#5: Sprinkle Some Innovation On It

Having served as Presidential Innovation Fellows, we suppose we’re qualified to say something about “doing innovation”. We’ve noticed that some organizations approach this concept as an afterthought – we call this being asked to “sprinkle some innovation” on a project. This typically means being asked to make a product or service that looks different on a surface level from what’s already on the market.

But let’s be clear: that’s very different from implementing a true innovation – which is a more effective method for delivering outcomes for your target user. The problem is that because “innovation” has become hyped as a sexy idea, genuinely novel and significant improvements often look boring. True innovation comes usually from a good process – talking to customers, looking at data, being very clear about the outcome you are looking for.

Under this theme, our podcast takes us from the still undelivered promise of flying cars to the ubiquity of voice calls to the strategies of smart consultants to failure of most Super Bowl commercials. Enjoy!

Sarah + Jason

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Show Notes

Doberhuahua Commercial – Audi’s attempt to do an “innovative” commercial at the 2014 Super Bowl about how they don’t compromise

It’s 2014 and…

Do the simplest thing possible that works – Kent Beck

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” — often attributed to Albert Einstein

We are not normal people – Justin Jackman’s blog post emphasizing that “increasing the technical challenge while creating a product does not increase the chance for more sales”

Jason Seiken’s TEDx talk on the difference between innovation and being undisciplined, how to be be “radical and incremental”. He oversaw PBS’s digital output to reinvent the broadcaster’s fortunes, changing it from a stodgy, conventional broadcaster to one with an edgy mobile and web service, able to produce Mr Rodgers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind, where Mr. Rogers breaks into song. Check out Harvard Business Review on Jason Seiken’s failure metric “if you’re not failing enough, you’re playing it safe.”

What is a theory of change? – “Built around the pathway of change, a Theory of Change describes the types of interventions (a single program or a comprehensive community initiative) that bring about the outcomes depicted in the pathway of a change map. ”

Lean Startup Principles – “Using the Lean Startup approach, companies can create order not chaos by providing tools to test a vision continuously.” — Eric Ries, 

STARTUP IS VISION — Eric Ries’ Startup Lessons Learned guest post by @FAKEGRIMLOCK

Dear Science Fiction Writers: Stop Being So Pessimistic — “After lamenting the slow pace of technological innovation, Stephenson was surprised when his audience leveled blame at sci-fi authors. “You’re the ones who have been slacking off,” said Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University and co-founder of the forward-looking think tank the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes.

Snow Crash – a science fiction book by Neal Stephenson

Knowledge Navigator: 1987 Apple Promo of a voice controlled AI assistant

What Happened to the Future? – an interesting essay + diagrams from Peter Thiel’s Founder Fund on where technological advancement has struggled. “We were promised flying cars but got 140 characters”.

A Conference Call in Real Life – a hilarious video illustrating things what a conference call would appear as a real-life meeting

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?  – “we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence”

Harvard Business Review Executive Psychopaths – “Many of psychopaths’ defining characteristics—their polish, charm, cool decisiveness, and fondness for the fast lane—are easily, and often, mistaken for leadership qualities.”

Are CEOs and Entrepreneurs psychopaths? Multiple studies say “Yes” — “the incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large.”

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right book by Atul Gawande — sometimes innovation is incredibly boring. This book shows how simple idea of the checklist can be ground-breaking.

Slow Ideas – New Yorker Article by Atul Gawande on how some new ideas take a long time and require lots of in-person hand holding to implement

Simple Techniques Can Make You A Great Teacher – “Doug Lemov spent years observing highly effective teachers, and has developed a set of simple techniques that he says can make anyone a great teacher.” One technique is simply challenging students to hand in their papers in under 30 seconds!

Data Scientist


The Scientific 7 Minute Workout – a short, bodyweight based workout popularized by the New York Times