This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Carla Johnson, author of RE:Think Innovation, joins Erik and Tim to discuss how using the Perpetual Innovation Process can help individuals and companies deliver exceptional results by learning and applying more creativity and innovative thinking.
The most fundamental part of understanding innovation is defining yourself, or your company. Carla explains, “The first thing that I start to do when I work with companies…is ask that organization, let's create a common agreed upon, acceptable definition of what innovation is. Innovation is a word that's kind of bastardized. People use it all over the time. It's cliche…It's a word without meaning because it's been so overused and used in completely irrelevant ways. So, the first thing I say is if you want people to perform an action, you have to define what that action is.”
Innovation isn’t something innate. It can be cultured through discipline and practice. Carla says, “…the short answer is that yes, it is something that people can learn and apply, and it doesn't have to be in situations where you're looking at big innovation with a capital I, capital letters all the way through like we think of disruptive innovation. Part of rethinking innovation is the size and the scope of what we consider innovation, and that's a big part of what I want people to understand.”
Once the innovation process is learned, it can continue to be applied repeatedly. Carla says, “…the whole idea behind calling it the Perpetual Innovation Process is because it's in a circle. It's not something you do one and done. It's not about the ability to come up with an idea in a situation. It's the ability to perpetually do it over and over again. Just like a flywheel. So, once you get that momentum going, it's just a matter of how you approach the work that you do every day.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the 5-Step Perpetual Innovation Process and how it can lead to more creative thinking.
About the Guest:
Carla Johnson helps organizations constrained by old-school approaches when taking on new-world opportunities. These companies struggle with unpredictability, frustrating inefficiencies, and a shortfall of results. They point fingers and say they have the wrong people, the wrong strategy, or the wrong product. But in reality, it's outdated methods.
As the world’s leading Innovation Architect and CEO of RE:Think Labs, Carla helps organizations design and build the ideal architecture to accelerate innovation, engagement, and growth. Having written 10 books and studied both innovation and architecture for more than 20 years, she’s developed specific frameworks to help leaders remodel their approaches in order to boost speed, reduce risk, and enjoy more predictable outcomes.
After collaborating with Carla and her team, clients experience modernized cultures that help them rise to the challenges of the day. By renovating the internal environment to meet current opportunities and challenges, she equips leaders and employees to innovate better outcomes, faster. This streamlined and creative approach leads to greater engagement, expanded competitive advantages, and sustainable shareholder value
Erik Martinez: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.
Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CoHereOne.
Erik Martinez: Today, we are really excited to have Carla Johnson join us today. She is the author of a fantastic book called RE:Think Innovation, and she's here to tell us about how to become more innovative in our everyday jobs. So, Carla, welcome to the show.
Carla Johnson: Hey Erik. Hey Tim. Thank you for having me. We're gonna have a fun time here.
Tim Curtis: We are.
Erik Martinez: And both Tim and I have read the book, cover the cover. So, we [00:01:00] know this topic and I have had the pleasure of attending Carla's workshop, and yet still have to apply all the things that she's taught me in my day-to-day life. So, Carla, before we jump in, can you just give us a susant of who you are and why you wrote the book?
Carla Johnson: Absolutely. So, I always ask the question. If Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, and Lady Gaga had a love child, what would you get? That usually makes people scratch their head a lot, but it's an innovation architect, that blend of innovation and architecture and how to build things that are new and different and unique.
That's what I call myself as an innovation architect because I help people design and build cultures that allow for creativity and innovative ideas. Not only to flow, but to become their competitive advantage with measurable outcomes, and it was really this whole idea behind this interaction I had with someone after I gave a keynote a few years ago.
A woman came up to me and she said, I could never be as creative as you are, and I just want to tell you that was [00:02:00] amazing. I say that because the whole work that I do, my quest, is to help people understand how to be more creative and innovative in what they think. Whenever I hear somebody say, I could never do that. I tell them, no, really. If I can do this, you can do this, and that really sent me down the rabbit hole to say, we have all of these iconic idea, creative people.
Now, do they really have some sort of genetic secret sauce that you are only born with? You know, you either have it or you don't, or is their ability to consistently come up with fantastic ideas that have an absolute impact and deliver extraordinary outcomes on a consistent basis, something that people can learn?
So, that was the quest behind my book, and since both of you have read it, I think you know, the short answer is that yes, it is something that people can learn and apply, and it doesn't have to be in situations where you're looking at big innovation with a capital I, capital letters all the way through like we think of disruptive innovation. Part of [00:03:00] rethinking innovation is the size and the scope of what we consider innovation, and that's a big part of what I want people to understand.
Tim Curtis: It gives such a great framework also for that innovation, and we were chatting before the show about perpetual innovation. By the way, the book is in my top five for the summer of 2022 must-read, and I posted something about it on LinkedIn. Yeah. Yeah.
Carla Johnson: Thank you.
Tim Curtis: It was so good in putting you in the mind frame of how to architect. There's this debate about innovation, that innovation occurs organically and I don't believe that. I think it can occur organically, but I think sustained innovation occurs when you set the table for that. What do you think?
Carla Johnson: I absolutely agree, and I think the people who we consider the organic innovators, maybe, I always use Steve Jobs cause he talks about connecting the dots. The interesting thing that I found through my research is people like that all have a process. They just don't realize it. The [00:04:00] process they have is the perpetual innovation process that you...
Tim Curtis: So true.
Carla Johnson: That you just referred to, and so when people say well, it needs to be more organic, well, it's easier if the people on your team or in your company naturally have this practiced ability to come up with ideas, but if you don't set the stage and create the environment for it to happen organically, then it isn't going to happen organically. It's no different than planting a garden. You need some organic things in there definitely, but you also have to create the ecosystem and set the stage for whatever you want to plant and grow to truly flourish, and it's no different than with the mindset of innovation and creative thinking.
Tim Curtis: You referred to it as the natural innovators. In the book, you know, you talked about the natural innovators do it without knowing it. For the rest of us, there's training for that.
Carla Johnson: The people who do it, talk about all you have to do is connect the dots. Just connect the dots. It is that simple. Connect the dots, but if that's not [00:05:00] something that you have innately done your whole life, you're sitting there going, okay, but like how do you connect the dots? And that was what I wanted to do by meticulously breaking down this five-step process.
So, it's a five-step process. Which I'm assuming we'll talk about in a little bit, but even those five steps, I break it down because I still have people say, but I don't get it. It's not that they're dumb at all. It's just that they're out of practice. These are things that we all did as kids. I mean, you think of the crazy, wild ideas that we had as kids. It's because we innately were born as humans, and we knew how to connect the dots without knowing that was a thing.
Then as we went through school and college, and whatever our level of education, if we did something after high school, and then we get into the working world, it's taught and rewarded out of us. So it's not that people don't know how, it's that it's been practiced out of them, which is an [00:06:00] important thing for people to have perspective about.
Erik Martinez: Well, and I think that's also important to go back to, you have to set the environment. You mentioned in the book that schools are a really good example where, oh no, no, no. You gotta stay within the lines. You gotta color within the lines. You can't go outside the lines and narrows the perspective of the kids and eventually the adults that grow out of those kids, that they can't go outside of whatever they're predefined, whatever it is.
We see that in all of our organizations a lot. You are an account manager and you are just an account manager and there's nothing else you can do to learn how to become a project manager, even though some of those functions are very highly related to each other. They're different, but they're very related. Or you are a social media person who only focuses on Facebook and Instagram posts. You can't do anything else. So, [00:07:00] we see that a lot in our organizations. Carla, how do you recommend when you're working with your clients, how do you start to change the culture so that you can foster an environment that is healthy and innovative at all levels of the company?
Carla Johnson: The first thing that I start to do when I work with companies because that's been a lot of my work these last few years, is okay, we want to innovate, but we can't just say, let's go do it or it's gonna be a disaster waiting to happen, is ask that organization, let's create a common agreed upon, acceptable definition of what innovation is.
Innovation is a word that's kind of bastardized. People use it all over the time. It's cliche. I look at people sending me direct mail that's innovative painting, innovative dentistry, innovative accounting. It's a word without meaning because it's been so overused and used in completely irrelevant ways.
So, the first thing I say is if you want [00:08:00] people to perform an action, you have to define what that action is. So, Erik, if I said, let's have a race and see who can sprint down the street the fastest, but you had no idea what the word sprint meant. You'd have trouble competing, right?
Erik Martinez: Oh, yeah, totally.
Carla Johnson: You might be doing somersaults. Tim might be doing cartwheels. I'm probably out there doing the worm and it looks like a comic show, but that's the same thing that happens inside organizations when they say innovation is one of our core values. It's one of the things we value the most, internally, externally. You know, all of these things, but what they fail to do is clearly, in real people words, define what innovation is.
Then what they need to do next is articulate what does the behavior look like that delivers that result? So, if you are going to sprint, okay, now you understand the definition of that word, but now what behavior actually [00:09:00] produces a sprint in action? It's the same with innovation. So, let's define innovation. Now, let's articulate what behavior will result in that action.
These are core fundamental things that companies don't do, either because they don't realize they need to do it, or two, it's kind of a pain in the neck. This is work that requires people to think and agree, come to a common agreement, on what these things mean, and the reason a lot of companies don't end up with innovation as a core mindset, much less a practice, is because it's just too hard to do the upfront work.
So, they skip it, and then they just tell employees just go innovate and the employees are going well, I'm not sticking my neck out for something I don't even know what it is because, you know, I've got a car payment, I've got a mortgage, I've got kids to put through college. I've got, you know, all of these things. I like the people I see every day. I kind of want to keep my job, and so there's this [00:10:00] unspoken, like team environment that happens as in, I'm not gonna stick my neck out, and you don't call me on anything and vice versa. So, it creates this negative environment of security, where nobody wants to take action or move because they don't know what those rails are. They don't even know what the lines are to color outside of. They sure aren't gonna move that crayon very far.
Tim Curtis: Well, and you know, our reptilian brains are risk averse. So, people see that as if I do that, you're right. There's a risk this could not work. I would be out and then the complications of finding another job, whatever. The hard part about companies saying innovation is a core value, what's the framework you've created for that innovation? What's your perpetual innovation process? You know, your five steps that you have really built the book around. Number one, observe.
That's where we were talking before the show about setting that bandwidth in your life to actually take the time to just observe. That's the number one step in your framework, in your [00:11:00] process. You want to talk about that a little bit. When you're setting that framework in place. How does a company go about doing that? You've got to empower people to take the time and energy to observe. That's kind of hard.
Erik Martinez: Before you answer that, maybe Carla, you could take a second and just describe the Perpetual Innovation Process, cause Tim's alluding to step one of the process. What are the steps, and then let's go back and answer Tim's question if you don't mind?
Carla Johnson: Absolutely, and the whole idea behind calling it the Perpetual Innovation Process is because it's in a circle. It's not something you do one and done. When I studied these prolific innovators over long periods of time, and I'm talking decades, and in some cases with companies, century, and how do you sustain this? It's not about the ability to come up with an idea in a situation. It's the ability to perpetually do it over and over again. Just like a flywheel. So, once you get that momentum going, it's just a matter of [00:12:00] how you approach the work that you do every day. So, that was the idea behind calling it the Perpetual Innovation Process, is that you essentially are perpetually in motion with innovation at all ranges within an organization.
So, it's not just about disruptive innovation, which is appropriate for some organizations, but if you are a specialist in human resources and it's your first job. You're probably not gonna look for that disruptive innovative idea. You do want to come back for day three, four, and five in your job. You know, and there's some areas in an organization where there's the perception that they don't lend themselves to innovation. Which isn't true, and we can get to that in a minute, but looking at what can somebody use as a tool to consistently look at their work differently?
Before I wanted to have people just say, okay, I need to connect the dots, I wanted to teach them how they do that. When I interviewed these people over a series of about five years, the process that they all followed, [00:13:00] whether they realized it or not, because I would go back and say to them, this is the pattern that I'm seeing. Do you feel this is true to what you've done, and they go, you know what? I never thought about it, but that's exactly what I do.
The five steps are, the first one is to observe the world around you. Now, this is an interesting thing because it feels very time inefficient and very wasteful. As we go around this, I'll explain why this matters. I have my phone here, right? Just in case. If we think about how we go through our days, every day, as working professionals, at least five of them, we spend a majority of our day, most likely in front of a screen. It's a genetic thing when you focus your visual attention on something, everything outside, you know, of this peripheral vision, just goes away. The more you narrow your visual attention, the more you narrow your mental attention. So, we spend 40, 50, 60, depending on your work week, hours highly [00:14:00] focused in a small visual area. So, when we do that, we teach our brain not to pay attention to the broader world.
Now, there's lots of simple techniques about how to expand your attention and bring more energy to your day, and one of them is stand up and look at something in the distance because visually when you expand your attention, you mentally expand your attention. Remembering what it's like just to sit and observe the world around you.
So, if you think about a sunset in your life, one of the most spectacular ones. Like, I can remember one so crystal clear when my husband and I were camping in Roswell, New Mexico almost 25 years ago, and I could tell you almost every single instant and it's because I was so hyper-aware and observant because it meant something. So, that's the first step is to be more observant to the world around us.
Now, the second step is to look at all that you've observed and start [00:15:00] to distill them into patterns. Is it things about nature? Is it things about community? Is it things about humor? Whatever it might be. There's no rhyme or reason to how you start to distill what you observe.
The interesting thing is these first two steps, observe and distill, are genetically why the three of us are actually here today talking is because we survived all the things in the environment around us. We observed. Was the environment safe, was there a threat, was there a saber-toothed tiger? You know, or whatever. We observed those details, distilled them into patterns of either safety or threats.
Then we moved into the third step, which is relate. We relate that into some sort of work that we're doing. You know, it could be the work of just surviving as humans. It can be the work of a social media. Whatever it is, but this relate step is the piece of magic. It's the bridge between the theoretical, the observe and distill, and the [00:16:00] reality of needing to generate ideas that we will eventually pitch in some way, shape, or form.
It's this ability to relate what we've observed and distilled into the work that we do that distinguishes people and teams and companies from those who aren't innovative. This is the thing. When people say well, what's the thing? This is the thing, is that ability to understand the significance, the importance behind what you observed and the patterns that you distilled, and what you can actually do with that every day in your real life. So, that's the bridge.
And then the fourth step is normally where people start. That's the generate ideas step. The fifth step is to pitch. Now, the interesting thing is if you follow this journey, this five-step process, by the time you get to the pitch, you don't have to practice your pitch a whole lot, because all you are simply doing is telling the story of the journey of your ideas. So, it takes a lot of pressure off and it brings [00:17:00] passion and confidence to those pitches because these are things you've actually experienced and done, and you know it, and you believe in it.
Now, what typically happens in an idea generation situation is that we start with step four, generate, right? We have a deadline, we have a need, our client needs something, our boss needs something. We're like, ah. I need ideas. Let's get into a room, and you get into a room and you're like, ah, you know, it's panic. There's so much pressure to generate the idea that there's no room for that inspiration, and it's not that all of the observe and distill has to be done right there in that meeting at that time.
If we start to make time, 10, 15 minutes a day to practice observing the world around us, your brain will then kick in and genetically do what it does and it will start to organize them into patterns. So then, when you get into that situation where you need to generate an idea in a short amount of time, [00:18:00] your brain can recall those things that you've observed and distilled, and it will automatically start to relate that into the work that you do.
So, even though you're under pressure and don't feel like you have any ideas, you have fuel for inspiration, that you can draw on that you didn't before, when you tried to go from zero to 60 in that generating ideas part of the process.
Tim Curtis: And isn't interesting that when you take the time and effort for those first three steps in the Perpetual Innovation Process, the observing, the distilling, and the relating, when you can categorize those and you can have those, those may not be steps that you've yet moved into step four to generate, but when you can start to capture, and you make the discipline of capturing those things down.
I did this yesterday. Where it was something that I had thought about had really tried to distill down what I felt like were some points that would be further thinking, and in the point of that, I did generate some thoughts related to that. So, I think I'd technically gone through step three and then all of a sudden [00:19:00] something came up and I needed to pivot quickly and I was able to jump into step four, the generate step, cause I'd already done the relating. I was very quickly able to engage on that.
When you put those processes in place and that becomes more of a rhythm of life for you, then I think you can jump into that generate step four, much more easily, but you've gotta do that hard work of observing, distilling, and then relating, and I think relating, for me at least, that was the piece that I think most people get intimidated by.
Erik Martinez: I think the relate it part is the hardest part because it's somewhat taking an abstract concept and applying it to a concrete thing, whatever that thing is, and I think it's the one area like you feel like if you do a good job of writing down your observations and you do a good job of categorizing those observations into your lists. This is the part that feel like you have to practice the most, is relating all these abstract concepts to something that's concrete [00:20:00] in order to generate the level of ideas.
Carla, just going back and looking through some of my notes from reading the book and the workshop that we did, one of the critical components of this was back in Chapter three of the book where you're talking about objective statements, right? Cause you can't do this in a vacuum.
Carla Johnson: Absolutely, and that's one of the things why leaders get real hesitant about opening up innovation to everybody. I say innovation is everybody's business. We should be looking at the work that we do with the lens of how can I solve problems or take advantages of opportunities, and especially if you think about everything that's been thrown in everybody's direction the last few years.
It has been one of those two things on a daily basis. Leaders say I don't want everybody involved in innovation because it's gonna be like herding 500 cats, and no one's got time for that. That's for sure, and that is true. Back to structure and focus and defining things. I set [00:21:00] up the process of the perpetual innovator by saying, when you are going to apply this process, at the end of the day, if we're looking at innovation as a delivery method for value, it only has value if you point it towards something specific.
So, chapter three that Erik is talking about, is about how to set objectives. We spent two days on this, Erik, in the workshop where we met. If you'll remember, that was the thing that I kept coming back to, is that there's three parts to the objective statement, and the first one is we need new ideas too. What is it that we're wanting to do? Is it a new campaign? Is it a new customer retention strategy? Is it a new way that we look at doing business? Is it a new way to onboard customers? You know, whatever it is.
That's generally all people do when they say we need an idea. Here's what we need an idea for, but the next step is so valuable and it is a struggle to define because [00:22:00] most people don't understand it and it's so we can. What's the ultimate impact that you want to have come out because of these ideas?
You probably remember going through this part of the exercise, Erik, and I would say, no, you have to be clear. You have to be specific. You have to make sure that you nail this, and then as we would go through each of the five steps and then back to the structure, the architecture of the pitch. If you didn't have a clear understanding of the value you were looking to create, your pitch was really weak.
Sometimes you go through this process and you learn it and you see where the struggles are, but the only way you get better at it is to continue to practice it, and then the third part of the objective statement is with these constraints. Let's be honest, we could do anything if we didn't have to worry about budget, time, and I talk about Kevin or Phyllis in accounting telling us, no, or cultural impact, or industry, or [00:23:00] whatever it is.
So, we ultimately have to look at some of those constraints, but at the end of the day, sometimes the constraints are the things that bring out the most brilliant ideas. So, I have people set an objective and then actually set it aside, and then we go out and do the observation exercise. We go through the process of distilling them into categories. I teach them the phrases to use that helps them cross that bridge of relating it into the work that they're doing so that when they get to the idea generation stage, that step four, generate, they now feel really equipped and inspired and ready to go to start generating those ideas.
They're out there. There's no limits on anything yet, but during the process of whittling down the ideas that they come up with, they start to bring in pieces and parts of that objective statement so that they [00:24:00] finally, when they come down to their two or three ideas, they're really solid, good, applicable ideas that they feel really confident about.
The thing about the idea generation part, generating step number four, is that people when they get in groups, they'll throw out 5, 6, 10 ideas, and they'll go with one that they think is really good and they just stop. But research that I found says, you don't start to get to the really creative ideas until you've gone through the first 200 ideas. So, if you think.
Tim Curtis: Yeah, that was overwhelming.
Carla Johnson: You know, not saying you always have to get to 200, because again, like time and deadlines, but it's an understanding of how little opportunity we give the ideas that we potentially have inside of us.
Tim Curtis: Yeah. On that page 31, in chapter three, where you're going through those three parts of the objective statement. So, this page in particular is probably the most highlighted page in the book for me. At the top of that page, in the formula for setting [00:25:00] objectives, you said something in the book that really, really, really resonated me. So much so that I starred it, highlighted, drew around it.
The statement is in fact, the difference between people who have ideas and the ones who successfully execute them is understanding the problem that will propel the business forward, and that really resonated to me because it's not enough to have the ideas. It's that hard work, where you have to, again, relate those in and really come away with what's going to be the one that projects and moves us forward.
Carla Johnson: And that's so true, and one of my pet peeves is when people say coming up with an idea is the easy part, executing it is the hard part. And I always say the idea was hard to execute because it wasn't a quality idea to start with. Part of being a quality idea is understanding what it is you're here to accomplish.
It's three parts. Look super simple. You know, it's simple, but it's not easy, and it's that simplicity of really focusing a person, a team, or a company on [00:26:00] what truly is the problem that we're here to solve that makes all the difference in the level of success that they have with innovation.
Erik Martinez: So, there's one more really important part of this, right? So, we've got setting objectives, we've got the five steps. What I found was really interesting in the book is, you got through, like in the first 55, 60% of the book, you got through what I thought was the heart of the matter. I'm like, oh man, I'm done, and then you spend all this time on pitching the idea and that was for me like, oh, because how many great ideas die because you didn't sell it well. So, can you talk a little bit about that piece?
Carla Johnson: Yeah, and I always say, bad pitches kill great ideas. This is really interesting. The gentleman who invented the Ring Doorbell, the video doorbell, lost his pitch. He pitched it on Shark [00:27:00] Tank and it was a bad pitch and they wouldn't fund it. So, he had to go find another way to get funding for his company. So, that's one of the most well-known examples of a company that you'd think, oh, how could this not work?
His pitch was so awful that the Sharks were like, I don't see anything in this. Now, there's a whole lot of reasons about why that pitch fell apart, but really what I go through in great detail in the pitch section is that it's not just one simple packaged pitch of following the journey of what you observed, distilled, related, generated. You do have to bring in the objective statement, cause we're looking at making sure that whoever you're pitching to understands that you understand the problem that you're trying to solve.
So, that first ability to create collaboration and cohesion in an approach by saying, here's the problem that we're looking to solve, and it's a very important aspect of storytelling that's brought in because [00:28:00] one of the things about storytelling is Tim, Erik, and I, if we all have the same book and we just let it fall open, and we all started talking about this story from whatever page we started at. We're like, this doesn't make sense.
So, that's the first ability to make sure everybody is on the same page, and sometimes it's even what story are we reading, much less what chapter or what page? So, that starting with here's the problem we're looking to solve. So, this is why we need the ideas. So, ultimately the outcome can be, here's the ideas I have, and here's the constraints that I know that we have to be able to work within.
So, right there, whether you put together a 30-second pitch because you run into somebody in the hallway or at a cocktail party or whatever, or you have a couple of minutes, enough for somebody to hear the idea a little deeper and say, schedule time on my calendar, set up a meeting with me. I want to dig into this deeper, or you actually have that deeper time. It's understanding the [00:29:00] critical element that build consensus and rapport and confidence, not only in your ability to pitch the idea but in the person who's listening to you to say they have something here and I want to know more.
Tim Curtis: You know, you talked about that Mad Men element of, you know, the Don Draper pitch, and really understanding the art of it, and I knew when I started getting into that step five and that continued through the end of the book in terms of really refining that pitch. I knew that I had the author that I wanted to be a friend with because I was like, she gets it. This is such a huge, critical component.
I watch so many of processes break down when you get to that pitch element, and it's unfortunate because when I think about the pitch process, that's really where you've got the idea, you've really baked through this, you have your research. Then we pivot into that all-important element of the psychology, the neuroscience of why people make decisions.
I just don't feel like there's enough emphasis placed on that aspect of the step [00:30:00] and that step five and most companies I see under-invest both in time and resources into what they need to do to really sell that pitch. So, the fact that you brought that out and made that such a core element, and then expanded on it and really, to me, just underscored why this Perpetual Innovation Process was so well constructed. It really hit on the pieces that need to be there.
And I would encourage every listener, absolutely get the book. Get the book tomorrow. Don't waste time. Get into it, start reading it, start putting the processes into place. Really think about, germinate on some of those ideas because it is comprehensive. Kudos to you for the research you've done in pulling this together. You really think differently at the end of the book, which I think is the goal of any of these books, right? To really be moved by them in a way that you're going to rearchitect and set some things up in order to challenge your process.
Carla Johnson: The last part of the book when I was done with the process and I had an [00:31:00] amazing editor and he said, okay, so what? And I'm like, well, what do you mean somewhat? This is awesome. I'm happy with it. He goes, no, so what? So, you are the person who read the book, now what? If you think about all the different dynamics of culture within an organization, how do you take what they've just learned and put it into practice?
So, that's the last section of the book is how do you actually create a culture of original thinkers is what I call them, original thinkers rather than innovators, because I think it's back to an executive may be hesitant to open up that can of worms of teaching anybody to be an innovator, but you do want them to be an original thinker. You want them to have a lens on how they can make their work more efficient, more productive, more valuable to the company, more valuable to the customers, but I think even, especially in today's world, more valuable to them and how they feel every single day coming to work.
So, now they have this process. I say, okay, if you want to create an entire culture of original thinkers, you have to reverse engineer it and you have [00:32:00] to start with the individual. So, as an individual, here are things you should know and think about as you look to take the Perpetual Innovation Process and make it work in your world, even if nobody else in your organization ever reads the book, I hope they do, or learns the process, I hope they do. You can be a one-person innovator by using this process and here's what you do.
It's kind of an interesting thing that I came upon about the archetypes of innovators and how different people think. So, that's an assessment that people can do to find out what's their style with how they come up with ideas, pursue them, approve them, collaborate on them and things like that. And then we move up from individuals into teams, and how do you make this happen in a team environment?
People say, my team just doesn't want to think differently. They don't want to do different. You know, all of these things. I talk about why what to do and then at the end of each of these chapters activities that you can do. A company is made up of teams. So, [00:33:00] now you boil it up into culture and some other things that as leaders and executives and people running businesses of any size, how to think differently about innovation to truly make it a mindset that is infused in an organization, that again, back to, has a bottom line impact.
Erik Martinez: So, Carla, we just have a couple of minutes and I can sit here and talk to you for hours about this, hours and hours. So, if it's okay, we would like to have you back.
Carla Johnson: I'd love that.
Erik Martinez: To delve some more into absolutely the book and the topics and the absolutely amazing examples you give in the book. Folks, you really do need to download this book. Purchase it on a Kindle. Get the paper book. Get all three because it's a resource that you can use every single day in your professional career. So, as we wrap up today, can you just give us your favorite example that people can think about, oh, this is what she means by [00:34:00] innovation.
Carla Johnson: Absolutely, and I'll give you one of my favorites because I think it was such a juxtaposition in how it was done. So, you think of Cisco, very left-brain, engineering-driven, technology, hardware, software, network connection, security, things like that. Very much a big company. And we know a lot of times in big companies, people with ideas just get crushed, or the ideas take forever to go through, approval, and God help them if they have to go through branding and legal to get approval for an idea because we know what it's gonna look like.
Tim Washer was a dear friend of mine and he was a creative director at Cisco, and Tim's an interesting guy because his background is in comedy and he was a standup comedian. He was a writer for Amy Poller on Weekend Update. He's done things with Stephen Colbert, Bill Nye, the Science Guy. He talks about if Conan O'Brien needs a crooked lawyer or a drunk politician, he always gets the call.
You know, so, I guess he has his niche, but [00:35:00] really a funny guy. He was working at Cisco. There was a product launch that he needed to do one February. He said, instead of doing the same thing for a product launch, why don't we do something a little different, and everybody around him is whatever. As long as you meet your deadline, that's all right.
So, he took these principles of comedy and he happened to have been in a comedy club in New York City, a few weeks before this work started, and he was watching Ray Romano, just an incredible comedian on stage. He was watching his technique and how he was able to build rapport in a short amount of time with this audience of strangers through humor.
He looked at all of those details that he observed, and he distilled it into the pattern of building relationships, of getting people to put down their emotional walls in a short amount of time, and several other things. So, he took those patterns that he had distilled and he said, how can I relate those into the work that I'm doing with my product launch?[00:36:00]
He said, what ideas do I have that could help build rapport faster, that could help people put down their emotional walls because salespeople, we know why they're there, to sell something. So, that was what fueled the inspiration for his idea of, instead of doing a video of a talking head of an engineer or an executive talking about the new product that they're launching. How about if they did it as a comedy?
It came out right before Valentine's Day and the whole product launch was how you could use the Cisco ASR 9000 new router that was being released as a Valentine's gift to your loved one that would earn the same level of adoration as flowers or diamonds or chocolates or whatever. It was ridiculously hilarious and it's not because it was based on the principles of comedy. Nobody believed that's actually what you would do, but it was just through the roof successful.
They didn't promote it. They didn't put PR behind it. They simply put it out on YouTube. Told the sales team about, and the sales team [00:37:00] came back and said, this was freaking amazing because what they did is that they opened meetings with prospective customers and current customers with this video and everybody laughed.
That was one of the things that made Ray Ramono so successful, is that he understood how to build an instant rapport through laughter because when people laugh, their emotional walls go down and all of a sudden salespeople were hearing things from customers that they had never heard before. That's how it turned into these extraordinary outcomes. They had customers who they had been knocking on their door for years, finally, call them and say, hey, I think I'd like to talk to you guys. Analysts picked it up. Media picked it up. If you're in B2B sales or a B2B company, the two people you want talking about you are analysts and media.
Erik Martinez: Awesome. So, Carla what's the easiest way for our audience to reach out?
Carla Johnson: They can always find me on my website @carlajohnson.co. There's no M. You can go there and [00:38:00] there, you can take an assessment for what kind of archetype you are. I have videos on there. I've talked to a lot of amazing innovators around the world about their process and what they've done.
You can sign up for my newsletter, which comes out every other week, where I dig deeper into a lot of these things around creativity, innovation, finding time to observe, all of those sorts of things and tools, and I always love it when people connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know where they heard me.
Tim Curtis: Thank you again. We'll look forward to part two. Get that scheduled on the books, but in the meantime, thank everybody for listening today on the Digital Velocity Podcast, and thanks again to Carla for coming on. I'm Tim Curtis with CohereOne.
Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez with Blue Tangerine.