Look At More - Business Book Review
Even though innovation is considered one of the most effective ways for companies to achieve high levels of growth, many organizations struggle to be innovative. In many cases, techniques like Six Sigma and brainstorming have transformed innovation into something that is mechanical, complex, and often confusing. Andy Stefanovich believes that the best way for organizations to promote innovation among employees is to inspire them. Innovative people look for inspiration all the time. In Look at More, Stefanovich describes the “Five M” framework that his company has developed to build creative companies. He shows how five drivers—mood, mindset, mechanisms, measurement, and momentum—can transform employees, teams, and entire companies. Different techniques based on each driver can be used to generate inspiration and innovation.
Inspiration and Innovation
One of the author’s core beliefs is that innovation comes from inspired, new types of thinking. He suggests that there are three ways that people become inspired:
- Inspiration by delight. Individuals sometimes experience serendipitous and inspiring moments of delight. It is possible to channel this inspiration toward a specific objective, once organizations understand the mental dynamics that occur during these times.
- Inspiration by design. People often seek out events where they feel they may become inspired, such as a museum exhibit or an interesting class. By looking in less obvious places, people can attempt to expand their capacity for finding inspiration.
- Inspiration on demand. In this situation, people find that they need inspiration instantaneously to respond to a sudden business need.
The author offers a discipline that can stimulate inspiration and innovation: “Look at More Stuff; Think About It Harder,” or LAMSTAIH. This process is easy and effective. Organizations that want to benefit from LAMSTAIH can apply the Five M framework. This framework is based on the following principles:
- Mood. Mood encompasses the emotions that surround inspiration and innovation. Mood is the mental environment in which employees perform their work.
- Mindset. Mindset is the baseline ability people possess for thinking differently and getting in-spired. Investments in innovation must be preceded by a shift in mindset toward inspiration.
- Mechanisms. Mechanisms represent the tools and process that people use for creative work.
- Measurement. Measurement, or metrics, relates to evaluating employee and company performance. Metrics clearly communicate what organizations believe is important. Consequently, they influence how people focus their work.
- Momentum. Momentum occurs when organizations champion inspiration and creativity. This generates a self-reinforcing cycle focused on growth and innovation.
A company’s mood can either stimulate creativity or deplete employees’ energy. Mood is the foundation for the other elements in the Five M framework, so it is essential that organizations get it right. Stefanovich suggests that there are three ways to change the mood in the workplace: (1) create purposeful disruptions, (2) ask provocative questions and make bold statements, and (3) make physical changes.
- Creating purposeful disruptions. A purposeful disruption is defined as intentionally knocking a group’s physical and mental dynamics off balance. This can be done by disrupting employees at work or disrupting a workplace ritual. To take this type of action, leaders must have intuition and tolerance for risk.
- Ask provocative questions and make bold statements. Provocative questions are a good way to change the dynamic of a meeting. The best provocative questions are abstract, open-ended, and not eas-ily answered. Examples of provocative questions include: What’s next? What don’t we know? What are we going to do? Bold statements generate some controversy and encourage listeners to expand their thinking. They are designed to stimulate discussion. Both provocative questions and bold statements use simple language.
- Make physical changes. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to shift a group’s mood is to temporarily move to a different location. The author recommends being creative and finding alternatives to overused events like nature walks and sporting events. Even small changes in physical environment can help produce possibilities and encourage more productive discussions.
Creativity relies on employees working together and also experiencing distractions. Some organizations build “innovation areas” in their offices to help this occur. Stefanovich warns, however, that these segregated areas can also negatively affect mood. Employees may perceive that innovation can only occur in specific locations. If innovation areas go unused, companies can feel less creative.
Leaders must recognize that they are responsible for setting the organization’s mood. As the “Chief Mood Officer,” they must set and reframe the company’s mood. Mood can be changed—leaders do not have to simply accept the organization’s current feelings about inspiration and innovation.
When it comes to a mindset that promotes creativity, Stefanovich and his company have identified four essential behaviors: (1) changing perspective, (2) taking risks, (3) finding one’s passion, and (4) challenging assumptions and embracing ambiguity.
Changing perspective. When people succeed in changing their perspective, they incorporate alternative views when generating new ideas. They are also actively curious about new things. One important way to change perspective is to look at more content from a wide variety of places. The author refers to three sources of inspiration. Direct sources of inspiration are directly related to the topic at hand. Examples include market data, competitive analysis, and input from customers and employees. Direct sources of inspiration are usually obvious and easy to find. In contrast, tangential sources of inspiration are not directly related to the topic at hand. It can be helpful, for example, for companies to look at the marketing, positioning, or construction of products and services that are not direct competitors. Lastly, abstract sources of inspiration appear completely unrelated to the topic at hand. The link between the topic and the source of inspiration could be metaphorical, random, or even non-existent. Abstract sources usually result in the most novel ideas and are the most fun to find.
Inspired and innovative leaders recognize how valuable random insights can be. They often make connections outside their industries or cultures. One way that leaders can force themselves to change their perspective is to find what Stefanovich calls “the loyal opposition.” These are people who are loyal to a leader, but are not afraid to express their honest opinions and offer new insights. The loyal opposition thinks differently than the leader and is willing to provide truthful feedback. Consulting with the loyal opposition is particularly important to ground leaders who view themselves as creative and intelligent.
Taking risks. One of the greatest censors of ideas in teams is the fear of failure and criticism. The art of business itself is designed to avoid risk as much as possible. As a result, employees often do not explore innovative solutions to problems due to fear of failing. However, risk-taking can shift a person’s mindset and increase creativity. Organizations that promote creative thinking create safe environments for idea production. This means that new ideas are not immediately judged. In reality, sometimes the worst ideas result in inspired innovations. One of the most important ways to promote risk-taking is to have a strong leader who is not afraid to make mistakes. Inspired individuals can separate their egos from their ideas. They recognize that great ideas result from collective conversations.
Finding one’s passion. People cannot succeed personally or professionally unless they have passion. Leaders must find opportunities that enable employees to share their personal passions and apply them to their work-related goals. When people’s talents and energy are aligned with business goals, they are more likely to perform to their full potential. One simple way to connect one’s passion with the passion of others is through a technique that Stefanovich calls “Oneword.” With Oneword, a person asks himself or another individual, “If you could choose just one word that completely embodies you, what would it be?” When people connect with their passions and share them, untapped potential energy is released. If that energy is channeled toward the workplace, it can yield significant business results.
Challenging assumptions and embracing ambiguity. Leaders who are creative catalysts give teams permission to generate and evaluate many new ideas before settling on a solution. The author refers to this as “confusion tolerance.” One good way to increase confusion tolerance is to change the way the organization approaches idea generation. Typically, people stop generating ideas after they feel they have identified a winning idea. This prevents teams from stretching themselves. Rather than trying to find one or two ideas, employees should be encouraged to identify 50 or 100. Another approach is to set a timer and to generate ideas until the timer runs out. Each person has a different level of confusion tolerance. As a result, it is important to construct teams where there is a balance among the members’ confusion tolerances.
Mechanisms help people transform inspiration into ideas. Through practice, teams can learn new ways of thinking that promote both creativity and innovation. Ideas are simple statements that communicate both an objective and a method for accomplishing it. The author offers his definition for “idea statements,” which must express what action will be taken and why it will be taken. Stefanovich describes three types of ideas: (1) incremental innovations, (2) breakthrough innovations, and (3) transformational innovations. Incremental innovations are small changes that require minimal resource investment. Breakthrough innovations result in a distinct shift in an organization’s product or service, and they add value. Breakthrough innovations commonly require more investment, such as research and development, than incremental innovations. Transformational innovations revolutionize a company, industry, or market.
Although transformational ideas may seem intimidating and unachievable, they can also deliver immense value. They do, however, require time, leadership, and vision. Companies must strive for innovative ideas of every type and size. The three categories of innovation are a useful way for organizations to organize the content of their innovation pipeline.
The author outlines four steps for translating innovation into new ideas: (1) building a context in which people can create, (2) generating ideas, (3) filtering ideas, and (4) creating a blueprint to implement the best ideas.
Building a context in which people can create. A context for creativity sets employee expectations about innovation and new ideas. Stefanovich calls this context the “innovation architecture.” There are three ways to develop a creative context: finding elegant solutions, developing the “Bigger Big,” and framing. Elegant solutions do more than solve a single problem—they have multiple benefits. Companies that find elegant solutions tend to be more innovative and innovate more rapidly than their peers. The “Bigger Big” is defined as the breadth of an organization’s creative context. Ideally, an organization’s creative context should be broad enough to encompass far-reaching ideas. Framing is a simple framework that defines how people develop ideas into innovations. Companies that place a high priority on finding simple ways to access complex ideas usually win in the marketplace.
Generating ideas. To explore opportunities, teams must create lists of the defining characteristics. The author recommends focusing on three characteristics that can influence growth and change. These include physical, functional, and emotional characteristics. Physical characteristics are obvious descriptive attributes. Functional characteristics are less tangible qualities, such as how a product is used. Emotional characteristics include the feelings that people have while using a product or service. The richer these lists of characteristics are, the more likely they are to generate breakthrough ideas.
Additional approaches for idea generation include “I Feel, I Need, I Want,” worst idea, deconstruct-reconstruct, forced connection, EUK events, thief and doctor, and stop, start, continue.
- “I Feel, I Need, I Want.” This technique is best for insight gathering and idea development. Teams explore human motivations by closely observing people’s feelings, needs, and wants.
- Worst Idea. Worst idea helps teams bypass self-censors. The goal is to generate intentionally bad ideas and then identify the positive opportunities that are hidden in them. This enables groups to transform bad ideas into better ones.
- Deconstruct-Reconstruct. This approach is useful for reinventing business models and processes, as well as for dealing with complex topics. Teams create a list in which they break their objective down into its physical, functional, and emotional components. A large inventory of ideas is then generated by reconstructing the components in four different ways: exaggerate, eliminate, substitute, and simplify.
- Forced Connection. This tool generates new ideas through abstract juxtapositions. Teams select a random object or an object that is slightly related to their objective. Next, they make a physical, functional, and emotional inventory for the object.
- Experience, Understanding, Knowledge (EUK) Events. EUK events use targeted inspirational experiences as a tool to generate new ideas. They are a complete immersion into looking at more content that can last anywhere from three hours to three days. The author offers the following example to illuminate an EUK event: a Nike team had tea at the Ritz-Carlton in Portland, then took a train to Seattle where they randomly gave flowers to people exiting a city bus, then they visited Seattle’s tourist area. Each of these encounters gave the team an opportunity to engage in new types of conversations with each other about their work.
- Thief and Doctor. The goal of this technique is to take an idea from an unrelated business and modify it for use in one’s own company. The first step is to create lists of an objective’s physical, functional, and emotional attributes. The next step is to list the key characteristics that represent success for the objective and the criteria which will determine success. Benchmarking against the list of characteristics and criteria should include examples that are very dissimilar to the objective’s context. The final step is selecting tactics that can be modified and used to meet the objective.
- Stop, Start, Continue. Many teams become so focused on new activities as a source of innovation that they ignore how existing activities could contribute to innovation, as well as how existing activities stifle innovation and should be stopped. Innovations can be built on existing successes and may not require any new activities at all. Key questions include: What will the team need to stop doing in order to make a new idea a reality? What new resources and partners will be needed to achieve the goal? What is the team already doing well that supports the goal?
Filtering ideas. Filtering can narrow down a large inventory of ideas. The easiest way to do this is to list the team’s success criteria and then check ideas against that list of criteria.
Creating a blueprint to implement the best ideas. Once a team has identified the most promising ideas, it should transform those ideas into reality. Stefanovich describes six components of a blueprint for idea implementation:
- State it. Each blueprint should include a simple idea statement that identifies the action that will be taken and describes why the team is doing it.
- Paint it. The idea is described in sufficient detail but also easily provides the basic components. The description is similar to an “elevator pitch” for the idea.
- Preach it. The blueprint should sell the idea’s benefits, explaining why it is worthwhile.
- Live it. The blueprint describes the important details related to the idea.
- Do it. Although a blueprint does not require a complete rollout plan, it must describe some of the initial action steps that are needed to implement the idea. It is a good idea to include quick wins that generate momentum and team engagement.
- Name it. Good ideas should have concise and memorable names. Although a name is helpful for an idea, teams should not spend an excessive amount of time developing one.
When it comes to innovative and creative thinking, leaders must remember the saying “what gets measured gets done.” When organizations do not measure or rate creative thinking, employees and managers tend to keep great ideas to themselves. Organizations that only measure short-term financial returns end up stifling innovation in the long-run. Before innovative ideas can be promoted and rewarded, organizations must first measure creative activities and outcomes.
A simple and powerful measure to begin this process is for a leader to determine how many minutes a day employees set aside to generate ideas. Although most organizations do not track this metric, innovative companies like 3M and Google track as well as publish such information widely. This process can be structured primarily around four questions: (1) What behaviors or activities are currently measured that drive innovation? (2) What “one degree” changes can be made to drive twice the volume of innovation from each measure? (3) What new things should the organization measure? (4) Is there a difference between what the leaders say they want and what they measure? In addition to these general questions, the author provides specific questions focused on measuring mood, mindset, mechanisms, measurements, and momentum that can be used to evaluate whether or not a company’s metrics promote creative and innovative behavior.
Momentum is essential for keeping innovation and creativity alive in companies. It is generated through actions and conversations, as well as celebrating individuals, teams, and the entire organization. Companies can create a culture of creativity and inspiration through a formal policy that describes what type of creative participation is expected of employees and what the company will offer in return. One example is an Inspiration Policy which documents the organization’s beliefs about creativity and inspiration. This helps reinforce to employees that senior leaders are committed to these values. Stefanovich’s company took an additional step and also developed a people proposition. The people proposition is a promise to employees. It describes the company values, including what it offers employees and what is expected from employees. Overall, the people proposition informs how the company allocates resources, as well as unifies employees around the desired behaviors at work.
At the employee level, companies must celebrate how individuals add to the organization’s revenue. Stefanovich recommends using a three-part framework which can sustain momentum and encourage employees to develop their passion. This framework is comprised of revenue opportunities, portfolio opportunities, and growth opportunities. Revenue opportunities represent a person’s job responsibilities that contribute to company revenues. Portfolio oppor-tunities are the tasks that employees enjoy doing, and ones that they can brag about with friends, co-workers, and family. When organizations give employees portfolio opportunities, it shows that the company believes everyone needs pure inspiration. Managers should recognize that the benefits of portfolio opportunities may not be seen as quickly as revenue and growth opportunities. Growth opportunities are projects that help individuals develop skills in ways that may not be directly related to their job description. Growth opportunities are engaging because they challenge employees and encourage them to take risks.
Another way for organizations to sustain creative and innovative momentum is to give employees time off to recharge. At Stefanovich’s company, employees can take a “Radical Sabbatical” which provides time that can and should be spent on passions. When employees take time to refresh themselves, it adds to the company’s overall momentum. Even if it is not possible to take an extended period of time off for a Radical Sabbatical, it can be beneficial to take even a thirty minute break.
Leaders may seek out creative catalysts to improve the creativity of their teams. Creative catalysts are passionate employees who have a creative mindset and inspire others. When leaders and employees are able to translate inspiration into meaning for their lives and work, the more likely they are to find new ideas that will have a transformational impact.
To maintain momentum, the author believes that people need reminders of the habits that drive business success. Organizations can celebrate success based on ideals, symbols, and rituals. Ideals are the things that define the organizational culture. Symbols are a representation of the company’s ideals. Rituals are the actions that are repeated at work. These rituals can support inspiration and creativity or undermine it. When a company activates its ideals, symbols, and rituals, they live both inside and outside the organization.
Stefanovich underscores the power of inspiration. He believes that world-changing ideas often inspire large numbers of people, which eventually evolve into a movement. Movements are what he calls the Sixth M. When leaders strive to bring inspiration to their businesses and homes, they find that their co-workers and family members inspire them in return.
In Look at More, Andy Stefanovich explains how organizations can unleash innovation through inspiration. He outlines how companies use the Five M framework to promote creativity and innovative thinking. The key concepts are illustrated with numerous stories and anecdotes based on Stefanovich’s professional experience. In addition, an appendix outlines scientific studies which support the Five M framework. Throughout the book, there are callouts with “Think Cards” which describe moments of inspiration. Since the concepts and exercises build on one another, the book is best read from cover to cover. Look at More is appropriate for anyone who wants to promote innovation in their organization or think more creatively themselves. At the end of the book, notes and an index have been provided for reference.
About the Author
Andy Stefanovich has earned a reputation as one of the most disruptive and effective advisers in business. He has spent the past twenty years helping companies like GE, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and the Coca-Cola Company drive innovation from the inside out. Stefanovich’s true passion likes in guiding clients through the powerful evolution from inspiration to innovation. He has been featured on CNBC as a nationally recognized innovation thought leader and acts as a visiting professor for many leading universities. In 1990, Stefanovich cofounded Play, a creativity and innovation company that changed the way business does business. Prophet and Play joined forces in December 2008.
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