Category Archives: Innovation

How can corporations encourage “garage entrepreneurship” in their workers?

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It is always inspiring to read about how Steve Jobs succeeded, and how a guy working in his garage became a billionaire through sheer passion, perseverance, and brain power. He made it there through “garage thinking.” Innovating on a shoe string in a garage! But, big corporations often lack innovative capabilities. Their workers are too engrained in the cubicle mentality. If you work in a cubicle, pretty soon your brain will become a cubicle if you ask me. To succeed you need tremendous drive, but you also need the independence and environment to succeed.

Using artificial conditions to foster entrepreneurship
Real start-up entrepreneurs use their garage often because that is the only place they can use. But, imagine what would happen if you put your workers in entrepreneur type positions and created a virtual garage in a huge warehouse next to your office? Or, what if you asked them to work at home in their own garage? In real life, garage type entrepreneurs start organically. I don’t think they can be artificially produced under the right circumstances. There is something innate about a good entrepreneur. Even if everyone around them tells them that it is bad to be an entrepreneur, they will want to do it anyway! I think that creating a warehouse filled with garages is a silly idea, but makes for a great blog article!

A plethora of garages
Imagine that these faux-entrepeneurs were asked to come to work unshaven wearing torn t-shirts or tank tops, whatever successful entrepreneurs wore when they started out. Let’s put a little more pressure on these folks. Real entrepreneurs will go broke and lose everything if they fail. They are under real pressure, and have real drive to make sure their invention doesn’t fail. Let’s sign a contract with these workers that if their invention sells, they get a percentage, but if they fail, they get fired and have to pay the company $5000. That contract will separate the men from the boys. No more excuses. This is the real deal. You can duplicate a dusty garage, but can you duplicate the pressure that a real entrepreneur goes through? The answer is — to a point. I’m sure that you cannot duplicate an entrepreneur’s drive to succeed, but what if someone with a quarter of that drive were put under the right combinations of circumstances — could that guy make it as an entrepreneur? It is quite possible.

Internal drives fluctuate
We all know that to become an entrepreneur you need tremendous drive and internal discipline. I remember stating businesses as a child. I was completely incompetent, yet I always worked really hard and managed to turn a profit. I have that innate entrepreneurial spirit that others lack. But, if someone with 25% of the necessary drive were thrown into a situation where they would be subjected to the same market pressures of an entrepreneur, I feel their drive would fluctuate in the up direction in many cases.

A warehouse filled with faux garages is a wonderful concept to think about and write about. I would love to see this concept documented on CNN one day and see it breed some real entrepreneurs that will change the world like Steve Jobs!

7 principles of Steve Jobs: #1. Do what you love!

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Although Steve Jobs never had principles for innovation, he did have 7 principles that drove him. These principles are Steve’s, but the interpretation is mine, based on my own experience fused with some of Steve’s commentary.

1. Do what you love
In any career there will be serious problems, setbacks and frustrations. If you don’t love what you do, no matter how good you are at it, you will be likely to quit or lose interest if you experience any big problem down the road.

2. Put a dent in the universe
It is hard to succeed in a big way if you have small goals. It is natural to think small, but train yourself to think big. If you have big goals and huge aspirations, you stand a chance to make a big difference in the world. Maybe not as much as Mr. Jobs, but, more than most other people!

3. Kick start your brain
Steve believed that having a wide variety of experiences helps you think more broadly. If you throw yourself in a variety of difficult situations, you will learn to think effectively in a wide variety of contexts. If you are always in the same place dealing with the same issues, you will not have the opportunity to grow much!

4. Sell dreams, not products.
One steakhouse sells steak, but the other sells sizzle. Which one gets the business? Nobody cares much about having a new toy, unless that toy will transform their lives. Even if you are in a small business catering to small clients, if you provide amazing service that makes their lives so much more pleasant, you will leave them with a dream-like nice feeling that they will remember! Salesmen tend to be good at selling dreams, but those dreams often turn into nightmares if they fail to deliver on promises. Have your product deliver dreams — not your salesman.

5. Say no to 1000 things.
I once read that the difference between a successful person and a very successful person is that a very successful person says no a lot more of the time. In real life, to get optimal products and optimal people, you have to narrow down your selection. Most people are mediocre. But, even among the very best people, their characteristics might not perfectly fit a team. The normal company selects one new employee after 100 points of contact such as an email, phone call or interview with a prospective employee. To have perfect employees, it might be better to go through 10,000 prospects to find that perfect one and a few backups.

But, in the innovation process, saying no has its place as well. You might need to try thousands of experiments and refinements until you get it just right! It is a long and tedious process, but if you do it right, you get a product that will be awe inspiring! if you settle for the third mediocre idea that you test out, and say, “Good enough,” you will never be world famous! Remember — good enough is the enemy of better!

6. Create insanely great experiences
I keep telling this to BPO companies. Why just drag yourself through your processes and beg people for more when you do a mediocre job on what you are doing already. Even the way people answer the phone tells me a lot about how good or bad they are. If you are passionate about your work, the way you answer the phone communicates that to the world. The way most BPO companies answer the phone, I know right away that I am going to have a miserable experience that I will regret for the rest of my life. Instead of offering acceptable or mediocre customer experiences, why not be the best in the universe? You’ll make more money, and will definitely be remembered.

7. Master the message
Many sales experts and motivational speakers are saying the same thing Steve is. Don’t sell by selling. Sell by telling stories that are magical about how someone’s life was transformed, or could be transformed by a particular product or service. If they do the math and realize the product will be good, they might go for it. But, most people think emotionally, so you have to make them feel an amazing feeling about your idea, otherwise, they will not be that active in supporting it, especially in bad times. I remember in a movie about rap artist BIG, someone compared living for paper, with living the dream. You have to sell your dream to others to get their support. So, master the art of crafting emotionally riveting stories to implant your feeling in the hearts of your listeners!

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Google has its employees devote time to innovation, what about you?

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A book about Google
Many years ago I read a book about Google. They ask their employees to spend 20% of their time doing innovative projects that are not for profit. Sometimes the projects deliver amazing results, other times not. But, the benefit is that their employees’ minds are always expanding and become more adapted to doing effective creative work.

Most don’t try to mold their employees
Most other companies out there don’t try to mold their employees. What about your company? Do you just hire people who you think are good and fire them when you find out they are bad? Not very creative! Don’t you think that whomever works for you might do better if you molded them a bit? You could give them some type of coaching, or have them do interesting things in addition to whatever their main tasks are. That way, after a few months or years, they might turn into very much more evolved employees capable of handling much more difficult tasks!

Innovative tasks to give your staff
There are many innovative tasks you could give to your staff. You could have them devise creative new ways to schedule company business. They could change the seating arrangement. They could think of new marketing techniques, or technical ways to solve problems. The sky is the limit. Your company might be a little odd if the seating arrangement went haywire, but it would definitely liven things up a tad, don’t you think?

The point is that people will start thinking more if you ask them to think. If their thoughts will have consequences, they will think even harder, so they create positive new realities. Taking time out to innovate takes time and attention though. Your staff might need to take time away from daily tasks to innovate. So, if you really want a more interesting and intelligent company culture, you have to invest in it. But, the results could be something you can’t even dream of in your current state of mind!

I would write more on this topic, but I have to go — I have an innovation session now!


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How to create a culture like Google’s and have fun doing it!

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How to develop the Google culture within you


Imagine a city with stores that come to you?

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The problem with most urban centers is that they are build along a grid. Grids are no fun. Imagine building a city with internal loops. Downtown could be in a circle around a huge park that you could enjoy a latte in during your break, or just take a very long walk. But, what about residential areas? What if a huge loop that was several miles in circumference was built around high rise apartment buildings. Imagine that the road had stores on it. But, the stores didn’t stand still — they moved.

You could have a railway track and stores on trains. The stores could slowly move at half a mile per hour and make it to your neighborhood. If you worked from home, this would be a convenient way to go shopping. Need a new pair of jeans? The Levi’s store will be in your area at 3:15. Busy at 3:15? You can walk to it at 2:45 and then take a shared cab to your appointment. Everything is possible when we let our imaginations wander like children do. Personally, I go on long drives to other states, and I have plenty to think about!

What if there were miles and miles of gardens that you traversed on your way to wherever you were going? Transportation in cities is no fun. You wait at a dirty bus or train station that smells of urine, get in a cramped bus that has jerky stops, and get off, and have to walk crossing dangerous intersections and waiting for lights. Imagine that you could go wherever you are going by walking through an assortment of unique and beautiful gardens. Imagine that you had a choice of walking, riding a bike on a designated bike highway with no cars to run you off the road, or ride a Segway. Now, imagine that the Segway was something you didn’t need to buy, rent, or fill out paperwork for. You just ride it within the track, and get off after you finished using it and park it next to a wall? For those of you who have never seen a Segway, it is a device with two wheels on an axle that you stand on. Lean forwards and it goes forwards. It manages to stand up and not fall over through an internal balancing system — very high tech and very cool. Sure, it might take longer to get where you are going in the garden system, but it would smell better and be more fun too. Especially if there were different choices of paths you could take to work every day. That way you would see more diverse scenery each time and never get bored.

I also think it would be fun if the stores and cafes we went to were all in an endless sequence of diverse gardens. Who wants to cross pollution infested busy streets, hear honking and risk getting run over. I’d rather take a walk in the park, and buy my Levi’s in a store there.

The issue with small stores on a rotating track in a neighborhood is that they wouldn’t be able to fit much inventory. However, using the several decade old Japanese JIT (Just in Time) inventory distribution technique, they could restock their store several times a day on an as needed basis! Unusual — yes. I think that such a system would be very convenient and fun as well. Additionally, it would stimulate entrepreneurship since all of these tiny stores on the train track would be private businesses under the umbrella of city government management. Interesting idea!

My idea resembles the idea of the taco truck a bit. There is one block in Los Angeles near the museum where there are about eight different food trucks. Get Pho’, tacos, teriyaki, Thai food, or whatever else you can think of. Imagine a city where there is one street, or one part of town where there are one thousand food trucks, and each one of them is unique to a certain extent. Perhaps many serve tacos, but they each have different sauces, or something different about their tacos. In Los Angeles, we have Korean tacos which are the best I’ve had in my life. Forced diversity is interesting because it forces you to innovate. I hope you share my culinary fantasy!

A new way of making inventions

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Many people think that great ideas on earth come from heaven. There might be great spirits floating around who transmit great ideas to composers, and inventors. I would bet that Bach had a little help from the folks up in heaven. After all, his music was written for the greater glory of God, so why wouldn’t they help. As a spiritual aspirant, I receive a lot of help from deceased gurus who are so generous in their help towards me. I couldn’t make it without them. As humans, we need to know that even if we don’t perceive spirits, they are there, and they influence our lives more than you can imagine. But, why not take it a step further.

I did some astral travel a few years ago. I projected my astral body into a spaceship while in a trance. I observed that they had some bizarre looking aliens in the ship, but that they had little cubicles in the spaceship with some sort of communication devices. Imagine if someone who was a psychic could be used by large corporations to see what people on other more advanced planets are up to, and try to duplicate some of their inventions down here on humble planet earth. It is a great idea.

I have no idea what these devices could possibly be. Anti-gravity devices and advanced medical technology might be a nice place to start. Better transportation systems might be helpful too. But, what about a machine that can get people to care — now, I would buy that. Unfortunately, caring is not mechanically induced. Someone has to talk you into it. Maybe a machine that can get more people to like you on Facebook. Personally, I want to know what is going on on that spaceship I visited. If they have it, I’ve got to have it.

Steve Jobs didn’t believe in “systems” for innovation

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading, “The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs.” This book was refreshing and mentally stimulating to read. Steve was a guy who was passionate about the creative process and held his workers to the highest of standards. He made more than a dent in the universe, he changed the lives of billions of people. I can’t live without my i-phone, and my assistant has a desktop from Apple that she swears by.

Innovation Classes?
Many companies who create products try to find systems for innovating, or hold classes. To bring out the magic in a person, you need to fertilize their innate capabilities and help them to develop and shine. But, how do you do this? Steve Jobs didn’t like the idea of having principles of innovation and teaching someone the rules. He thought that would be like someone in school trying to be cool, who was not innately cool.

They started in a bedroom
Steve Wosniak of Apple started his operation in his bedroom, then moved to the kitchen, and finally to their garage. Apple started with a lot of passion, tinkering, and making do with the little that they had. If you want to be a successful innovator, does that mean you should start in your bedroom? Maybe, but the fact that innovation is such a zealous obsession would make it highly likely that you would!

Innovation is about creating new ideas to solve problems
It’s not about coming up with some weird new invention that nobody has seen. It’s about coming up with a new way to solve an old problem. But, Apple seems to do it in a very classy fun way. It is fun to open up the box and get out your visually attractive Apple i-phone. The icons look pretty, and the features are very thoughtful. So, it’s more about solving problems, it’s about offering an experience that people will love!

So, what is the secret of innovation?
Just innovate with an unstoppable desire to create something. You will create your own techniques for experimentation and refinement as you go along. There is no set road, and there are no set rules. Just start exploring and don’t stop when you get discouraged!