Small Businesses to Focus on Customer Diversification, Innovation, Brand Perceptions

Each year, First Business in Madison conducts an economic survey of clients and others in four regions: Greater Madison, Southeast Wisconsin, Northeast Wisconsin and the Kansas City Metro area. The majority are small businesses in manufacturing, professional services and retail. In 2020, these small businesses intend to focus on diversifying their customer base, creating an […]

Sparking Internal Innovation

If you want internal innovation, know this: that old approach of using suggestion boxes doesn’t work. People might provide some ideas, fewer even worth pursuing, but nothing gets done and the suggestion box ends up breeding cynicism. That’s not how Millennials work anyway. And decreeing from on high that everyone needs to be more innovative […]

Innovation Effectiveness and W. E. Deming

“It’s not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W.E. Deming The importance of innovation to business success continues to grow rapidly. In a survey of U.S. executives, 84% said their strategy is “very dependent” or “extremely dependent” on innovation for long term success; up from 67% just 3 years prior. And it’s not […]


A Tale of Kraft, Keystones, & Innovation

Some time ago I was asked to improve the new product development process at Kraft Foods. I call it the Idea to Market process… i2m™ for short. The assignment came from the top of the house who was feeling tremendous pressure to accelerate innovation to fuel earnings growth. The CEO was primarily concerned with accelerating […]


Innovation, Simplification, and Big Business

What’s something big business really needs to focus on to be more innovative? It’s readily apparent at nearly every large business. Big businesses struggle with innovation. They also struggle with process. And just as commonly, they struggle with collaboration across organizational boundaries, i.e., silos. These issues are interrelated. So is the solution to them. Simplify […]


Golf and the Key to Successful Innovation

We can learn a lot about innovation from the game of golf. Did you know in golf one of the most important things to do really well is the set-up? If you don’t set up correctly to hit the ball –club selection, grip, stance, balance, direction, mentality, etc.– it won’t matter how talented you are, […]


Improving Innovation

Indra Nooyi, Chairman & CEO of Pepsi, shared in a recent article they’ve spent the last eight years “overhauling” their approach to innovation. They’ve changed organizational structure, front-end methodologies, process (stage-gate), performance monitoring, investment (up 40%), design capabilities, and the approach for developing markets. All that time and effort increased new product contribution to 9% […]


Leading Innovation

Some people are just more naturally creative, more innovative. We all know this to be true. But there’s good news for the innovatively-challenged: everyone can cultivate five virtues to lead innovation. Integrity – It turns out this is the key to building trust. And trust is essential for employees to feel ok with vulnerability: a prerequisite to sharing […]


The Forces Blocking Value Chain Innovation

So, you’ve got an initiative like lean or six sigma up and running –check. You’ve seen some tangible benefits –check. While it has been harder than expected, you’re still moving forward –check. Senior management just increased your goals well beyond your capabilities –check… whoa, what? Although the debate continues to rage around the various benefits […]


Bosses, Innovation and Risk Aversion

Innovation is the lifeblood of every business. Yet, one of the most common laments when people try to explain why the company isn’t coming up with any significant innovations is, “We’re just too risk-averse.” To which a common response from leaders is defensiveness. I’ve even heard CEOs say, “Tell me which big idea I didn’t […]

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