Is Innovation a Skill: Part Two

In an earlier post, I paralleled learning the skills of mountain biking to the satisfaction I derive from helping our customers to innovate, to experience similar skill progressions. In this post, I share the fact that — like the rewarding journeys of innovation — there is nothing like the joy of discovering a new trail.

While on a winter sojourn South with my family to escape the cold weather, I discovered a trail in Pisgah National Forest in Asheville, North Carolina. I only had one day, and I’ll admit to not studying my options or the route I took. I’d been on the road for a few days and needed a workout. I was looking for an up-and-down loop on which I could do some work and possibly enjoy a fun MTB downhill back to my starting point. I found a loop that showed 1,700 feet of climbing, most of it in the first half of the 13-mile loop.

I set out to find the starting location and found it was quite remote. I had no cell service. And though my phone was fully charged, I brought a fully charged external battery pack because I’d be navigating by GPS. The loop was described as Full Spencer Gap to Fletcher Creek Loop with Trace Ridge Descent. The loop started on an access road that clearly went up, but the grade was manageable. After five miles or so, I turned onto a trail that continued up, and the grade was increasing. I soon noticed two things: (1) According to my tracking, I had climbed the majority of the 1,700 feet. (2) My phone battery had already been depleted to 35 percent. At that rate, I’d lose navigation well before returning to the starting point. I considered turning back, but I plugged in my external battery pack and continued my climb.

I saw my phone was charging. Relieved, I kept on chugging. The grade became significant. The trail was nice and the views of the forest’s trees and the occasional vistas were breathtaking. When I’d come to a clearing, the climbing became more obvious. The creek from which I’d started was far below me. Even with the views and the nice trail, the solemnness was a little eerie. Eventually, I stopped to rest for a few minutes. I heard the labored breathing of two fellow masochists coming up the trail. We shared a brief greeting, and I encouraged them on their progress. I was again relieved because this trail and its views were too good for it not to be frequented by others. It was, so that checked out.

Onward

My GPS tracking and the loop’s profile report showed I ‘d completed the climbing, but the trail continued up. So, I continued. I was encouraged and troubled by the report. On the one hand, I was motivated to know I ‘d completed much of the climbing. On the other hand, if the profile showed I was at the top of the loop and I clearly wasn’t, could I count on the report at all? I saw my phone battery had been restored to 75 percent. I was gaining confidence that I could at least navigate back.

Eventually, I came to a trail intersection. I turned right and all my earlier anxiety melted away. I was on what turned out to be a seven-mile downhill ripper! I was clearly at the top. And I was clearly descending on some fun, challenging obstacles and flowy berms. I did want a workout, and I got it. It turned out my 1,700-foot climb was really 1,900 feet. The descent was so much fun, I immediately forgot about my burning thighs. I’ve been mountain biking for many years, but that may have been the longest descent I’ve ever done. I stopped twice to rest on a downhill! There were a few short climbs and access roads on the descent, but the trail quickly resumed and continued rewarding me with amazing stuff.

The Destination or the Journey?

After what seemed like almost endless, amazing downhill riding, I eventually came to an access road back near the river at which I’d started. I had so much fun I considered riding back up to do it again, but reality hit when I looked at my watch. I needed to get back to my family so we could continue our trip.

Charged with endorphins, I was ready to take on several more days of driving. But I know I’d be back to check out more trails at Pisgah.

What new trails are you discovering?

The Fallacy of Best Practices: Part Two

Though we’ve written about best practices before, we still hear references to them and read articles about them with disarming frequency. That frequency is disarming because it reflects stasis — a kind of settling for inactivity or unimaginativeness, rather than a relentless search for active improvement or creative betterment.

Perhaps the point is more effectively made if we liken best practices to paradigms — and pull the concept out of a business context and put it into a scientific one.

In his 1961 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn wrote this, which, one could argue, introduced paradigm, the term that became a buzzword, into the vernacular:

Paradigms gain their status because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has recognized as acute.

In that one sentence, we find a precursor to the notion of best practices; that is, we recognize that one paradigm or set of paradigms may be adopted to solve one particular problem or one particular set of problems. But the shortcoming in that notion is revealed in its verb tense, which happens to be the present perfect tense; although, it refers to the past.

This present perfect tense indicates an action has been completed or is in a state of having ended but not at any definite time in the past. Has recognized. That tells us the success of the paradigm has been perceived and accepted in hindsight. Accordingly and similarly, we perceive a set of activities to be a best practice only in retrospect.

But there’s an alternative. Later in the book, Kuhn writes this, indicating that — rather than looking to the past to derive practices in the present — we might look to the future; that is, we can choose to pursue, rather than to make do:

If we can learn to substitute evolution-from-what-we-do-know for evolution-toward-what-we-wish-to-know, a number of vexing problems may vanish in the process.

To translate Kuhn’s notion back from a scientific context into our business one, if we substitute what we’re doing for what we want, need, or aspire to be doing, best practices will have their own obsolescences built in. The good news is we’ll always be improving, and one of the vexing problems of business jargon will vanish. The bad news is we’ll no longer be able to tout best practices as a good thing.

If we do tout them, we’ll simply be advertising the complacency for which we’ve settled.

It’s Never Too Late

I’m not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, nor am I a particular fan of Jerome Bettis. But I am a fan of keeping commitments (especially to oneself) and finishing the job.

In 1992, Jerome Bettis left the University of Notre Dame, following his junior season, to enter the NFL draft. He was selected 10th overall in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. In 1996, Jerome was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While with the Steelers, legendary Pittsburgh radio commentator, Myron Cope, popularized the nickname, The Bus, for Jerome because of his ability to carry multiple defenders on his back while carrying the football.

I can’t evaluate the wisdom of Jerome’s decision to leave college early, but I can celebrate his decision to return to college in 2021 to complete his degree. I don’t imagine getting a college degree is something Jerome needed to do. He had an amazing NFL career. He’s the NFL’s eighth all-time leading rusher, and he has a Super Bowl ring. His post-NFL career includes involvement with trucking, staffing, development, and marketing companies, as well as being a television personality.

In an interview with NBC’s Anne Thompson Bettis said:

I promised my mother that I would get my degree. In my immediate family, I’ll be the first person to graduate from college. But most importantly, I have two children. For them to see dad finish a commitment that he set out some 27 years ago, for me to complete that, I think it says a lot to them.

You Have the Ball

I think it says a lot to everyone who’s paying attention. Sports personalities like Jerome have an unavoidable and huge platform through which they set examples and become de facto role models. Many times, we see celebrities, sports and otherwise, abusing their fame and fortune. It’s refreshing and uplifting when we see a positive example.

It’s also a reminder to all of us who aspire to innovation: Achievement is incremental and iterative. It’s the difference between, “I didn’t succeed,” and “I didn’t succeed yet.” It’s evidence of these facts:

  • Opportunity can always be created.
  • Failure can always be instructive.
  • Commitment and determination can always carry the day (or defenders if you’re toting a football).

Jerome Bettis may find a business degree from Notre Dame useful with his current career, even if it wasn’t especially important for an NFL career back in 1992. But its importance isn’t want matters. It’s the achievement that counts.

What are you determined to achieve?

Follow the Map

During my management years, I was challenged by limited training budgets, ever increasing demands for new skills, and HR departments’ approaches to tracking training. In spite of our sincere efforts to match employee skill levels with job description and project requirements, we always had a list of gaps to be filled and training sessions to be scheduled. By the time we could catch up, the demand had changed.

One day, we asked, “How can we approach this with a design mindset?” That led to the creation of a talent map. If I can visually design the talent needs for my business unit — and compare it to what exists today — I can figure out the existing gaps and the potential risks in planning talent acquisition and development. I can also leverage underused skills to create opportunities.

Talent Map

In its simplest form, a talent map is a matrix of skills and skill levels. Skills are grouped under core trade skills, peripheral skills, support skills, operational skills, and leadership skills. A list of about 15-20 skills is adequate. You can organize skill levels under three to five categories, such as Trainee, Functional, Independent, Expert, and Rare. The map would look like a bubble chart, in which the bubble sizes represent the number of employees at particular skill levels for specific positions.

The desired or should-be state map would be derived from business requirements addressing the type and the amount of work to be done. The current-state map would be an aggregate of all individual employees. The skill gaps define the organizational need for training.  With some consideration for employee interests, you can develop an optimum training plan for individuals as well groups and teams. If you look ahead to your future business requirements, you can develop skills over time.

Application

To build your current-state map:

  1. Agree on the skill items.
  2. Have supervisors fill out the matrix for each employee.
  3. Add up all employees in the organization to get the org map.

To build your desired-state map:

  1. Look at the customer-focused programs in the organization.
  2. Fill out the requirement matrix for each program under trade, support, and operational skills.
  3. Use a generic starter distribution across the levels, and adjust to meet the degree of difficulty and the potential risk.
  4. Add up all the programs for the organization.
  5. Add the peripheral and leadership skills based on your company growth strategy.
  6. Review the map with your leadership team, question assumptions, and debate the data to arrive at a consensus.

I’ve used this approach in various organizations with significant tangible benefits. It also helped clarify what portions of projects could be optimally outsourced, without hurting delivery quality and without compromising future capacity. Some of my clients extended this application to knowledge mapping and asset mapping.

Value Derived

The primary benefit of mapping is arriving at an optimum training plan such that the training investment brings a maximum return to the business. It also provides an optimum and balanced allocation of talent across projects.

There are lot of additional benefits from mapping, such as succession planning, compensation parity, critical skills management, leadership development tracks, building new business development teams, risk assessment, turnover reduction, efficiency improvement, employee engagement, better quality, and consistent job descriptions.

If Alice had a map, Lewis Carroll wouldn’t have written this exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

The Fallacy of Best Practices: Part One

Some people go to great lengths to make sure they’re not taken seriously. That’s sad because it’s really quite simple. If you want to ensure whatever you have to say is dismissed immediately and out of hand, all you have to say this: “We [select your favorite verb construction here: employ, offer, built our practice on, developed our software using, have exhaustively studied, are slavishly enamored of talking about] industry best practices.” Here’s why it works so well:

As a term of any meaning, credibility, or effectiveness, best practice died in 2012. (Actually, like Keith Richards, it was dead long ago. And, like Keith Richards, it just hadn’t fallen down yet.) So, use of the phrase now signals an absence of critical, substantive thinking. If you’re a company that provides any kind of service, it also may indicate the distinct probability that you’ve stopped paying attention to your prospects, if not your customers. The longer you haven’t been paying attention, the more out of date your practices may be with the ways in which your prospects do business:

Sales Person: We use best practices to provide state-of-the-art, interactive communications media.
Prospect: Yeah. I can see that. But weren’t smoke signals banned when the EPA was created in 1970?

I’m not suggesting there are no policies, procedures, or processes that might be generally applicable within given industries — or even across industries. We’re human beings. Consequently, we’re creatures of habit. We like to indulge ourselves in a little predictability, thank you very much.

What I am suggesting is that we’re also creatures of creativity. We think. We adapt. We evolve. We grow and change. We develop better ways of doings. We chafe at restraint and aspire to ideals. So, best practices become yesterday’s news; and our quest for improvement never ends. It’s the way of the world and exactly as it should be.

The next time you pull out your PDA, your smart phone, or your tablet, think about this: If we’d adhered to best practices, we’d still be contentedly sending smoke signals.

Work Theater

My colleagues and I have written on occasion about innovation theater. But I had a different thought this morning. Here’s what happened:

Like many people, I now work from home almost exclusively. I have occasional in-person meetings with colleagues and customers, but they’re rare and usually considered special events. Even before the pandemic, I was working a flexible schedule, through which I worked in the office most of the time and at home some of the time. The flexible schedule allowed me to be available for personal and family commitments while maintaining work responsibilities.

I still have an office outside of my home. I’ve been there a handful of times over the last few years. I’ve gone there to gather some things I’ve needed to work from home more effectively: a few files, an extra computer monitor, etc. When I go to the office now, it feels like a museum or a time capsule representing the way in which work was done a just few years ago. There’s been a universal shift. Work will never be the same. Virtual meetings have become the norm, with good reason. Traveling to the office and to see customers was time-consuming. It’s no longer valuable.

Coming Clean

This morning, I took a shower, which is unusual. Showering is not unusual but doing it in the morning is. I usually shower later in the day or in the evening after a workout. Back in my office-work days, I used to get up early, shower, dress for work, and grab a quick bite and a cup of coffee before going into the office. My shower this morning reminded me of how manic I used to be about my morning routine. Sadly, much of the motivation for my behavior was appearances. I didn’t really question it at the time. It was just how work was done.

It was important to me to get into the office early, before most people and to work late, leaving after most of my colleagues. I lived this behavior for much of my career. As I was working up through the ranks, it was important that my bosses saw me consistently in the office early and late. As I became the boss, it was important to me that others saw I was consistently in the office early and late.

The Work’s the Thing

Hamlet famously said, “The play’s the thing.” That’s not true in the COVID-transformed world of work. Now, the work’s the thing.

Being in an office daily with coworkers has benefits. You can get to know your colleagues and how they work and how they manage themselves. Spontaneous collaboration can occur, and work can be done. But when I compare my office experience to the way I work now, it seems hugely inefficient. Lots of travel, grooming, business attire shopping … and for what? Appearances. It turns out I was a performer of office theater. I was there and I expected my colleagues to be there, but that didn’t necessarily mean work was being done. Some theater was being produced, for sure. And work was almost secondary.

Now that everybody is remote and ubiquitously available electronically, actual work output is the measure of commitment and contribution. Since there’s little social protocol like bringing doughnuts and coffee to a videoconference, for example, people schedule and attend virtual meetings because they’re necessary. Don’t misunderstand me: I like to socialize with people, but I’m enjoying having work meetings about work and mingling with friends when I’m not working.

Let’s not lament about how things used to be. Let’s embrace the way things are.

The Great What?

The COO of Warren Pools called a special meeting of the senior staff to address a pressing issue, the so-called great resignation. Almost all the department heads were on edge due to their losses of staff members over the past nine months and because the great resignation was on the TV news every day. For some reason, they all felt the need to do something about it.

The meeting transpired like this:

COO: Guys, we’ve all been hearing about the great resignation. When I first heard about it six months ago, I dismissed it as someone else’s problem. Now it’s clear we’re not immune to it. Let’s look at the data from HR and see what we should do.

HR Head: I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. We had 24 percent attrition in 2021. The good news is that some other companies have lost even more, and it could have been worse. We’ve also been successful in onboarding quite a few. We’ve been busy in our department because there’s a lot of talent out there searching for new jobs.

COO: How much loss do we have in terms of talent, I mean the people who are not easy to replace?

VP: I lost four key people and a few more that are replaceable. Actually, HR’s been active in helping me backfill. And I’m quite happy with new hires so far. They’re fast learners.

Biz Dev Manager: I lost two key account managers, and I won’t be able to replace Jack Moe.

COO: Do we know where they’re going? Are they being poached by our competitors?

HR Head: We don’t have all the data, but I don’t see our competitors eating our lunch.

COO: How about the backfill? Where are we getting them from?

HR: They’re coming from within the industry, mostly from out of state, not from our competitors.

COO: I guess distance isn’t an issue, since we’ve learned to work from home, correct?

VP: Yes. We can work through that, except for the pool installers, who are all over the place anyways and have to travel.

COO: Has our performance dropped because of this churn?

VP: It did initially. But I’m actually feeling good about the rotation in the long term. We can get talent that fits better, is better motivated, and is a better fit. I suggest we spread our search more nationally. It creates opportunities to make the changes we wanted in our culture.

CEO: People, I’ve been listening to you all. I think the musical chairs we seem forced to play is good for our employees and the company. We can all get better aligned. In fact, I prefer to call what’s going on the great re-alignment, not the great resignation.  That term must have been coined by the media to create anxiety and to hook viewers with sensational stories. We get all worked up thinking of it as another virus. And we say things like, “We’re not immune to it.” I suggest we identify our key players, interview them to ensure our expectations and values are still a match, and think of this as an opportunity to upgrade the culture. I also authorize five percent over-staffing, while good folks are still in the air looking for a place to land. Thanks for this quick meeting.

Pride Goeth …

Mark Zuckerberg’s been having a rough go of it of late. I’m not saying it’s an infallible bellwether. But when you take heat in two articles published in Inc. on the same day, chances are your decision-making is something less than exemplary.

Exhibit A

On February 4, Inc. published an article entitled, “Facebook Just Had Its Most Disappointing Quarter Ever. Mark Zuckerberg’s Response Is the 1 Thing No Leader Should Ever Do”. It’s chock-full of pertinent goodies. But the money quote is this:

Mark Zuckerberg pointed at two tech rivals as the source of Facebook’s problems: Apple and TikTok … “People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly,” Zuckerberg said. “And this is why our focus on [Facebook’s newest video product] Reels is so important over the long-term. As is our work to make sure that our apps are the best services out there for young adults.” Then, Zuckerberg repeated the same finger-pointing at an all-hands meeting on Thursday … he again told employees that the company’s focus was on Reels … a direct copy from TikTok …. The thing is, you’re never going to be a better version of your competition.

That’s clear and present evidence of COTUS (Center of the Universe Syndrome). Zuck’s always been the center of his own universe. But maybe $89.6 billion in personal net worth — even after a $31 billion loss — is enough of a cocoon to keep one sufficiently shielded from the interests of his own company, let alone reality.

Exhibit B

On the same day, Inc. published another article called, “The Real Reasons Facebook Tanked”. The article makes much of the fact that Facebook’s products and its brand are aging and that its demographic targets should have been shifting. But this is the kill shot:

It’s hard to keep people loving on your brand when they can’t trust whether you’re keeping their data private, when they know that you’re playing favorites while enforcing rules, and when they’re painfully aware that you’re making money hand over fist by spreading poisonous misinformation. As a result, nobody trusts Zuckerberg or his judgment, all of which casts a deep pallor on the metaverse strategy, which (if he and his firm still held substantial brand goodwill) might otherwise cause investors to overlook other problems.

To paraphrase: If you take your eye off the ball, don’t act surprised when you lose it.

Hubris by Any Other Name

Zuck’s specific problem is that he’s always been the fair-haired boy; the wunderkind; the self-absorbed, Harvard dropout, would-be genius. His bigger and more general problem is that ego will never allow you to be wrong. It will never allow you to question or to be questioned. It will never allow you to be open-minded enough to embrace the disparate perspectives and ideas on which innovation depends.

It’s 2022. The world is changing faster by the minute. No innovation, no future.

If you’d rather be right than be successful, you won’t be either one.

Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18)

Forests and Trees

This past Christmas, my wife, Tracey, got me a Ring doorbell. It’s more useful than I expected. It has a camera, a speaker, and a microphone. It’s connected to our Wi-Fi. We can see who’s at the door and even converse with visitors remotely using our smartphones. Since we already had a doorbell, the installation was simple. The doorbell has a rechargeable battery, so I configured it to connect to our home network first. Then, I removed the old doorbell button, connected the Ring doorbell to the existing wiring and it was working. It took 15 minutes and one Philips head screwdriver.

We enjoyed the doorbell so much, we decided to get one for our lake house. Since there’s no existing doorbell at the lake, I knew it would be a bigger job but not beyond my capabilities. I got another doorbell, 20’ of 18-gauge wire, and a 16-volt DC transformer. I figured I’d need to drill a hole through the side of the house where the doorbell would be installed behind the inside door molding to get the wire through the wall. Once inside, I expected to drill another hole through the floor (also behind the inside molding) to the basement so I could install the transformer at an electrical junction box.

Eureka!

When we inspected the door and surrounding area, Tracey found an electrical junction box hidden above the kitchen cabinets. Perfect! I could install the transformer there and run the doorbell wire behind the cabinet and the door molding. That would be much easier than drilling a hole in the floor and finding the hole from the basement, near the house sill. With this new easier plan, I excitedly got started. As I was working, I shared with Tracey how much easier this was going to be than I thought. Careful not to dampen my enthusiasm, Tracey gave me a measured, “That’s good.” She’d seen this movie before.

Undaunted, I drilled the hole through the wall, while Tracey configured the doorbell, connecting it to our Wi-Fi. Drilling the wall hole required an educated guess. I could see where I needed the hole on either side, and I could guess approximately where the drill bit would exit the interior wall. I removed the inside door molding and began drilling from the outside. I wasn’t exactly right, and I needed to locate the hole by drilling from the inside, too. But it all worked out. Everything would be hidden behind the door molding. I Installed the transformer, ran and hid the wires, and installed the doorbell. It worked!

Score for the day:

Don                              1
Local Electrician      0

I cut the celebration short because the job isn’t finished until the tools are put away and the worksite is cleaned up. Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done.

But wait!

After cleaning up, and while basking in satisfaction, I reviewed the Ring app on my phone. I found the app reporting that the doorbell was running on battery, not being charged by the house wiring. Nothing is more disheartening than finding the job may be flawed. So, armed with my voltmeter, I checked the output voltage of the transformer. It looked like 0, but it was dark above the cabinets. So, I turned on the kitchen light and checked again. 16.4 volts. Odd. I checked the app again. The doorbell was charging. Then it dawned on me: There was a small voice in my head that had been ignored in favor of enthusiasm. I wasn’t sure what it was, but in retrospect I think the voice was saying something like, “Let’s step back for a minute to be sure this new plan makes sense.” I’m far too competent to listen to nonsense like that.

To satisfy the little voice, I turned off the kitchen light and used my cell phone light to read the voltmeter. 0.0 volts. I had wired the transformer to a switched electrical junction. My little voice doesn’t like to say, “I told you so.” Instead, my little voice said, “Dumbass!” Tracey is very kind when I bring my home improvement confessions to her. But not surprisingly, she wasn’t interested in a doorbell that only works when the kitchen light is on.

New score for the day:

Enthusiasm               1
Don                              0

I surveyed the scene again and found an outlet behind the refrigerator (that’s not on a switch), and I could still hide the doorbell wiring behind the cabinet molding. I went about the re-do in a much more stepwise manner. No fanfare, just humility. The doorbell works, and that’s good.

I’m out of the woods.

The Show’s Over

Cleopatra Dunns, CEO of Dunns Cosmetics, wrapped her annual speech to the staff, laid out her plans for 2022, just as she’d done for the past six years, on the last Friday of every January. Once again, the popular keyword was innovation.

She opened with a vision statement, “Be the most innovative cosmetic creator out there,” and a mission statement, “Consistently provide innovative products to delight our customers.”

The rest of her speech covered prior year sales, next year’s targets, plans to expand into new regions for targeted revenue growth, and more innovative ways to engage consumers online. There was no mention of any new products because there were none. But she did use a new term: conscious capitalism. She defined it vaguely. No one understood it. And there was no specific initiative to undertake.

The annual award for the most valuable player went to the Director of Social Media for innovative online sales growth during the COVID lockdown. Everyone knew online sales were skyrocketing, but the Director of Social Media had changed nothing.

And despite losing several employees during pandemic, Cleo didn’t touch the hot topic of The Great Resignation.

Turn Out the Lights

After the speech, Mike Techie, the new products manager, engaged Joe Cool, the COO, in a candid conversation behind closed doors.

Techie: What’s my budget for new product research this year?

Cool: We haven’t allocated one yet. But I can assure you it won’t be less than last year because sales have been good. We may have to adjust a little to cover new employee onboarding and training, which is substantially more this year.

Techie: Last year, you only gave me $1.5 million. That’s pocket change compared to sales of, what, almost $2.5 billion? And most of it went to fixing production issues in the name of lean innovation. None of our proposed projects made it to the funded roadmap. Given the speech we just heard about innovative products and online sales, I was hoping my budget would be bigger this year.

Cool: I hear you. But Cleo decides these things. She owns this company.

Techie: You know, our Multi-Functional Face Cream product is catching on. It’s in line with conscious capitalism. We make money by providing healthy cosmetics. We need a couple of years to mature the product and get FDA approvals. But we’ll be behind our competition if we don’t start now.

Cool:  I don’t disagree with you Mike. But Cleo owns the company, which means she writes the strategy.

Techie: Cleo is clearly focused on sales. Have we thought of new business models, like subscriptions? They’re easy to try and don’t need FDA approval. We can sell cosmetics on our own website.

Cool: We discussed that after you brought it up last year and decided we don’t want to risk what’s working now by confusing customers with choices. I’m sorry we didn’t give you any feedback. We should have a process for ideation

Techie: We definitely need a process. By the way, who’s responsible for innovation? Who should write or own the process? Or, to be blunt, whose metric is it?

Cool [getting uncomfortable]: Everyone is expected to be innovative. We don’t need a metric.

Techie: Sorry. That came out wrong. Going back to Multi-Functional Face Cream, is it still possible to get some funding this year? The business case is strong. I know I’m asking for $3 million over two years, almost double the budget. But the five-year ROI is more than 20x if we get to market before the competition. More important, the cost of not doing it could cost as much as $500 million in sales when our current product goes out of fashion.

Cool: In addition to your R&D budget, we also have to allocate money for marketing. So we won’t get 20x ROI. Maybe 5x at best. With the FDA busy with COVID demands, delays can further reduce our ROI. Your logic around the cost of doing nothing is hard to substantiate. Cleo won’t buy that. So, we can’t take that into the equation. Between you and me, my fear is if we fail to deliver, we’ll both lose our jobs. Cleo has a low tolerance for failure.

Techie [thinks]: No budget. No accountability No process. No willingness to risk. No tolerance for failure. Just talk about innovation. Joe, I know you won’t like my saying this, but I’ll say it anyway: This sounds like innovation theater, and this year’s show is over.