Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation

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Overview

The Killer Questions Your Company Should Be Asking

Generating and executing great ideas is the key to staying ahead in a rapidly changing world. It seems so basic. Why is it so hard to actually get right? According to innovation expert Phil McKinney, the real problem is that we're teaching people to ask the wrong questions about their businesses—or none at all. There has to be a better way.

In Beyond the Obvious, McKinney will help you use his ...

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Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation

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Overview

The Killer Questions Your Company Should Be Asking

Generating and executing great ideas is the key to staying ahead in a rapidly changing world. It seems so basic. Why is it so hard to actually get right? According to innovation expert Phil McKinney, the real problem is that we're teaching people to ask the wrong questions about their businesses—or none at all. There has to be a better way.

In Beyond the Obvious, McKinney will help you use his proven FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Rank, Execution) Method to dig deeper and get back to asking the right questions—the ones all companies must ask to survive. Full of real-world examples, this book will change the way you operate, innovate, and create, and it all begins with battle-tested questions Phil has gathered on note cards throughout his career. Shared for the first time here, these "Killer Questions" include:

  • What are the rules and assumptions my industry operates under? What if the opposite were true?
  • What will be the buying criteria used by my customer in 5 years?
  • What are my unshakable beliefs about what my customers want?
  • Who uses my product in ways I never anticipated?
These questions will reframe the way you see your products, your customers, and the way the two interact. Whether you're a company of thousands or a lean startup, Beyond the Obvious will give you the skills and easy-to-follow plan you need to make both the revolutionary changes and nuanced tweaks required for success.

Praise for Beyond the Obvious

"Human beings are creatures of habit, so getting ourselves and our teams to think beyond the obvious is a challenge we face all the time. Phil McKinney is an innovation expert, and his killer questions and hit-the-spot anecdotes provide a great way to get out in front of opportunities we otherwise won't see."
—Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and Escape Velocity

"I've always believed that asking the right questions is the essence of design. Phil McKinney proves that point with this wonderful set of killer questions that will jumpstart-or greatly enhance- your innovation efforts."
—B. Joseph Pine II, co-author, The Experience Economy & Infinite Possibility.

"Product Innovation is a prerequisite to building great brands. Phil's questions are a prerequisite to building innovative products."
—Satjiv S. Chahil, former global marketing chief, Apple

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Hewlett Packer executive Phil Mckinney wakes up every morning knowing that the universe of business is changing and that old formulas no longer work. To get beyond stale attempts at problem-solving thinking, he teaches himself and others to dig deep, to ask questions that truly generate game-changing innovations. In Beyond The Obvious, he shares the strategies that have helped him and HP respond to the challenges of our time. Brain food to battle conference room doldrums.

And don't forget: Tracy Burns-Martin's reliable Before & After Resumes With CD: How to Turn a Good Resume Into a Great One (Adams Media, 9781440525070, TP, $17.95) and The Steve Jobs Way iLeadership for a New Generation (Vanguard Press, 9781593157104, TP, $15.99; NOOK Book, 9781593156640, $16.89).

Alisa Schnaars

Publishers Weekly
McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer for Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group, provides a thoughtful yet practical guide to consistently generating innovation. Arguing that ideas are a company’s most valuable currency, he maintains that an organization’s success will be determined by its ability to generate ideas that lead to innovations that customers want. To help companies ignite these ideas, McKinney shares a system called the “Killer Questions”: a tool that prompts re-evaluation of old organizational beliefs that dictate how a company operates but which may no longer hold value. To do so requires negotiating the forces inside an organization that challenge innovation as well as dealing with outside curve balls. While re-examining core beliefs is hardly new advice, McKinney’s system helps distinguish valuable ideas from others with less potential as well as paying attention to delivering value to customers, the value chain, manufacturing and supply, marketing and sales, shipping and distribution, and the customer experience. McKinney also provides an invaluable guide to extracting ideas from the book and applying them within an organization. He includes a helpful time line and six rules to keep companies on track. Offering concrete advice, McKinney gives organizations the tools they need to generate ideas and know that they’re moving in the right direction. Agent: Marc Gerald, the Agency Group. (Feb.)
Geoffrey Moore
"Human beings are creatures of habit, so getting ourselves and our teams to think beyond the obvious is a challenge we face all the time. Phil McKinney is an innovation expert, and his killer questions and hit-the-spot anecdotes provide a great way to get out in front of opportunities we otherwise won't see."
B. Joseph Pine II
"I've always believed that asking the right questions is the essence of design. Phil McKinney proves that point with this wonderful set of killer questions that will jumpstart--or greatly enhance--your innovation efforts."
Satjiv S. Chahil
"Product Innovation is a prerequisite to building great brands. Phil's questions are a prerequisite to building innovative products."
From the Publisher
"Human beings are creatures of habit, so getting ourselves and our teams to think beyond the obvious is a challenge we face all the time. Phil McKinney is an innovation expert, and his killer questions and hit-the-spot anecdotes provide a great way to get out in front of opportunities we otherwise won't see."—Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and Escape Velocity

"I've always believed that asking the right questions is the essence of design. Phil McKinney proves that point with this wonderful set of killer questions that will jumpstart—or greatly enhance—your innovation efforts."—B. Joseph Pine II, co-author, The Experience Economy & Infinite Possibility

"Product Innovation is a prerequisite to building great brands. Phil's questions are a prerequisite to building innovative products."—Satjiv S. Chahil, former global marketing chief, Apple

Kirkus Reviews
In this bright, informative debut, McKinney, chief technology officer of Hewlett-Packard's Personal Systems Group, writes that anyone can become an "idea person," given the right approach and a willingness to work hard. The most important thing is to ask the right questions--"Killer Questions" that produce new insights into your customers, product and organization, and help trigger ideas. For example: What are the assumptions of my industry? What will my customers want in five years? Who uses my product in ways I never anticipated? Describing at length the kinds of questions that generate new information, McKinney warns that you must be prepared to defend your idea against in-house adversaries ("corporate antibodies") who are comfortable with the status quo. In a time when businesses need continuous reinvention to survive, many cling to obvious ideas that worked in the past. "Nearly all great ideas require nerve, vision, and guts to get in motion," writes the author. To help readers identify and act on their best ideas, McKinney details a four-part FIRE program (Focus, Ideation, Rank, Execution), which hones in on the essential aspects of any problem or situation. As opposed to unguided and often fruitless brainstorming, FIRE uses questions to provide a logical and much-needed structure to focus ideation efforts, improve the quality of ideas, rank the ideas so that you know which ones to work on, and then execute the ideas. Offering vivid examples of how his approach has worked at HP and elsewhere, McKinney stresses the need to vigorously question conventional rules and assumptions to generate breakthrough innovations. Valuable and ready for immediate use.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401324469
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 529,241
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Phil McKinney is the vice president and chief technology officer for Hewlett-Packard's (HP) Personal Systems Group, where he is responsible for long-range strategic planning and research and development for all of the company's PC product lines, including displays, mobile devices, notebooks, desktops, and workstations. Over the course of his career, he has been profiled or had his work on innovation written about in media outlets ranging from tech press to Vanity Fair, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. McKinney also writes a column for Forbes called "The Objective," hosts a popular "Killer Innovations" podcast that CIO Insight has called "a must listen," and tweets from his @philmckinney handle. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 28, 2012

    5 stars and 23 post-it notes

    A few years ago, I worked briefly with Phil McKinney as an advisor to a non-profit where he was a Board member. Based on that experience I was looking forward to this book, but I was really not prepared for my reaction.

    The concept of the book is deceptively simple – ask a set of killer questions and follow a repeatable process for ranking your answers to get more and better innovation along three key dimensions. At this stage in my career, I was skeptical that I’d have a lot of takeaways but I knew that Phil’s style would make it an interesting read. It turned out to be so much more.

    After a first reading, my copy of the book had 23 post-it notes sticking out of the top and side, representing 23 ideas I want to capture in a summary/reference document that I’ll use when re-writing my current business plan. Check it out yourself and see where it leads you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    You can be as creative as Pablo Picasso or as innovative as Stev

    You can be as creative as Pablo Picasso or as innovative as Steve Jobs – or close – no matter who you are. Just follow the practical new-ideas system developed by “Innovation Guru” Phil McKinney, formerly a chief technology officer at Hewlett-Packard. His step-by-step innovation guidelines help you out-innovate your competitors, and develop new products and services. getAbstract finds his methods helpful for those competing in today’s “creative economy,” where great ideas are the hottest currency.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    I am a fellow high tech innovation explorer having spent 15 year

    I am a fellow high tech innovation explorer having spent 15 years at Xerox PARC including managing the Xerox Express Team which experimented with customer co-innovation using cutting edge technologies. I have worked twelve years at HP Labs and in the last few years worked with Phil McKinney’s group in HP’s Personal Systems Group. The project that I am pursuing today was sponsored by Phil and benefits from his experiences as we tried to coax Immersive 3D out of the lab and into the market while fighting the HP antibodies. (You can do an on-line search using my name and 3D to learn more.)

    As a fellow explorer, I greatly value this book and am doing a second reading of selected portions right now. This is NOT a cookbook, nor does it serve as Pixie dust that can magically transform an organization into an innovation engine. However, for those who are exploring new areas, especially with or in corporations, this can be invaluable both from the experiences he relates and also the method for looking at the opportunities and issues that are bound to be unique for each organization. This is not a map, this a log of way signs, lists of techniques that have worked, and some frameworks for trying to coax innovation’s fire. It should be read by managers and technical experts alike.

    Corporate Antibodies are very real, but as the book points out, actually part of a healthy response to protect the company. I have seen all four types that are enumerated and the book gives great advice on how to get your head around these responses. I feel that that chapter alone should be mandatory reading for every researcher and engineer who is involved in innovation.

    The book uses a series of Killer Questions to help you figure out how to stoke the fire of innovation. I advise that you should review all of your ideas against these questions on an on-going basis to validate your concepts and to free your mind to allow you to move your idea into new areas which might be both of higher value and even easier. This list of questions is not exhaustive and he shows how you can amend them to fit your situation. In the later chapter, he walks you through how Kroger modified the system to meet their needs. This is the type of examples that push this book to the next level.

    If the ideas feel strange at first, then go through this book a couple of times in parts. As Phil points out, businesses are not comfortable with change and actually shun change in favor of predictable and safe. Innovation is considered unpredictable and risky. It is hard for us to see beyond how we do business today with today’s customers. At HP, we often find that we restrict our meetings to specific customer departments and need to reevaluate with whom to have a New Product discussion. The book shows you how a successful explorer finds the stepping stones and plans how to traverse the dangerous territory of innovation. A successful trip can not be fully planned in advance, the journey is dynamic and you need to adjust to attain the goal.

    Don’t just read the book, study it and re-read parts as you do your project. Your situation will be different, don’t assume you can word for word apply it, adapt it.

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