Make a Payment Member Login


When You Get Pushback Against Innovation From Within The Organization...


Serving as an innovation consultant for a recent large client, I met a lot of resistance.

The product/sales side was very interested in innovative new products/services that they could offer their customers, to be more competitive within their industry.

The IT division, on the other hand, put up a lot of resistance. They prided themselves on stability, and were afraid of making changes to the system. They also wanted to focus their resources on upgrading existing systems. On the other hand, they also considered themselves to be the "innovation leaders" of the company, and didn't want outside consultants or groups talking or promoting innovation.

We finally reduced their resistance by reminding them that they are critical partners, and would always have an important role in innovation. We also told them that they need to see themselves as "facilitators of innovation", rather than having to innovate themselves. They should think of themselves as an "internal cloud services" start-up that enables the rest of the company to create solutions for their customers. 

New Product Creation Cycle: Simplicity to Complexity to Simplicity


When new products are first created, they tend to be simple, and just implement basic functionality.

Then, as the product proves itself in the market, new features are added, and the processes around the product (sales, support, management) grow to handle the new volume of customers.

The product is moving from simple to complex. But, this complexity is fine, because it is adding value.

However, at a certain stage, sooner or later, we let our guard down and we cross over to a third stage: over complexity. Now, much of the newly added complexity is not good, because it is adding minimal or (worse) negative value.

At this point, we need to simplify and clean up.

Lesson: We can't go straight from simple / low-function to simple / high-function. We need to go through the intermediate state of complexity as we innovate and create. The trick is to minimize it and, above all, not to linger in needless complexity.

Unexpected Connections #35: Tabloid Sales and CellPhones


To keep my edge as an expert on strategic innovation, helping clients turn problems into opportunities, I'm always looking out for key trends and unexpected (or unusual) connections / correlations in the marketplace.

Recently, while stuck in a checkout line at the grocery store, I noticed that I (and others) were using our phones. In the past, people waiting in line used to read the tabloids. It struck me that, now that cell phones are widely available, tabloid sales must be suffering.

I did some research when I got back, and found out that this was indeed the case. Sales were not just down for tabloids, but also for the other merchandise (like mail clippers, candy, mini-flashlights, etc.) that stores stick in the checkout aisles.

Companies need to think about how the accelerating changes around us affect their sales, not just through direct competition, but through indirect means–such as competing for our attention, which is getting more precious as it becomes less and less.


Why Your Team Isn’t Creative


As a frequent flyer I spend a considerable amount of time on airplanes. Although many of us take flight for granted (how a Boeing 787 even gets off the ground is a miracle to me!), every successful flight requires a team effort. A great customer experience starts upon arrival at the gate and continues until exiting the plane at the final destination; requiring no less than dozens if not hundreds of people to make the experience a success.

During a recent flight back to Toronto I was unable to obtain a seat in first class so I politely asked the stewardess if I could have a pillow for my lower back (as I could see extra pillows in the overhead compartment at the front of the plane).

“I’m sorry sir, those are saved for our first class passengers – it’s company policy.”

Always one to pick my battles I let this go, or at least I’m still trying to…

The question I’d like you to consider is whether an abundance of policies and procedures are a good thing. On one hand they do promote consistency and safety, but there are some downfalls to consider.
In this week’s video I share how policy and procedures actually diminish creativity, the impacts this can have on your team and specifically what you can do to overcome this challenge to inspire team members to think outside the box.
Watch the VIDEO here:

The Four Seasons' Palm Beach Resort: Real-life Example of Superb Customer Service During Hurricane Matthew


Last week, I was in Palm Beach, at the Four Seasons, for a conference.  I had attended the conference last October, so I knew how great the Four Seasons was, in terms of room and service.

However, this year's conference turned into an adventure. 

Because of Hurricane Matthew, our conference was cancelled at noon of the first day, after the hotel made the decision to close for the safety of guests and staff.

At that point, we were all in a mad scramble to change flights, and find some way home.  Airlines' websites were unresponsive, their hotlines putting us on hold for hours, and flights being cancelled left and right.

It was at this point, under adversity, where the Palm Beach Four Seasons' staff, especially the concierges, really shined.  They calmly worked with us for hours, helping us make arrangements.

When, later in the evening, Palm Beach ordered a mandatory evacuation, the Four Seasons booked all the remaining guests into the Hilton by the airport, and made the transfer seamless.

I, for one, can't wait for next October's conference, and a return.

I've mentioned in previous blog posts that crisis and problems, even though we do our best to avoid them and hope they never happen,  do occur, and they provide the real opportunity for the customer-oriented innovative companies to distinguish themselves from the pack.

West Elm and Innovation: From Furniture to Boutique Hotels


I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that furniture retailer West Elm is planning, along with a hospitality management company called DDK, to create a chain of boutique hotels.

This is a cool example of innovation.

What does West Elm know about running hotels?  That is probably why they partnered with DDK. They will probably handle the operational details.  West Elm, however, brings expertise in furniture and design which, if you think about it, is valuable because a hotel room is like a home away from home.

Boutique hotels are in demand because frequent travelers are getting tired of cookie-cutter hotel rooms.

West Elm can use its products to create hotel rooms that stand out in comfort and style.

The other great thing, from West Elm's perspective,  is the synergy created.  Not only can they make money from renting out rooms but hotel guests will also be able to order their room's furnishings online.

Thus, the hotel will not only be an independent source of revenue, but also another way to promote their products.

So what prompted West Elm to be innovative and start hotels?

It turned out that West Elm's leadership was smart enough to realize that opening more stores would not be a path to growth.  Instead, it would cause cannibalization of sales.

Chicago Cubs Economics: Tribune, Taxes, and Tivo

Just before the Great Recession, when Sam Zell led the ultimately doomed leveraged buyout of the Chicago Tribune, he and his fellow investors planned to sell the Chicago Cubs to help pay down debt.

In 2009, they found a buyer for the Cubs – the Ricketts family. They bought the team for $845 million.  Since the Tribune had bought the Cubs in 1981 for $20.5 million, they were on the hook for a large tax bill.  They tried to avoid paying it by using a leveraged partnership instead of an outright sale.

Fast forward seven years to today.  The Cubs are now worth $2.2 billion and the favorite to win the World Series.

I wonder if the Tribune wishes it held on?

While the Cubs made the Tribune $824.5 million over 28 years of ownership, the Ricketts family made $1.355 billion over just 7 years of ownership.  To add insult to injury, the IRS is still pursuing them for $225 million in back taxes.  The IRS considers the leveraged partnership to be a disguised sale.

Why did the Cubs explode in value during the last 7 years?  The progress on the field had little to do with it. 

The key is Tivo. 

Tivo pioneered the concept of fast-forwarding live TV, time-shifting, and binge watching.  Commercial TV has lost much of its value to advertisers.  The one exception is sports – people will still view them live, without fast forwarding.

Out of all sports, baseball is the one that has the most broadcasts during a season.  TV networks and channels started bidding to win the right to telecast baseball, and the TV money exploded, along with team values.

The Chicago Cubs have always been one of the most watched teams, and are in one of the most TV-friendly markets in the country.  As a result, their economic value was especially affected.

Moleskine Knows What Business It's In: How Syntegra Capital Made a 19-Times Return Through Paper Luxury


 You've probably heard of Moleskines – the fancy hardcover notebooks introduced in France in the 1980's. In recent years, they have become popular with artists, writers, and millennials.

Millennials? That isn't a typo.  When Syntegra Capital bought a majority stake in Moleskine in 2006, some thought it was a risky investment because of the threat from digital technology.

Instead, as mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal article, it has become trendy to carry both a Moleskine and an iPhone.  The notebooks have been such a must-have that Syntegra, currently in the process of selling Moleskine, will end up enjoying a 19 fold return on their investment in just 10 years.

It probably isn't a co-incidence that, after buying Moleskine, Syntegra hired a new CEO from the luxury jewelry company Bulgari.

Syntegra succeeded because, just as an iPhone isn't just a phone, they considered a Moleskine to be a luxury item – not simply a commodity notebook. 

Credit Card Fees: Businesses Should Reward Customers, Not Punish Them


There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case about whether local governments can ban merchants from charging fees or surcharges to customers who use credit cards.

This debate is also occurring internationally.  For example, according to the Journal article, the European Union is banning credit card surcharges next year because they say that retailers can't discriminate based on payment method.

However, I think that focusing on the legal issues is missing the larger picture.  From a customer service and innovation perspective, charging customers for using credit cards is a mistake.

Credit and debit payments are the future – whether they are done with "cards", chips, watches, or phones.  Charging an extra fee for the dominate and most convenient payment format will simply drive customers to the competition.

What are some alternatives for merchants?

1. Accept the fee as a cost of business.  Instead, focus your efforts on encouraging your customers to spend more money per transaction.

2. Raise your fees across the board, and offer a discount if customers pay with cash.

3. Offer some other perk (besides discounting) if customers pay with cash.

Never think of punishing a customer, especially when he is actually trying to buy something from you.  Buying should always be a rewarding and hassle-free experience.

My Breakfast Talk: Turning A Potential Negative into a Positive


This morning, I gave a breakfast talk at my local chamber of commerce. 

It went great, but it could have been in crisis before it started!

Last night, they sent an email saying that the normal conference room they use for talks (which was large, and had an overhead projector / screen for Powerpoint) was severely damaged by a water leak, so they had to move the event to a much smaller conference room.

It meant no projector and, instead of everyone seated comfortably in a large room, they were crammed tightly around a table that took up most of a tiny room.

Instead of panicking, I turned the situation into a strength. I didn't use Powerpoint. Instead, I just talking with them.

I had access to the backgrounds of the business owners, so I used them in my examples. They stopped and paid attention.

It also started a discussion. I ended up only talking for 1/2 the time, and they talked with each other, on my topic (strategic innovation), the info I gave, and their situations.

At the end, they were energized, and I had at least one person interested in doing business with me. A lawyer with an independent practice said he had a corporation as a client who could use my help.


2058 N Mills Ave, #532 Claremont, CA 91711
Phone 909-630-3943
Fax 909-563-1803
© Society for the Advancement of Consulting. All Rights Reserved. Web Site Design and Hosting by
WebEditor Design Services, Inc.