the Rebellion from Star Wars (as well as years of reading about miitary conflicts as a child) my associates and I used our creative ingenuity to strike back and in two years, kicked their ass right out of our field. In other words, they picked a fight, but we ended it.
So now Reuven’s blog post is about how Amazon.com founder, Jeff Bezos, isn’t focused on the competition. Allegedly, Bezos is giving some show and tell/”this is what your friend’s daddy does for a job” talk at his kid’s elementary school. He tells this class that the people who succeed at Amazon are the “explorers and pioneers” and those that fail are the ones focused on “killing our competition”. On its face, I knew this statement was just so much malarkey that I immediately jumped on debunking it. I simply did a search for “Amazon.com vs”, that’s it. If Jeff Bezos really said that, then he’s lying. Here’s the proof – http://www.business-management-degree.net/features/amazon-vs-netflix/ and more :
Amazon is constantly AT WAR with someone, justified or not. That means warriors at Amazon must be doing quite well – regardless of who they might be. Read the opening paragraphs of this story http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2014/06/amazon-hachette-antitrust-backfire just to see how Amazon likes to “push publishers around”. I know for a fact that there is a dirty little rumor among book stores that if Amazon doesn’t like you, that your web site will start having problems. I know someone that that happened to. Here’s a story that mentions Amazon’s plans for “world domination” and the ruthless way it targets neighborhood book stores – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/08/08/politics-and-prose-owners-blast-bezos. I can’t say for certain that Amazon targets book retailer’s web sites and I can’t substantiate any accusations against Amazon in that regard, but that’s not the point. The point is that that is the perception among many mom and pop retailers who have no real reason to deliberately make things up.
Now Amazon is at war with Google over delivery drones and Apple over tablets – http://www.cnet.com/videos/its-amazon-vs-google-in-the-delivery-drone-wars/. The idea that Jeff Bezos doesn’t care about beating the competition is B.S. The fact that this allegedly came out at an elementary school means it should have been taken with a grain of salt – conflict is non-PC at schools these days. The fact that Reuven missed this obvious fact, was totally clueless about Amazon’s well publicized history of conflicts, and felt that he should write this blog post without the slightest bit of fact checking, just brings into sharp focus what I’ve been saying about the innovation promotion industry – there’s so much misinformation that it is actually threatening business – not helping it.
Here is Jeff Bezos in an interview admitting that he does pay attention to the competition, but I want you to notice how he nuances it:
You see, Jeff makes it sound like he concentrates on improving costumer experience, that it’s all about the customer. Guess what? That’s a competitive tactic. In fact, it actually pretty passive aggressive. But we can see from the story links that that’s not all of what Amazon does. Amazon is very focused on the competition and competing against them. My first awareness about that was the war between Amazon and Barnes and Noble (no relationship to me) over ebook readers. It was a rather dispassionate observation, on my part, as I wasn’t interested in e-readers and I still don’t own one, but I always like to monitor the development of new innovations, nonetheless. I might not want one, but as a writer and publisher, I wanted to know how the e-readers would effect the book market and at what point I should include e-books among the options from which my material could be chosen.
To put it another way, in my war with OSO, my focus was on serving the customer as well – with better pricing, more innovative technology solutions, and an expanding range of services. But there was no mistake, we were at war with OSO, and they with us. They used their connections with a local columnist to keep us out of his section of the local main paper. I countered with getting publicity in other sections and also in other local papers. I put to good use what I had learned from Shep Gordan and especially, Tony DeFries when I was thirteen. I also got TV news coverage and interview programs on both TV and radio. In fact, my promotional skills got so sharp I even learned how to use the bad weather closing announcements to promote me. How you may ask? When bad weather, especially winter snow, caused school and business closings, I called to have them announce that the Marshall Barnes rock video shoot for that day was canceled. Yeah. Everyone listening knew I was supposed to shoot a video that day and it just added to the name recognition and prestige, even though it was just a publicity stunt, a take off of a trick I learned from Shep Gordon. The funny thing is that on some of those days, we were shooting scenes for other projects because of the snow. When I landed us a four hour interview on one of the big local radio stations, I had flyers made-up and dispersed in key areas of the city, but I reserved one which I personally taped to the front door of OSO, knowing full well that they would see it first thing in the morning. I was smearing our growing successes in their face – it was a psy-op, but hey, that’s the way I roll when someone starts a fight that is completely unwarranted and thinks they’re going to win it. But at least I’m honest about it, unlike Bezos. Here’s his latest attempt to “beat the competition”:
You see, the basis behind Bezos’ B.S. is that Amazon started off as a discount, online book seller, but that wasn’t enough. Bezos wanted to expand into other areas. The keyword here is “expand”. When other groups, from gangs to countries, do that, it’s call “invade”. When businesses do it, it’s called “compete”, in this case it’s not even competing for market share, it’s competing for market share in a market that they weren’t even a part of. That’s an invasion. That’s market penetration. Amazon was not in the smart phone business, but now there are, with Bezos deliberately choosing to compete with other phone manufacturers. He is invading their territory, their ‘turf’ when he doesn’t have to. So when he says he’s not about beating the competition, he’s lying.
The rest of the article is just an exercise in semantics.
So, am I being too harsh in saying that Jeff Bezos is full of it and that Reuven Gorscht was too stupid to recognize it? No. Bezos is pushing this misrepresented hype about what Amazon is really all about and Gorscht, who’s suppose to be this thought leader, turned Bezos’ bull into an entire concept piece and then expected his readers to buy it, hook line and sinker. Those that did, and who try to incorporate that into their thinking, are setting themselves up to be beaten by any competition that comes along and thinks they’re vulnerable, like Bezos does. Hell, it might be Bezos himself after them next! In that regard, Gorscht has done his readers a major disservice and that, my dear readers, is really stupid…
P.S. Oh, and as an after thought, here are some links that I stumbled across after I originally wrote this post. What are they about? How Jeff Bezos is actually PARANOID about his competition. Now do you realize why Gorscht’s article was just so much B.S.?
Originally Posted on Blog.com June 16, 2014
By MARSHALL BARNES, R&D Eng COPYRIGHT JUNE 15TH 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I’m a member of the George Lucas Foundation’s Edutopia, an online community where those in the education industry for k-12 discuss and write about k-12 education. As an established STEM promoter (Yes, I do that too, among a lot of things. You can, when you’ve mastered creative thinking like I have…) I’ve been a member for a number of years now and even got member of the week once. So I know that disputes and disagreements can happen every once and a while over policy issues, teaching tools or techniques, and other things.
Recently, I read a blog post on the site by Michael Michalko, a self-proclaimed “creativity expert”. As you would expect, as soon as I read someone proclaiming to be a “creativity expert” I’m looking long and hard at what they’re saying and for a very good reason – most so-called creativity experts, that are marketing themselves that way, are full of crap. They’ve spent no real time being creative themselves. Usually what they’ve done is try to figure out how and why creative people are creative, package that info in some witty way and then sell it. That’s why I created what I am now calling the Creativity Ratio/Analyzed Productivity or CR/AP™ (pronounced CR by AP, not the word ‘crap’). In other words, the CR/AP detects the amount of crap that a so-called creativity expert is full of. It’s a simple two step process. First, ask how many different fields in their lives have they applied what they claim to know about creativity or innovation. Then ask, how many breakthroughs, from those fields. were they able to achieve. If they reply in single digits, like 9 and 1 or 2 and 5, or the average, which is 5 and 1, you might as well walk away, because they are amateurs, I don’t care how many books they’ve written. Here’s why – a true creativity master (which is what you want, not just an “expert”) knows where creativity comes from and how to use it. They know how it feels like a power, like tapping into the Force from Star Wars. Once they’ve experienced that, they see how they can apply it to other fields than just those they’re familiar with. You can get a high from it, and so you want to use it as many ways as you can imagine and because it increases your imagination, then you find yourself applying it in as many ways and in as many fields as you have time for. Hence, the better you are, the higher your CR/AP will be. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere before, mine is now 30 and 40.
So I read Michalko’s article and immediately knew he was no expert and certainly not a master. The article has so much misinformation in it that it would be shocking if it weren’t for the fact that this is par for the course now in the creativity and innovation promotion industries. I went to Michalko’s web site and it was the typical hodge-podge of alleged creativity enhancers, exercises and gimmickry. One thing that caught my eye, however, was a puzzle involving elves, that is a real mind boggler. They appear on a card but if you cut the card along the provided lines so that there are now three pieces and rearrange them, one of the elves vanishes. How I solved this puzzle, I will reveal in another post. However, after I did, I was curious if anyone else had commented on the puzzle and I discovered that not only had I solved it in a different way than the solution suggested from another site, but that Michalko wasn’t the source of the puzzle – it was originally created years ago by someone else. However, there’s nothing on Michalko’s site giving the proper credit, so the assumption is that his creative mind invented it. Uh, huh. Back to his post on Edutopia…
Equally misleading is #6 There Is No Such Thing As Failure. By over emphasizing the obvious – that you can learn from your mistakes, Michalko, makes the same error that those who promote “smart failing” do, – ignoring the costs of failure. Failure in all levels of life has varying degrees of costs and consequences. How many of you would want to drive a new car whose manufacturer had engineering teams that worked with this ethic? Well, it’s happened before and it’s happening again and we know the consequences – property damage, injury and loss of life. Failure is to be avoided, learned from when it happens, yes, but not just so the same mistakes are not repeated, but that other types or errors can be avoided as well. But NOOOOOOOO! According to Michalko, there is no such thing as failure. I bet that GM customers feel a lot differently…
Michalko also makes the critical error, that to me proves that he has nothing more than the most shallow and pedestrian understanding of creativity, and that is to cite the over-cited Edison quote about not failing, just learning how many thousands of ways something didn’t work. What people don’t hear much about is how much Edison hated Nikola Tesla, the true genius that gave us many other inventions among them, AC power (which Edison fought against tooth and nail and even killed elephants as a scare tactic against AC). Tesla would have flashes of inspiration, work out the details and then build his ideas which would work immediately. That’s one reason why Edison hated him. Compare Tesla’s method to Edison’s and it’s easy to see which is preferred. Edison’s method wastes time, resources, man hours and money as you go through trial and error over and over and over again. Edison had good ideas but he was not a creative genius because creative geniuses apply their creativity to all aspects of the problem solving process, a fact lost on Mr. Michalko. Even though Michalko intimates that you can use creativity to solve problems, without establishing what it really is, where it comes from, how to get it and master it, he has a scatter brain method of training exercises that are essentially a waste of time. I can say that because I mastered creativity without doing any the kinds of crap on his site, so obviously, it’s irrelevant. By applying my method, failure is minimized and becomes less of a factor. It takes many Edisons to equal one Tesla, so many Teslas are worth far more than any number of Edisons. That’s a lesson that companies concerned with innovation are learning now.
So how do you get more Teslas? By teaching people how creativity really works, where it really comes from and how to really use it. That’s the reason there’s so much B.S. in the field – these so-called experts don’t know how to teach those things about creativity and so they invent tricks and gimmicks and exercises and stories to get you to think that they know what it’s all about but don’t. They have no clue how to teach where creativity comes from and how to use it. None. Something that it would appear afflicts Mr. Michalko as well.
Originally Posted at Blog.com on June 12, 2014 by Marshall Barnes R&D Eng
By MARSHALL BARNES, R&D Eng Copyright June 11, 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Ken Smith, who describes himself as a Business Plan Reviewer and Start-up Coach for Springboard Enterprises, that has served as Co-chair of CEO Service Committee for the MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge; and is the author of the start-up resource guidebook Selling Innovation, should have gotten a phone call from California a few weeks ago or even before. Why? To help fight the San Diego fires, that’s why. Or at least that’s the kind of thing he’d have you believe. Oh, that and that I’m a “jerk-off”.
You see it all began back when a blog post of his was posted somewhere and I responded to it in what you might say was a highly critical fashion. Now mind you, this was probably the blog post on innovation that made me decide that I needed my own blog because the level of innovation business B.S. had just reached the gaging level, just on the stench of it all. So, when I saw his opening statement where he starts talking about how nothing comes from a vacuum, I had had it. So I responded in part:
“Well, this one got off to a bad start from the “get-go”. The problem? The analogy used. The whole, “The one place a spark of innovation cannot come from is a vacuum”.
Now, I don’t know where Ken is going to end up with this, since this is simply the opening salvo of a series, and the listed topics look compelling enough but I’ll tell you right now, he’s got a big problem with this “vacuum” thing that I find troubling. Let’s do it by the numbers, shall we?
1. The illustration used shows a man on stage with a fairly inaccurate depiction of Telsa doing one of his electrical demonstrations. I often use Tesla as the man that people should pattern their innovation process after and not Edison. However, it was Tesla’s great rival, Edison, who invented the light bulb. And guess what? That light emitting device, which has historically been used to illustrate the spark of a brilliant new idea, operates because that light springs into being inside the *vacuum* of the bulb…
2. Although I do not use this technique to get new ideas, I fully realize that it does work on a certain level. I’m talking about the transcendental meditation technique of emptying your mind so that a creative spark will emerge. In other words, put your mind in a *vacuum* state. I don’t use it because my mind is more like the Internet – always on and filled with information that I can access at will…
3. How many innovations have come from Man’s exploration of space? Plenty. Guess what? Yeah, you guessed it – space is a *vacuum*.
4. Now let’s try on a little quantum mechanics. It is now known by all of us who work in physics that although space is a vacuum, it is teaming with potential energy. In fact, particles pop in and out of it, all the time. One of the claims to fame that Stephen Hawking still has intact is “Hawking radiation”, which is the light emitting from the edge of a black hole caused by a process known as “particle pair separation”. This occurs when two virtual particles emerge from the vacuum of space near the black hole boundary and one is sucked into the black hole’s inescapable gravitational field and the other is just far enough away to escape. Normally, the two particles, which are opposites, would collide into each other and annihilate. It is the escaping particle that causes the “radiation” referenced from the term”.
Well, that’s how it started out. I said a lot more, basically using, Ken’s total cluelessness on the vacuum issue as an example of how so many so-called innovation promoters use a lot of fancy analogies and metaphors, but many times don’t know what they’re talking about, especially because many of them are not innovators themselves, and I used Ken’s business laden bio as an example. Well, he wasn’t too thrilled about any of that and he had this to say:
“Marshall, thank you for your comment. You are 100% correct – the topic is the application of sales and selling techniques for bringing innovations to market. That’s why the title is not ‘The Innovation Process’ or ‘Creating Innovation’, but rather ‘Selling Innovation’. I am sure all of the readers appreciate your writing so many words explaining why you are so upset about what the article and book are NOT about.
To your comments, I usually don’t but in this case…
First to introduce computer-assisted instruction into the core curriculum in two school systems. Worked with a team on one of the first music video CD-ROMs for the great artist Peter Gabriel. Worked with a team on the first multi-media corporate training template for Glaxo Pharmaceuticals (in use for 5 years). Designed, hand coded and launched the second major auto manufacturer web site (VW.com 1.0 + 2.0). First to build an online advertising analytics tool for banner advertising measuring effectiveness (about 2 years before Google launched by the way). First to launch a remote control consumer tech support service while building, running for years profitably and then selling the company. Worked with a team to launch the first automated PC maintenance tool, distributed by a top 10 cable provider to all 25M users. Designed the first data aggregation platform for measuring distributed renewable energy generation for grid management and control, standards model supported by NIST leadership. And when I was a young man I also played Div. 1 College Athletics and got a try out for the US Jr. Olympic Team, you? There’s more but, you get the point…”
(Ken promoting his current company’s latest innovation. Note, however, that they only offer a 10% discount to replace your stolen item, but if it’s insured, why do you need the service in the first place?)
Now, I want to interject here that yeah, I got the point. The point is that I struck a nerve with old Ken that made him fly into a testosterone fit in which he actually exposed how shallow his innovation background is and proved my point for me! Now, I’m going to analyze this so you all will learn something here about innovation promoters –
1. He’s the first to introduce computer-assisted instruction into the core curriculum in two school systems. OK, so what does that mean? What it reads like is that someone else put such instruction into a school system somewhere else first, and that he just happened to be the first to get it in two school systems at the same time. Is that really such a big deal? I mean, he doesn’t say what he wrote, who was on the team that created it or anything else. We have no way to even determine the size of these school systems or anything that would indicate the significance of such an achievement, if there really is any, beyond a sales bonus. Where’s the innovation in that?
2. He worked with a team on one of the first music video CD-ROMs for the great artist Peter Gabriel, to which I reply, “whoop-dee-do!” What was this work, anyway? He doesn’t say. Besides I trump him all over on this one. First, years before that CD-rom ever existed, I was the first rock musician to solo produce and direct a rock video album of his own self-produced and performed music – The Last Communication, in 1980. You might remember seeing a reference to that from Video magazine in my first blog here, down at the bottom. If not, check it out. Ten years later, I did it all again, but this time created the first and still only psychoactive rock video album, Seeing the Breykiot (which will be rereleased next year, worldwide). Notice how my achievements have “first” and “only” attached to them and you can tell what I did. Not so for poor Ken, but let’s give him some more rope for the fun of it.
3. Ken worked with a team on the first multi-media corporate training template for Glaxo Pharmaceuticals (in use for 5 years). Again, “worked with a team”. Sure, he uses the term, ‘first” here, but it wasn’t the first ever, it was the first multi-media training template for Glaxo, or at least it reads that way. Again, we have no indication of what it was that Ken did, so you see a pattern here – he shrouds his activities in ambiguity. In other words, he’s stretching the significance of his efforts.
4. “Designed, hand coded and launched the second major auto manufacturer web site (VW.com 1.0 + 2.0)”. This is where knowing the dates would be useful. However, that’s another thing that Ken does, he gives no timelines. I have no problem giving out dates or time periods because it helps verify the veracity of a claim. So when Ken does it without a date or year, it actually works against him. Whenever he did the site, VW.com has just recently been updated, so they dumped what Ken did, it would appear. Go to VW.com and scroll down until you see the redhead. The big text says “Welcome to the new VW.com”. If Ken had been involved with that, I’m sure he would have said so…
5. Ken also claims, without citing dates, that he was “First to build an online advertising analytics tool for banner advertising measuring effectiveness (about 2 years before Google launched by the way)” . Google was incorporated in September of 1998, so I’m guessing that would be around the time that Ken says that “Google launched”. That would put his claim for his analytics tool to be 1996. However, once again, because of Ken’s proclivity toward ambiguity, there is no way to judge his claim. Not only does he not give a specific year, but he neglects to identify what this tool was even called. It may be quite valid, but with no basic information, it’s just empty bragging. And I want to be very clear here – it’s not that I don’t believe him, but if he’s really done all this stuff, why not be more specific? It would actually be interesting reading, I think. What the hell?
6. Ken follows that up with more empty bragging – “First to launch a remote control consumer tech support service while building, running for years profitably and then selling the company”. Really, Ken? What was the service called? When was it launched and where? Who’d ya sell it to?
7. Oh no, he’s doing it again – “Worked with a team to launch the first automated PC maintenance tool, distributed by a top 10 cable provider to all 25M users”. Yeah, nothing about what he did with the team, who they were, no name for the “top 10 cable provider”, Nothing. Yawn…
8. More endless prattle. “Designed the first data aggregation platform for measuring distributed renewable energy generation for grid management and control, standards model supported by NIST leadership”. Again, what was the platform called? When did all this happen? The more he brags without dates, names, years, the more it just looks like total malarkey. Again, I’m not saying that it is, but he’s making it look that way, not me.
9. This is the one I loved. This is the one that proved I had cleaned Ken’s clock and he was going to put me in my little place for doing so. How I love this line – “And when I was a young man I also played Div. 1 College Athletics and got a try out for the US Jr. Olympic Team, you?”
OK, you have to remember that this whole litany of empty claims were supposed to be centered around Ken’s innovation background, specifically technical. The fact that he felt compelled to bring up his college athletics history shows that now, Ken is just running a testosterone fueled rant, to which I responded with – ”But since you brought it up, so you tried out for the Jr. Olympic Team. Did you make it?” He never responded, which must mean, ‘No’. So let me reiterate this – what he’s bragging about is the fact that he played Division 1 College Athletics, tried out for the US Jr. Olympics (not the regular Olympics, mind you) and then FAILED to make the team. Whoa. Like that is totally impressive.
Think about that for a second – this guy flips out to the point that he starts tossing in his college athletic history and bragging about something that he knows he didn’t successfully complete. Worse yet, his long list of unidentified accomplishments is both bizarre and indicative of what I’m claiming is wrong with this industry in the first place – an overabundance of people professing expertise that, when put on the spot, come up with this kind of crap.
To be fair to Ken, I did some checking into his claims and I was able to find a timeline that matched in part, some of his empty bragging – http://www.linkedin.com/in/kennethhsmith . Of special note is that it appears that he was with a company called Internet Strategy Consulting USWeb as the Vice President, which may be where he was doing his analytics bit “two years before Google launched”. At any rate, if you care to, you can go down the list and try to figure out where he was when he allegedly did what. The fact that we’d have to go through all that hassle, still adds bogusness to this whole affair, especially because his involvement with the listed firms still doesn’t verify what he claims he did at the time. Times, by the way, that can only be guessed about by the activity he was claiming to be involved in, compared to the company descriptions from the LinkedIn list and when he is listed to have been with those companies.
So this is a major example of how flawed the innovation promotion industry really is and that there is indeed a valid purpose to this blog. I’m telling you now, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Remember, I eventually discovered so much malarkey in this industry that I felt like I was gagging on this stuff. There is so much, that I believe it is actually a threat to businesses everywhere, resulting in wasted time, money, resources, manpower and man hours. That is why this blog exists. As the disruption this industry so badly needs, an industry that actually brags about disruption, at that. Oh, I forgot – Ken had a little more to say:
“Oh, and by the way, I am the first and I believe still the only civilian to earn – that’s f’ing earn jerkoff! – a B Sawyer Certification from the US Forest Service after spending three days in training classes and in the deep woods of NH with 30 of the most dedicated, bone tough, and courageous men and women I have ever had the privilege to sweat with. What does that mean, Mr. precise language? It means that I am licensed by the Federal Government to carry a chainsaw into the woods for trail clearing or to fight forest fires, not just without Forest Service supervision but leading a crew into a fire fight. So if there is a forest fire and I am called to duty I’ll be strapping a chainsaw to my back and hiking INTO the fire. You can check my credentials anytime…maybe you’d like to go for a hike with me someday?”
So this is why California should have called Ken to fight the fires. This is so laughable. More evidence that this was in fact a testosterone fueled rant on his part, because I had intellectually exposed him. He called me “Mr. precise language” so let me get rather precise here, for a moment. Notice what he says next and I’m going to break it down for you to expose his hidden message, precisely –
“I am licensed by the Federal Government” – this is his way of saying that he has authority vested in him by a higher power
“to carry a chainsaw into the woods for trail clearing or to fight forest fires”,- now substitute ‘chainsaw’ for ‘machine gun’
“not just without Forest Service supervision ” – so this means that he can act on his own, and to do what?
“but leading a crew into a fire fight. ” Uh huh… A fire fight is the military term for ‘gun battle’. That’s why I said substitute ‘chainsaw’ with ‘machine gun’, because I knew where he was going with this. He switched the phrases – from “fighting forest fires”, to “fire fight”. I wonder if he was ever actually in the army. Nah. If he ever had been, I’m sure he would have included all of his combat action reports as well.
“So if there is a forest fire and I am called to duty I’ll be strapping a chainsaw to my back and hiking INTO the fire.” Notice his use of the well established military term, “called to duty”. That sentence could easily have read, “If I’m called to duty, I’m strapping a 50 caliber on and marching into a fire fight…” Yeah, I rest my case on that one.
So he thinks I should be impressed that he’s licensed by the Feds to carry a chainsaw into a fire. No, I’m not. What I’d be more impressed with, since he thinks he’s so damned innovative, is if he came up with a better way to fight the fires. Like getting the largest helicopters possible to fly with large tanks of water that would be sprayed with high concentration on areas of burning forest. Dropping water from the air isn’t that effective because the water disperses as it falls. You need fire hoses in the air, blasting areas on the ground. You could have armored vehicles on the ground like tanks but instead of firing shells, they spray water. The interior would be refrigerated so the occupants stay cool against the high temperatures outside. The operation would be coordinated between helicopters in the air, the armored vehicles on the ground and men like Ken that would go deeper to fight the fire, but have a safe place to retreat, if need be, inside the vehicles. A pathway into the forest could always be cut for the vehicles by the men on the ground. Container tanks of water could be parachute dropped from the air to replenish the supply for the vehicles, if need be. The container tanks would have motorized mobile capability to get them to the vehicles easier (they’ll be really heavy) and the vehicles would have an outside hydraulic mechanism on either side to lift the water containers into place, similar to the garbage truck mechanism that lifts dumpsters up and empties them into the garbage compartment of the truck.
All of this would be a far more effective way of fighting forest fires. With all the genius that Ken has, you would think that his infinitely innovative mind would have thought of this while he was sweating with his chainsaw in the woods amongst the flames and smoke. Ah, but then again, it would rob him of the opportunity to brag about how macho he is…