Official Blog of Center10 Consulting

The Transformative Role of The Honest Outsider

on Sunday, December 29, 2013
I've been thinking about the role of the honest outsider in holding the mirror up to organizations. Two elements got me there - The League of Denial, the PBS documentary on Football that came out earlier this fall and Reza Aslan's book on Jesus, Zealot: The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

To start, let's talk about Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first identified the traumatic brain condition that is commonplace among American football players, CTE. The forensic pathologist conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002 after Webster died of a heart attack at 50. 
Dr. Bennet Omalu from
his twitter page @bennetomalu9168
Omalu is a Nigerian by birth who knew little about American football as a game - he didn't watch it even though he live in a football-crazy city, didn't know anything about the legendary Webster. All he knew was that he was conducting the autopsy of a 50-year old man whose brain showed the wear and tear of a 75-year-old. The game had battered his body, but even more, his brain. In his role as a neuropathologist, he discovered the kind of a trauma he'd never have expected - a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The condition causes depression, memory loss, and sometimes dementia.

Omalu’s lack of reverence for the player meant that he was respectful, caring, persistent, thoughtful and ultimately absolutely the right person to work on Webster. He served Webster and his family in ways no fan ever did – he discovered the truth behind Webster’s tragic last years of pain and suffering and showed that it was the disease, not the man, that was flawed.

Hit Refresh: Address Assumptions and Realities In Your Innovation Workshops

on Friday, December 13, 2013
The more things change, the more they stay the same...and practice makes perfect. Both adages are slightly over-used and possibly tired. They're still worth reflecting on. I conduct workshops that focus on shaking out insights and igniting the imagination.

I work with brilliant people - and sometimes, they need to give themselves permission to "not know all the answers". That's when they can make the leap into the unknown.

This takes practice. When you're with brilliant people, you'll need to go through the process a few times before you can get them beyond their "faves" and the things "they've always said we should do" - those assumptions and prejudices that stand in the way of getting to real innovation. A few sessions in, the real game-changers will start to come out.

Here are some questions to use in a workshop:
  • Review the obvious, and not so obvious trends in consumer life, the world and in your industry - what do they truly mean? 
  • What is a "day in the life"your target consumer? Don't just download the latest research report - have your participants go ask a few carefully thought out question to the folks around them.
  • What "Problem Statements" do you really want to answer, given the possibilities and scenarios that those trends and client journeys suggest?
  • What are your core assumptions about how, when, where your products and services are used - and could the opposite be true with some innovation?
That set of discussions can drive to real ideas...and now PRIORITIZE. It's important to make things happen. Don't fall in love with all your ideas, chose the ones you can/ want to drive and then DO IT!!!

Remember - prototype, and make the organization SEE AND FEEL the change you want to unleash. Make it about more than the words and the numbers, and you'll be doing an end-run around the blockers.  

Do this...or the more you try to make things change, the more they'll stay the same!

Driving change - a wide open plain for innovation

on Monday, December 2, 2013
There's a wide open space for innovation in making car rides more entertaining!
This Fast Company article by Neal Ungerleider is worth a read:
In the 2030s, your speed might be regulated by roadside devices, so no more glancing at the odometer. Instead, your car could be watching you. According to William Chergosky, interior chief designer at Toyota R&D lab Calty Design Research, vehicles will likely be filled with sensors that track eye motion, body language, and who is in the car. "Although it feels very advanced right now," he says, "technology integrated into cars is really at its infancy." And if there are dashboards at all, they'll probably be packed with sophisticated safety and entertainment technologies. 
I'm just not sure that I really want sensors outside my car making decisions for me.

I'll be the first to admit that for someone who has driven in four countries, I must have the lowest mileage ever. It's just that as a naturalized New Yorker, I've become a pretty serious fan of public transport. I did rack up some serious miles this past week over Thanksgiving celebrations using Zipcar. I drove to and from Philadelphia twice, to be with family but hop back to NYC for a party and return for some more turkey-based celebrations. So, 440 miles later, I had a couple of thoughts on the driving experience:
  • Interactive GPS: While Google Maps has made navigation a dream, I had to wonder why I was still stuck in a one-lane traffic jam midway through the trip. I have read about the traffic called Waze, but haven't had a chance to try it yet. Allowing for greater voice-based navigation support would have made the trip a vastly more pleasant experience. 
  • Family DJ: Traveling with two pre-teens with a seemingly encyclopedic grasp of emerging music makes DJ'ing fraught with peril. I wonder how long it will take for a more integrated, passenger-friendly system that takes the variety of Sirius XM, the portability of iPhones/iPads and the collaboration/ social tools more ubiquitous. I'm sure there are high-end systems out, just need to wait for the ZipCars of the world to catch up.
  • Cross-car collaboration: You have family cell phone plans, so I'm hoping it's not going to be long before we can connect a small subset of cars together. It would have helped tremendously when I kept falling behind on family trips when following the cars of my speedy siblings.