Innovation You: Four Steps to Becoming New and Improvedby Jeff Degraff
In today’s frenetic, uncertain world, the “same old, same old” routines are perfect ways to go nowhere fast. What has worked for you before—professionally or personally—no longer gets results. Whether you’ve been downsized, reached the end of a long relationship, or found yourself questioning where you are in life, it’s clear you need to change. To innovate. Make it new. Make yourself new. Now, in this invaluable book, the world-renowned “Dean of Innovation,” Jeff DeGraff, shares his tried-and-true techniques on how to reinvent yourself—creatively and with maximum impact.
Innovation You reveals DeGraff’s unique four-step program to bolster your ingenuity and remake your life. From forging ahead in a new career to losing weight to finally pursuing that long-held dream, DeGraff’s strategies are effective and easy to follow. Inside you will learn to
• Rethink Innovation: Find ways to think outside the box, seek out diverse opinions, and pay attention to the next great trend.
• Rethink Your Approach: Use the Competing Values Framework to identify your natural innovation profile—do you compete, collaborate, create, or control?—and then deliberately draw from the other styles to augment your usual tactics.
• Rethink Your Methods: Put your reinvention plan in motion—set specific, realistic, and meaningful targets, cultivate relationships with relevant mentors and experts, and try alternate methods to achieve your goals.
• Rethink the Journey: Understand that innovation is a process and that progress comes in cycles rather than a quick straight line. Accept uncertainty, question assumptions, and acknowledge areas where you can improve.
Full of invigorating ideas, engaging anecdotes, practical wisdom, and inspiring success stories, Innovation You is your personal road map to reach your highest potential—and experience a bold new way of living.
“A useful guide to thinking about career changes, entrepreneurial leaps, or general self-improvement, DeGraff’s newest work is a must-read for those contemplating change and wanting to make more creative decision.”—Publishers Weekly
“Whether you’re looking to stay competitive professionally, make a career change, or just be inspired to greater personal creativity, this is the book to light the proverbial fire underneath you. It is a pragmatic, step-by-step framework for unlocking the unique capacity for growth in each of us.”—Tom Glocer, CEO, Thomson-Reuters Group, PLC
“This is not just another book on innovation. Jeff DeGraff takes a lifetime of learning and teaching and turns it into a conversation about what it takes to change, grow, and create. And he does it with honesty and wit. You’ll discover ‘we grow when our life sucks’ and other DeGraffisms that put into perspective the hard work and motivation that goes into innovating at work and in life.”—Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer, GE
“DeGraff translates the innovation strategies and practices used in top-shelf firms into an easy-to-follow road map for making our own lives new and improved. This book will show you how to really make innovation happen.”—Vijay Govindarajan, professor, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth
- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
9780345530691|excerpt DeGraff / INNOVATIVE YOU
Henry Martin is important to me for what may seem a humble reason. A chemist in Buffalo, New York, in the mid-twentieth century, Martin changed dry cleaning forever when he created a cleaning solvent that wouldn’t burst into flames. Until 1949, the storefronts that people called “dry cleaners” were only pick-up and drop-off sites. The chemicals used to clean clothes were so dangerous that the actual cleaning had to be done in the safety of a factory, where a fire could be contained. But Martin’s nonflammable solvent meant that dry cleaning could be done where the customers were.
This new approach, “Martinizing,” saved customers days of waiting and gave Martin’s stores an advantage over every competitor. In a similar way, the first step toward innovating your own life is to look for the opportunities to add creativity to each element of what you do—not just sending out for creativity like the old dry cleaners used to send out their clothes to the factory, but adding in creativity yourself where you live and work. Martinizing made dry cleaning safe, ordinary, everyday—and hugely successful. That’s what creativity needs to be in your life.
The innovation visionary Marshall McLuhan made the point that innovation is not a thing. It’s an attribute or quality: An innovation is anything that is enhanced—made better or new. To see what I mean, pick up any business magazine. You are likely to find examples of the most innovative companies in the world. But look a little closer and you will find that some of these businesses excel at marketing, while others excel at technology development, and yet others don’t seem to do anything revolutionary, but they are great at increasing revenues.
The point is that these examples are all over the place, because innovation is something you can do in different forms, at different times, in different places. If it makes your business (or your life) better relative to your own idea of what better would be, it’s an innovation. Sometimes the biggest innovations are actually steps backward into the past, like the local food movement, in which well-off people with access to a global transportation network that can bring them food from anywhere in the world try as hard as they can to eat the food grown right nearby, as farming people did when there were no planes, trains, or automobiles. Innovation is any creative improvement, and “creativizing” can improve any area of your life.
Shandra creativized when she received an unexpected medical diagnosis: Cancer. Aggressive tumors. Odds no better than fifty-fifty. All she could think at first was, This wasn’t supposed to happen. She had lived through a difficult divorce and was raising three children on her own. After years of night school and crummy jobs, she had found a position at a company that saw the good in her. She had advanced quickly to become an executive secretary. Now everything she had built for her family, from the condo in the good school district to the college tuition savings accounts to the possibility of retiring to watch over future grandchildren was all at risk. T
he doctor spoke compassionately and made his recommendations. A patient like this should start chemotherapy right away. He offered a list of support groups to help with the emotional strain. Yet Shandra felt she’d been given a death sentence. When she finally got home, she couldn’t bear to speak to her children. She paid the sitter, made her way upstairs, and climbed into bed.
The next day, Shandra went to a support group of cancer patients in treatment, but it only made her feel more afraid and helpless. Resigned to her fate, she called her family together. There was a long silence after the announcement. Finally her oldest daughter spoke up. “You taught all of us that anything may be possible as long as we were willing to take responsibility for giving our best,” she said. “I want to believe you’re due for a miracle. We are here with you to help you in any way we can.” After that emotional homecoming, the family pulled together. If conventional medicine only gave Shandra a fifty-fifty chance, what alternatives could they find?
If the support group wasn’t enough, where could she find even more support? Together they began making phone calls, searching the Internet, reading books, and holding regular kitchen-table conclaves. They knew the cancer was not in their control, but few situations are. Together they set out to do what innovators everywhere try to do: improve the odds, both for a good outcome and for a better experience for Shandra, no matter what happened.
The following week, Shandra visited a few different specialists, including Dr. Li, who was highly regarded for both conventional and Eastern medical practices. In his office, she took a seat near the comforting babble of a tranquillity fountain. The attendant brought an elegant tea tray. Then the doctor pulled up a chair and quietly introduced himself. He explained his approach of partnering with patients because only they really know what their body needs. At the next kitchen-table gathering, Shandra said she believed that Dr. Li could help her find her own way to healing. Along with regular checkups and a regimen of chemotherapy, the program would include meditation, Chinese herbal remedies, and daily Qigong exercises.
The treatment was disruptive and hard to endure. At the start of each session with Dr. Li, Shandra would relate which treatments she thought were working and which were not. The doctor weighed her impressions as he adjusted her program week by week. She found meditation helpful but wanted to add some traditional prayers, as well as ones she had written, to incorporate her deep faith. Months later, after follow-up tests, Dr. Li announced that Shandra showed no more traces of the disease. He cautioned her to remain ever vigilant and wished her well. She was deeply grateful and returned to work, but now devoted time each day to the regimen she had created to maintain her health.
Shandra was fortunate, but she had also done what she could to create her own good luck by approaching her challenge like a master innovator. Her first doctor had offered her the standard “recipe”—chemotherapy, a hospital-based support group, and waiting. But Shandra went beyond the standard approach. What I admired so much was not that she tried alternative medicine—lots of people do that—but that she found ways to add her own creativity at every step. She took her doctor’s advice but added her own research as well. She joined the hospital’s support group but also established a second support group from her community of family and friends. She took the conventional Western medical approach and added Eastern medicine. She prayed, which had always been a support for her, but she added meditation and visualization, techniques she had never tried. For every element of her treatment, she added new, creative ingredients and methods. She “creativized.”
People who don’t creativize may never know what they’re missing. The price of not creativizing comes in missed opportunities to grow and thrive, but if you miss those opportunities you may have no way to know what, specifically, was lost. Had Reuters not created Reuters Market Light, the company might never have realized that its international sales were far below their potential. They only found answers by improvising. They only discovered the possibility of success by creating it. How? The key to creativizing is to open up your thinking to see your true situation and your range of possible responses in the widest possible way.
Most people facing a crisis or opportunity will start out with an idea or two about what’s wrong and what they could do differently. They’ll probably deny the situation for as long as they can. Then maybe they’ll get a little advice. If they’re not desperate, they’ll probably procrastinate. When they finally do feel desperate, they often leap at any chance that comes along. But when you creativize, the goal is to see a much wider range of possibilities. This takes some courage, because to begin, you have to take an honest look at where things stand now.
Often—not always, as we’ll see, but often—things look pretty grim. Your old methods have stopped working and you have no guarantees about what could take their place. The weather is threatening. You’re already working hard. It may feel like you have no options at all. No one is coming to save you.
So what can you do? Look around, and keep your eyes open. Find out what exactly are the threats that require you to innovate. Where are the new areas of growth that could sustain you and improve your life? How are your assumptions about creativity holding you back? What is keeping you from finding the people and the trends that can help you make the changes you need? These are the questions we’ll address here in Step I. It’s a preparatory step, in which you develop the skills and habits you will need on your innovation journey. By the time you reach Step II, you may feel that instead of seeing too few options for achieving any specific change you would like in your life, now you will be creativizing too many.
I hear this from my business students sometimes. We look at a case together and I start asking questions they don’t expect. I talk about people and factors that weren’t mentioned in the case. And they say: Wait! You’re creating too many options! It feels like chaos. I tell them: No, it’s not chaos. It’s possibility. This is what it feels like when you take off the blinders and see possibility all around. You don’t have to follow up on every single one. In fact, later on in this process we’ll learn ways to winnow and to test the possibilities to find the ones that are worth your while to test. But as you begin to creativize, if you feel overwhelmed with possibility, good. So many people start to change when they feel that life has backed them into a corner or when they feel tapped out of ideas or energy or are at a loss. Only when you realize you’re surrounded by possibility—practical, start-today possibility—will you be ready for the later parts of the book, which guide you to select the best overall approach for reaching your goals, and then to find the specific methods that will turn your new approach into satisfying results.
Meet the Author
Jeff DeGraff, Ph.D. is a clinical professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and the executive director of Innovatrium, a leading creativity center for executives. He is a consultant to the world’s most prominent companies (from Apple to Visa), serves as an adviser to think tanks and governments, and is the author of three business books and numerous articles. Dubbed “the Dean of Innovation” because of his influence in the field, and featured on the PBS program Innovation You with Dr. Jeff DeGraff, DeGraff lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Practical and engaging, Innovation You has given me a new set of lenses to see myself and the world around me. I find myself using the four color framework all the time. "She's a blue, so what is she going to expect?" "How would a green approach this situation?" I am in the process of applying the Innovation You framework to my job search post grad school. The Many Shots on Goal principle, in particular, has resonated loudly with me. It had not occurred to me to approach a job search like a venture capitalist would approach a business investment - simultaneously diversifying risk and accelerating the failure cycle. The framework has proven sound and the opportunities that are opening up for me are more exciting than anything I could have found in a traditional job search.
If you are at a turning point in your life and not sure where you want to go next or if you have a personal or business challenge that could use an innovative spark, then this is the guidebook you have been waiting for! Jeff DeGraff takes his proven innovation model - called the Competing Values Framework - and shares it with his readers in a user-friendly, compelling, and actionable way. He has broken it down into these four steps that he has used so successfully with his corporate clients: 1. Rethink Innovation shows you the opportunities to inject creativity into every aspect of your life. 2. Revise Your Approach with Prismatic Thinking explains the four most common approaches to innovation, you see which ones you typically use, and what better results you could be getting if you understood the full range of your possibilities. 3. Run Your Experiments will give you a step-by-step roadmap for implementing your new approach to innovation. 4. See the Whole Journey will help you discover how to ensure your ongoing innovation success over the long-term. And as you would expect with a book about innovation, Jeff DeGraff shares many unique and creative observations and concepts. A few that really stood out to me (and you will discover many more for yourself) are: * The 20/80 Rule - "It is easier to change 20% of a company or a life by 80% than it is to change 80% of that company or that life by even 20%." * Prismatic Thinking - "We break the light of innovation into its component colors. Each of these is a way to make your situation new and improved, yet each one gets different results." * How you innovate is what you innovate - "The approach is not just a matter of style. The approach is everything...Many people get it backward. They decide how they feel like innovating and then hope it gets them to their goal." Believe me, this book is well-worth your time if you are committed to getting more out of your life than you are right now. Through interesting stories and practical take-aways, you will learn how to apply this powerful innovation model to your own situation - and ideate and execute innovation in a way you may never have thought possible before.