Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Get Obsessed About Innovation

5 traits that great entrepreneurs and visionaries share

Summer doldrums got you down? Not firing on all cylinders like you usually do? Well, you’re not alone and it’s better to recognize the signs of mental fatigue than to beat yourself up for missing your lofty goals. Some professionals go to the beach, lake, mountains or Europe to re-energize. But, increasingly high achievers are going to conferences of like-minded peers, even when they start on weekends and are in non-resort destination cities.
Case in point. Last week I attended the American Society of Association Executives annual conference in Detroit. More than 6,000 association execs from financial, insurance, health care, manufacturing and education organizations descended on "The D" as locals now call it and they weren’t disappointed.

Keynote speaker and Detroit native Josh Linkner explained that creative thinking is the driver of both disruption and avoiding being disrupted. "Regardless of your job title or industry, all of us in the corner office need an additional unwritten title of ‘Chief Disruptor,’ ‘Business Artist’ or ‘Entrepreneur,’" said Linkner, CEO and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners and author of the business best-sellers Disciplined Dreaming and The Road to Reinvention. If you haven’t been to downtown Detroit lately, you might be pleasantly surprised.

5 obsessions of successful entrepreneurs

Linkner’s not a think tank guru who’s never run a business. He founded four Detroit-based technology companies that sold for a combined $200 million. After becoming a VC, he became obsessed with the creative thinking methods of great entrepreneurs. After interviewing 200 great entrepreneurs and thought leaders for his book, Linkner said five common traits bubbled to the surface. As an advisor, you should pay heed to each of them:

1. Insatiable curiosity. "
The more obsessive you are, the more creative you become," said Linkner. He recommended asking why—not once, but at least five times in a row, borrowing a page from Toyota. Asking a deep question and then repeatedly probing "why" is not just child’s play. It uncovers layers of behaviors and assumptions that are taken for granted and are where the potential for creative disruption lies.

2. Crave what’s next. Even for wealth advisory and financial services firms that are healthy and not facing disruption, Linkner warns that you must constantly look to the future and be willing to reinvent yourself. He shared the example of legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who trains his players to shout "Next play!" after every basket. "Coach K has trained his team to literally shed the pad every 20 to 30 seconds," said Linkner, who added that LinkedIn handed out 8,000 "What’s Next?" T-shirts to its employees the day of its IPO, so they wouldn’t become complacent and spend their days calculating the value of their stock options.

3. Defy tradition. For many companies, including wealth advisory firms, tradition can be a formidable barrier to innovation. So Linkner advised doing a "judo flip" by doing the 180-degree opposite of what tradition or experience would suggest. Rather than immediately dumping money and resources into solving a problem, try throwing imagination at it, he advised.

4. Get scrappy.
True innovators like to "MacGyver" their problems
, he said, in reference to the popular 1980s detective show about a protagonist who always got himself out of impossible jams with limited tools and resources. "It’s the classic mindset of the start-up, but even large, well-established organizations can adopt it by envisioning how a new start-up firm would try to gain traction in its niche. You can’t think that way without being the start-up," said Linkner.

5. Push the boundaries. Genuine disruption comes from more than just incremental change, observed Linkner. He advocates the "10X" test that his firm uses in evaluating venture investments. Does the idea have the potential for a tenfold improvement over an existing product or service that’s being offered? It could be a tenfold improvement in market size, cost, revenue or some other key metric that you use.


"No matter how good things are going, we can’t become intoxicated by our own success," observed Linkner. How many of these 5 obsessions do you honestly think you have? If you answered three or less, it may be time to reboot your world view.

If the city of Detroit can reinvent itself for the better, so can you.

blog has more about this and related topics.

Innovation, entrepreneurship, Detroit comeback

No comments: