No Time for Creative and Strategic Thinking

Every few years a study comes out that really validates what you do and why you do it. The study identifies an opportunity or a big problem that needs a big solution that you are able to provide. A few years ago the study that grabbed me was from the American Management Association. It found the top 4 skills people needed to develop: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, & Creativity/Innovation. These are the skills I design my programs to develop. It really justified what I focused on and built.

This past week I read an article in the New York Times on “Why you hate work.” It was from one of my favorite authors, Tony Schwartz. A study was done of 12,115 white collar workers where they asked them if they have in their work the elements of a fulfilling workplace. The fulfilling element that was most lacking was “regular time for creative or strategic thinking.” This is the big problem I work to solve. I provide products, services, and programs that organizations can use to help employees do creative or strategic thinking in their work, and develop innovations as a result.
Time for Creative and Strategic Thinking at WorkI’m still shocked that only 18% say they have regular time for creative or strategic thinking at work. This was the lowest of the 14 fulfilling workplace elements measured by the survey. I want to do something about this. I’m curious, what does your organization do to provide time for creative or strategic thinking? Is there a new initiative or program in the works?

Be on the lookout for studies that provide evidence and validation to why you do what you do…a big problem that you can solve. Share the results with others to help them understand why you do the work you do and why your solution or innovation matters.

Solar Freakin’ Roadways: Communicating and Applying a New Technology

The “solar freakin’ roadways” video is making it’s way around social media. The video has over 6 million views. People are excited about the idea. What I like best about the video is that they do a good job of communicating a new technology. They have generated a number of ideas for applications of this new technology.

Watch the video and try to count as many applications for solar roadways as you can. How are the features, benefits, and problems solved communicated? This is a great case study to learn how to communicate your new technology idea and identify practical applications that solve problems and offer opportunities.

One Second of Falling

The key to still winning the race after falling is to not spend that one second while falling considering staying down. It is the one second you have to strategize launching back up to create a life story.

When you fall your mind has three ways it can spend that one second of falling. You can:
1) not think about it
2) think an empowering thought
but don’t 3) think about staying down…or even consider it if you want to win.

There is still time for a comeback when you fall.

Watch this inspiring video about Heather Dorniden’s inspiring 600 meter run at the 2008 Big Ten Championships. What do you think they key was to her getting back up and winning the race?

Here is another view of the race.

It’s Grow Time!

It's Grow Time

It’s spring… grow time. The birds are returning to Madison, Wisconsin. The snow is melting, and I have added about 5 new hobbies this past week. They include:

  • Using eBay to identify the best value in Greek coins.
  • Bidding, winning, and collecting dug up ancient Greek coins.
  • Researching how to clean ancient Greek coins.
  • Cleaning dug up ancient Greek coins.
  • Building an electrolysis set out of an old cell phone charger (to clean ancient Greek coins).

I’ve also begun another totally different hobby: building apps. I was struck with this idea, learned how to use a software, and have built 6 android apps so far, available in the Google Play store. Making the apps available for Apple devices will be next if this gets traction.

Spring is grow time. I think it is a great time to take advantage of growing, creating, developing, or making something new. This could be a new hobby (like ancient Greek coins) or a new skill (app development) that could become a focused career direction, or new products and services that you can offer (digital innovation & leadership learning apps).

Ancient Greek CoinsI would like to go down this spring growth journey with you! I have three programs that are designed to guide and help you grow something step-by-step. Create your Path, is personal in focus to help you design your life and career. Entrepreneur Innovation helps you to develop new products or services. Program Innovation helps organizations grow and change.

You could create anything… a new product, service, or a new career focus. If you make this your project, I think you would be surprised with what you can grow. Instead of Spring Cleaning, do some Spring Growing.

My Spring starts with a visit to Dartmouth College for a week of speaking events, then to South Florida, and then back in the saddle of Madison, WI to enjoy this season! Let me know what you will be growing!

New Guide Released for Programs: Innovation Step-by-Step

Innovation Step-by-StepAfter teaching and refining my innovation system for years, I am happy to release the pdf version of my new book: Innovation Step-by-Step: How to Systematically Create & Develop Ideas for Any Challenge.

Innovation is a high value process. People are constantly being asked to innovate, and companies love declaring how much their organizations value innovation. But do the people in the organizations really understand the steps necessary to develop real innovation that has a fighting chance at being successful?

If you find yourself in a situation looking to innovate, this book can help you do just that. You will learn the steps of a widely-applicable innovation system, you will learn the key activities to make your innovation vision a reality, and you will get to look over my shoulder as I do my own innovation project.

My project was developing a resource that would help people learn innovation, and the result was this book! After learning about each step, you can do the same activities I did, using my examples to build your own portfolio of innovative concepts. You too can communicate and launch innovations!

Check out the program!

Visualize Your Innovative Future

Innovation inspires motivation!

Innovation is a motivator to take action. We love to come up with that new idea.  We love to figure out how to do something better, or solve a problem.  We love to take these opportunities and make something positive happen.

So, what is your reason to innovate?  What kind of future do you want to realize? What’s your innovation vision? In this activity, you will visualize a very positive image of your future. This will help you think about your “innovation for what.”

Think about an innovation challenge you want to work on.  Hopefully you’ve already done a little bit of research and thought about the problems and opportunities that were presented by this challenge. Get this challenge in your mind.

Dream it and see it in your mind.

Now…pretend it is one year from now. Imagine you successfully innovated in response to this challenge.  You spent the time to develop some ideas, turn them into concepts and launch them.  What was the result of all that work? What does your mind see?

Thought BubbleWhat happened?  What does the future look like now?  What is your work like?  What is your group like?  What is your organization like?

In what areas have things become better or different?

Pretend we are meeting one year from now.  Visualize yourself reporting on how excellent the last year has been.  What is your innovation vision, and what is the result you imagine?  Write your vision down.  Think of it like a YouTube highlight video.  What would be in that video?  Capture the thoughts your mind is giving you. This is your vision of an innovation future.

Share your innovation vision.

Now that you have an innovation vision, share it with your colleagues.  Get them on board.  Have conversations with other people to get their suggestions and opinions.  It is important to involve other people, including your stakeholders, colleagues, and students.

Use this opportunity to start the innovation program to develop ideas to realize this future vision!

This article is taken from the online video-based program Program Innovation. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at, and see other programs, speeches, and more at

Why Innovate? Respond to Change Naturally.

Responding to Change

In many cases, we need to innovate because we must respond to some kind of change.

This change could be something we perceive as bad and we want to fix.  It could be something we don’t know whether it is bad or good.  It could be something we know is good, so we need to seize the opportunity. Change is natural and so can be responding to it with growth and innovation.

One thing we don’t want to do is just stay the same, not respond to change, and wither or become like that unused, dusty cassette tape you have.  Not doing something when innovation is needed is often the worst option.  As we know, change is always happening and is increasing at a rapid pace, making innovation important on a continuous basis.

The Frog Metaphor

I’ve heard a metaphor story that relates to our need to respond to change. Let’s think about why we need to take action to change by looking at the frog.  Frogs like water.  This frog is in a pot of water at room temperature.  In this pot, the frog is comfortable, so he’ll hang out there.  But if we take the frog out and put it into a pot of water that’s boiling, it’s a shock.  The frog will jump out of there right away!

Now, let’s put the frog back into a pot that’s at room temperature, where the frog is comfortable.  If we turn on the burner to slowly heat the water, increasing the temperature slowly but surely bringing it to a boil, what happens?

Sooner rather than later, the frog becomes frog soup.  He never saw the clear-cut need to jump out of the pot.  He never had a direct signal to change, and it crept up on him gradually.

Always Be Innovating!

This is why we need to always be innovating.  We may not always get thrown into a pot of boiling water and need to jump or respond but I think many of us can feel the heat as it creeps up. In this case it is better to react sooner rather than later. We need to always be thinking about innovation by rooting down and branching out in our lives; by generating new ideas; by responding to change.

Don’t conduct the frog experiment at home…but do conduct the oak tree experiment…always growing and changing through the seasons by rooting down and branching out. Innovation is a powerful thing. It is also a natural thing. We are designed to grow and change.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Program Innovation. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at, and see other programs, speeches, and more at

The Innovation System: 7 Steps to Developing Innovative Ideas

To successfully innovate and develop our ideas to high-impact levels, we need to approach it with systems thinking and go through stages.

After working on innovation projects with a lot of organizations and institutions; reading many books, articles, and blogs; and launching my own innovations on a frequent basis, I’ve synthesized an innovation system that helps you see your ideas come to life with impact.

Starting new things is not easy.  New things fail all the time, so we need to increase our opportunity for success. A more scientific and systematic approach is the answer.

The Innovation System

7 Steps to Developing Innovative Ideas

This innovation system is a process we go through stage-by-stage, step-by-step, activity-by-activity.

  1. Clarify the challenge. Research to identify problems and opportunities.  Start with a meaningful challenge, and gain insight.  Get the opinion of the people you serve.  What do they think the problems, challenges and opportunities are?  We need this diversity of views to get a clear idea of what the challenge really is.  You probably know what a lot of these people think, and you probably know how to get that information from them.
  2. Formulate questions. Break that challenge down.  Turn it into a series of questions, and organize them from more general to more specific.  A large number of general questions will lead to a small number of specific questions.
  3. Generate ideas.  Use those questions to generate ideas.  Gather a lot of them.  Generate them yourself, and gather them from outside sources.  Observe what ideas arise, but don’t judge them yet.
  4. Analyze and synthesize ideas. Sort these ideas out once you have a lot of them.  Throw them into a funnel to narrow them down.  Sift and winnow.  Go from a ton of ideas to the ones you want to really develop.
  5. Develop concepts.  Flesh out your ideas a bit more.  Develop those best ideas into full-blown concepts.
  6. Test and select concepts. Now you’re getting close to launching your innovation.  Test out the concepts that remain to see if some are better than others.  See how your stakeholders feel about these concepts.
  7. Communicate and advance.  Communicate to everyone else about your best concept.  You are ready to take action and launch it.  Get it out into the world!

Innovation never stops, so keep working on it.  Activate your idea and keep working through the innovation process to keep making it better.  Start over again with the open loop of innovation.  The best way to innovate successfully is to make active and continuous innovation a part of your culture.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Program Innovation. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at, and see other programs, speeches, and more at

Innovating the Keynote Speech: A New Experimental Higher Impact Approach

A Different Kind of Keynote Speech

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin

I’m experimenting with innovating the way opening or keynote speeches happen at events to have a higher impact on the attendees. I want to involve them, help them build relationships and accomplish something meaningful to them within 50 minutes. I’ve developed a new kind of keynote speech for that purpose. As a speaker, my role is more facilitator who facilitates activities instead of just lecturing. It is an innovative experience for the audience that they get to co-create.

Visit my speeches and workshops page to see the different types of creative keynote speeches that get the audience speaking, communicating, engaging, and collaborating. This improvisational style can be much more effective because it is about the people in the audience taking action…not passively sitting and listening. The members of the audience actually connect and create and it leads to a more productive conference or program.

This is a clip from a student leadership conference at a university. This style can be even more effective with professionals. Interested in innovation, leadership development, and learning? Subscribe to my newsletter:

Blogging and the Future of Higher Ed

What is important in higher ed right now?

UniversityWebinars.orgRecently, we have been working to really think about what is important in higher education right now.  For the last few months, we’ve been looking at various aspects of higher ed as we build our new site,, and one thing we’ve seen again and again is the importance of higher ed-focused blogs.  Everyone from students to college and university faculty look to blogs for the plethora of diverse and unique perspectives with which they write. Blogs help us to understand the present and see the future of higher education. It is a rapidly changing time for students, faculty, and staff as well as higher education innovators.

Saying that blogs are important is one thing, but understanding why is another.  With the overwhelming amount of information out there, someone needs to help separate the wheat from the chaff.  While we were able to find plenty of lists that recommended higher ed blogs for different reasons, we wanted to do the leg-work behind putting all the best – and current – blogs in one place.  So we did exactly that!

Methodology Explained

I explained our methodology in a previous post, but the basic idea is this: we took a list of 200+ higher ed blogs that were already recommended, added a few of our own picks, and then analyzed each of the blogs at various levels.  We looked at everything from relevance of content and connection with the community to uniqueness of perspective and more.  Once we had a refined list, we published that on

After that, we took our shortlist and spent a lot of time really looking for the best gems among them.  My team and I took this information and voted on which blogs should make the cut.  Naturally, there were some disputes, which were solved with one-on-one conversations about the individual votes.

The result was this top 25 post, listing the best of the best in higher ed blogging over at  But this isn’t the end.  I want to take our work even farther to continue learning about what really matters in higher education.  After all, innovation wouldn’t be innovation without constant learning!

So, what’s next?

Well, there are really two things we would like to do for starters.

  1. Communicate with bloggers to learn about what’s changing in higher education.  To innovate and learn, you need to know where change is happening, as well as where there is room for change.  My team and I plan on spending time communicating with bloggers both on this top 25 list and on our extended shortlist to hear their voices and the voices of their readers.
  2. Survey bloggers, students and higher education professionals.  We want to learn not only what is important to bloggers, what what is important to students learning in higher ed environments and higher ed professionals providing that content.

Once we communicate with bloggers and spend some time surveying students and higher ed professionals, we’ll have a better idea of what next steps need to be taken in order to continue providing innovate resources and help university professionals not only adapt to the rapid pace of change in higher education, but leverage it.

Top Higher Education Blogs

The Best of the Best in Higher Ed Blogging

You can also view the entire list of top higher education blogs here.