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The Innovator's MethodHave you or your team ever come up with a big idea that you thought would be very cool, but didn’t take any action because you thought it would be too risky? Perhaps it was an idea for a new product or service, or a process change to solve a complex problem. Maybe you tried to bring the idea to life, only to have it turn out to be an expensive, time-consuming failure.

The new book The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization, by Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer, is a leader’s guide to validating new ideas, refining them, and bringing them to market. It presents a method for leveraging a set of tools emerging from lean start-up, design thinking, and agile software development.

Jeff Dyer’s previous book The Innovator’s DNA, co-authored with by Clayton Christensen and Hal Gregersen, is a bestseller, has already been published in more than 13 languages, and won the 2011 Innovation Book of the Year Award from Chartered Management Institute. Jeff is Professor of Strategy at Brigham Young University and Wharton. He is co-founder of the consulting firm The Innovator’s DNA, and he gives speeches, consults, and conducts training programs in the areas of innovation, change, and strategy. He is the only strategy scholar in the world to have published five times in both Strategic Management Journal (the top academic journal devoted to strategy) and Harvard Business Review (the top practitioner journal).

Innovator's-Method

In this episode, Jeff and Jesse discuss:

  • 2 types of uncertainty that influence a team’s ability to create customers
  • Why traditional management taught in MBA programs does not work if you’re leading a team that faces radical uncertainty and needs to innovate
  • 4 steps to solve high-uncertainty problems and turn insight into a successful innovation
  • 3 tests to know when you’re ready to move to the next step
  • How the turnaround of the software company Intuit demonstrates the new way of leading in a high-uncertainty industry
  • How the startup of Rent the Runway, which applied the Netflix model to enable women to rent high-end designer dresses for one-tenth of the purchase price, demonstrates the method’s ability to reduce risk, cost, and time-to-market.

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If you like our show, please rate us on iTunes. That makes a huge difference in helping more people discover it. We love to know your thoughts about this episode. Please submit your comments below! You can also email comments to Jesse at jesse@engagingleader.com, subscribe to him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

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MWHeatherpic-2013“At first, we didn’t believe him, that this highly accomplished star in our field was interested in not just teaching us but in learning from us,” my wife Erin said. “But then we saw by his actions that he really meant it.”

Erin had just returned from her first time attending the annual week-long Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp, which sounds to me like a grown-ups’ version of high-school band camp. Well, most of the “campers” were not yet adults, and the age ranged from 11 up to 61, but the maturity level and skill level was adult-caliber. All of the students had at least four years of experience; most of them had much more. The faculty leaders were world-famous in their field — nobody I would know, but superstars within their genres.

Erin had just completed her fourth year of violin lessons, so she was very conscious of being one of the lowest-skilled students at the camp.

At the beginning of the camp, she was awestruck around the faculty leaders. She carried three assumptions, which the leaders quickly turned on their head:

Assumption: The leaders would teach advanced skills but would be protective of their own cutting-edge techniques (the secrets behind their signature grooves).

Reality: The leaders freely shared everything that would be helpful to the students, and anything else they were interested in. “Hey, check this out,” Tracy Silverman told the class, and showed them a funky new sound from a “strum bowing” technique. He even let them gather close and video his fingers on their iPhones while he demonstrated at various speeds just how his technique works. Rather than sharing information on a need-to-know basis, leaders shared information out of sheer passion, fun, and interest in the students’ growth. It reminded me of the open-source movement in software: the more we share, the more we all advance.

Assumption: The leaders would insist that Erin develop technical excellence (perfection) before teaching her any funky rock techniques (fun, game-changing stuff).

Reality: The leaders insisted that students have fun with their instrument, pushing them to learn and try new things even when they hadn’t yet mastered earlier lessons. “You don’t work music,” founder Mark Wood said, “you play it.” Along the way, they encouraged and watched the students — and took note when students attempting the techniques stumbled on fresh sounds that even the leaders wanted to learn. Which leads to the final point…

Assumption: The learning would be a one-way process. Like gods, the leaders would descend from “on high,” to transmit knowledge to the students.

Reality: Repeatedly, Erin heard faculty leaders commenting that this was their favorite week of the year, because they themselves learned so much from the students. It sounded like a cliché until mid-week, when Erin discovered some of the faculty trying stuff they picked up from students of all ages. Some leaders even incorporated new sounds and improvisations into songs they were in the process of composing.

In a Nutshell

  • Sharing and serving … will take you farther than worrying about secrecy, competitive advantage, and politics.
  • Passion and fun … will lead to performance, excellence, and growth.
  • Humility and learning … will lead to creativity and innovation.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Subscription Links

iTunes Stitcher RSS

Your Feedback

If you like our show, please rate us on iTunes. That makes a huge difference in helping more people discover it. We love to know your thoughts about this episode. Please submit your comments below! You can also email comments to Jesse at jesse@engagingleader.com, subscribe to him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

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WHE14: The 6 Drivers of Behavioral Engagement

August 25, 2014

This episode is the second in a two-part series about leading a health behavioral change. Episode 13 focused on leading a fairly straightforward change, such as influencing employees to get a biometric health screening or to take a financial wellness assessment. Episode 14 addresses leading a more complex change effort, such as influencing employees to […]

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094: Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation | with Greg Brandeau

August 15, 2014

Are you a leader who builds teams that innovate again and again? Creating and sustaining an organization that is consistently innovative is extremely difficult (and rare). Conventional leaders see their role as conjuring up a vision and inspiring others to make it happen. The best leaders of innovation see their role quite differently. Former Pixar […]

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If You Don’t Lead Innovation, You Aren’t a Leader. (And you won’t stay in business very long.)

August 11, 2014

Conventional wisdom says creativity is the realm of advertising, and innovation the job of product development. We wouldn’t expect to find the IT or Finance departments bursting with innovation. But Google could never have grown from a startup in 1998 to the market dominator, with over one million servers, without an IT team that was […]

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Leading Behind the Flock

August 8, 2014

While reading the new book Collective Genius in preparation for my upcoming interview with former Pixar tech wizard Greg Brandeau, I was reminded by this powerful insight: “A leader … is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along […]

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093: The Pure-Hearted Leader: The Surprising Relevance of an Ancient Concept

August 4, 2014

Back in 2000, Jesse was helping an executive at one of the world’s largest companies develop a communication plan. As they were working through the key messages, the executive got tripped up on one of the words Jesse was recommending. He thought the word and even the concept might be dated, old-fashioned. The word was […]

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Putting Time in the Leadership Saddle

July 25, 2014

This past week, a buddy and I were completing our final training ride (60 miles) in preparation for my longest race scheduled for the year, a 100-mile “century” cycling race this coming week. Since our last ride together, we both had acquired new gear. Sam had bought his first cycling shoes and clipless pedals. I had my first padded […]

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WHE13: How to Move Employees from Awareness to Action

July 24, 2014

This episode is the first in a two-part series about leading a health behavioral change. Episode 13 focuses on leading a fairly straightforward change, such as influencing employees to get a biometric health screening or to take a financial wellness assessment. Episode 14 will address leading a more complex change effort, such as influencing employees […]

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092: 7 Keys to Clarity and Conciseness

July 14, 2014

Back in episode 89, about the Power of Brevity, we discussed why brevity works and provided four tips for being brief yet powerful. In these tips, clarity leads to brevity, and vice versa. Now, contrast that with most of the corporate-level communication that companies provide their employees. Whether it’s a letter or email from the […]

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091: Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change | with David Maxfield

July 3, 2014

All successful leaders have to be good at leading progress. And science has found that successful leaders, from CEOs to parents, have a common set of principles and skills that help create quick, profound, and lasting change in people and organizations. David Maxfield, New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and social scientist for organizational change, […]

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WHE12: Beyond “Biggest Loser” Contests: Creating a True Culture of Health | with Mary Pitman from Norfolk Southern

June 26, 2014

The popular weight-loss reality TV show “The Biggest Loser” has inspired many companies to hold weight loss contests for their employees. People love the idea of experiencing fast weight loss, and the idea of a friendly competition seems fun. But while “The Biggest Loser” makes for great reality TV, does it make for a great […]

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