#1 Innovation Training.
Build up your team with fundamental innovation skills and a hands-on learning experience.
In the Innovation Engineering Blue Belt Course and Certification, students learn strategic and technical skills. They set strategies and stimulate thinking to create new ideas and solutions. Then they learn to de-risk innovation, forecast impacts, evaluate opportunities and create business plans. This allows businesses to improve processes, enter new markets, breakthrough in commodity markets, and invent more profitable offerings.
Read course reflections from some of the 3,028 past participants.
I am excited to keep this moving forward and look forward to the opportunities I believe it will uncover for us!
When the opportunity to engage the Ranch came across my desk via a grant opportunity, I jumped at the opportunity. Our company has been in a rut for a long time and I was grasping at ways to try to move us forward all the while fighting a company culture that is incredibly entrenched. Getting anywhere was very difficult and we had just had a LEAP innovation (the only one in our history) not get the traction we had hoped. I was trying a lot of different things, but they were not synched well, and I was overwhelmed.
Within 2 weeks of starting this course, I was already trying to implement concepts I was picking up. We were discussing Death Threats and even doing some PDSA cycles on the Card project. Much of what I was detailing in the prior sections of this module were all taking place within a month of me starting Fundamentals. It wasn’t perfect but it made sense and was very actionable.
Since then I have tried to absorb as much of this as quickly as possible. Our LEAP project going the way it did allowed me to easily apply learnings here to see how we could have done things much better through that 2-year process. We could have avoided a lot of wasted time and energy as well as some money. Our failures then have made this experience much more effective.
The biggest learning,I have had is HOW to structure all the communication that needs to take place within the organization. We now have a blueprint on how to not only communicate strategies and objectives clearly across the organization, we also have a method to capture ideas in a much clearer way and evolve them more efficiently and with lower risk. Communication has always been an issue within our organization, and this will help in so many ways. One of the biggest is with regards to employee engagement. People will now have a much clearer idea of what we are working on and they will also have a controlled environment where their ideas can be heard. Happy and engaged employees are key.
I have also learned (and already realized tangible results) how to effectively bring people into conversations to leverage the diversity in our company. We have a lot of very bright people with varying backgrounds and we are already using that to shake entrenched thought processes. I am amazed in what I have seen on some people that I would never have known was there otherwise.
The final thing I will touch on here, but far from the last, is how much fun this can all be. When you do something the same way for the better part of 70 years, things get dull and mundane. Energy levels across the organization drop and people start to check out. The exercises we have already done have created a buzz in the company that has been sorely lacking. People walk out of activities surrounding IE work with an excitement that you can see on their faces. I have learned a methodology and framework to yield real results while also creating a much more exciting and dynamic work environment that people crave.
There is so much more learning to do. A lot of that will be through practice…for everyone in our organization. I am excited to keep this moving forward and look forward to the opportunities I believe it will uncover for us!
Thanks for putting this together and making the world more innovative!
1. The concept of “meaningfully unique” make a lot of sense to me. My team is always confronted with a list of projects that require more work than we have time. I like the idea of measuring the meaningfulness and uniqueness of each project in order to prioritize or flat out say “No”. I’d like to emphasize the measuring aspect, even if that means measuring the emotional impact.
2. The exponential impact of diversity was another long-term lesson. We are far too often struck with tunnel vision in our daily business decisions and this is a pleasant reminder to lift our heads up and look around. I really appreciated the many tools and techniques that were offered to a add that diversity into ideas.
3. PDSA cycles are talked about in many books but I really appreciate the IE approach of performing PDSA quickly and repeatedly. This is a great method that will help me break out from circular conversations and drive groups to act urgently and with data.
4. The importance of documenting each PDSA cycle is huge. This really validated that documentation is key to wrapping up a PDSA cycle and communicating it through other groups.
5. The definition of prototype is officially changed in my mind after this course. I love the concept that a prototype can be a sketch on a piece of paper as well as a complicated usable sample.
Overall this course met my expectations. I have more tools and confidence to make my work and life more innovative.
Feedback for the course: Overall, it’s a solid course the way it is. Nice work! My unique circumstance is that I’m working in Taiwan so I relied on overnight feedback. Brad was great at always having feedback ready when I woke up the next day. This was really appreciated at the end of the course when I had to cram on the last session and every day was critical. My time management was not great. The videos were all well done. At times the simple text boxes felt constraining. More formatting features would help with clarity. On the contrary, additional formatting tools could have also slow me down as I tend to get lost in a rabbit hole of seeking the perfect formatting. Like I said originally, the course is solid the way it is and really no need to change. Thanks for putting this together and making the world more innovative!
I will use these tools in my life when trying something new, making decisions and trying to move ahead and get over humps.
I found the unrelated associations to be the most intriguing. All the techniques will require a great deal of practice and constant implementation to make them work and become second nature. I would like to think I will use these tools in my life when trying something new, making decisions and trying to move ahead and get over humps.
I have been working to get a photography business to a place where I am getting a steady inflow of customers and opportunities. I have tried several different approaches over the last three years and I have gotten a handful of jobs. I am going to continue trying different approaches by using the PDSA cycles to break through to attain a level of success that I have not yet realized.
Forming a team to work with and networking is going to be an important avenue I am going to have to explore in the next phase. I’ve always known that projects are more successful when you have people involved and are part of a team. I believe this way of thinking will encourage that to be a part of all my personal and professional endeavors. It is just a matter of putting in the practice and learning and changing as you go.
This course really challenges you to think outside of the box causing you to look at problems much differently. It encourages you to expand your thought process while not overthinking it.
This course really challenges you to think outside of the box causing you to look at problems much differently. It encourages you to expand your thought process while not overthinking it. The systematic approach and the tools to use make Innovation Engineering a process that is detailed, efficient and repeatable. The tools such as Stimulus Mining, Mind Mapping, Fermi Estimating, Blue Cards and Yellow Cards are what can make this very possible in solving your problems with concepts, policies or procedures. It can be used in business or your personal life to overcome those concerns.
Some of the things that I’ll take away from this course were the unique phrases that were developed. They included “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap”, “Plan, Do, Study, Act”and my favorite was “If you’re not Meaningfully Unique, You better be cheap”. I see that in our society today we’ve gotten into being brokers of commodity products which we sell really cheap to be successful. We’ve cheapened a lot of things including our creativity. This course encourages just the opposite. Looking at ideas, concepts and problems from a different perspective will lead to success.
I found that in the video presentations that the ideas and concepts were quickly presented, sometimes too fast which made it difficult to take notes while grasping those concepts. I was able to view and review the videos but again it was challenging to always archive these concepts for future reference. But overall the concepts, theories and presentations of this course will help me be a part of the revitalization in my company.
I must say I had a love-hate relationship with this course. I realize that the hate part came into play whenever I was pushed outside my comfort zone. Those were the most powerful moments for me
I have embraced and studied project based learning and design thinking, this course has so many useful aspects that will enhance and complement PBL and the design thinking process already in place at our school. The blue card is arguably the most important piece of the process. Articulating the purpose in such a way that others know what your purpose is and are motivated to help in achieving that purpose is incredibly difficult yet so powerful. I love the blue card process!
The stimulus mining process is also one that I found to be unique and valuable. I’ve participated in and facilitated hundreds of brainstorming sessions in my career. In all cases, the premise has always been that the ideas are all in the heads of the participants, they just need to be released somehow. As a participant, I felt pressure to have creative ideas and often that pressure inhibited my thinking. Stimulus mining techniques are freeing along with the attitude that the ideas will be generated in the process. In particular, the related and unrelated stimulus technique was so useful for me. I also saw the power of having a group of people in generating ideas. I had the opportunity to do a day long workshop at Eureka Ranch before going through the online certification course. I think that my ideas would have been more creative and more plentiful had I been working with a group.
The PDSA cycles parallel the scientific method and design thinking in so many ways. The major difference in thinking this way for me is the idea of many iterations and many prototypes. As a scientist we are taught to test our hypothesis to see if it is correct or incorrect. Traditionally, this process is a more lengthy one with significant testing done and the answer coming months or sometimes years later. In science, this is valuable, it is vitally important to be sure when doing basic scientific research. The quick PDSA cycles we do in the innovation engineering process are not sufficient. However, opening one’s mind to incorporating this idea into scientific research and innovative ideas is powerful. When we focus on one idea or one hypothesis, thinking narrows and new ideas can be right in front of us and we don’t even see them.
I must say I had a love-hate relationship with this course. I realize that the hate part came into play whenever I was pushed outside my comfort zone. Those were the most powerful moments for me. I will be incorporating this process into my work at school. I plan to do a presentation on our professional learning day in August to introduce the process to others. Thanks to Brad for his feedback and prompt responses. I know I’ve worked right up to the July 5 deadline. I’m hoping there will be an opportunity for follow up and collaboration with others who have blue belt certification. I’d like to continue learning and growing in this arena. Please let me know if I can help you in any way. I’d be happy to be involved.
Now it’s time to start influencing my sphere with IE.
Last fall I happened to be at a conference where Doug Hall gave a keynote speech. Everything he talked about struck me as “hey, we need this for our new Discovery team!” Our Discovery team is looking 2-7 years out into the future, and we operate outside of the new Stage Gate process that the rest of the company is using. As I read the advanced copy of Doug’s book, I came to the realization that we do need a system to make Meaningfully Unique happen. If we don’t succeed, our group will be the group formerly known as the Discovery Team.
Once I saw that the Innovation Engineering course was being offered online, I was all in. Might as well fail fast, fail cheap. This course has been a great overview of the basics of IE. I came to realize that even though I am not a person who loves big bureaucracy, I still need a little structure to get me going. When games don’t have rules, it makes it hard to play the game. Plus projects go better when we have the right tools.
My biggest moment of the class was understanding that our organization needs to do a better job of being clear about objectives and projects. The Blue and Yellow cards are great tools. I’m excited to use them in my projects going forward, because they are really going to give me the boundaries to play with in and help me from going on tangents. Hopefully, I can influence others to use them too so we can all succeed at all levels. Not only that, I think the clarity will help me as a father. As I get better at the cards, I will be even more effective at setting expectations and boundaries for our kids. Hopefully, that will help them do the same as they grow and mature.
I also love the PDSA. Personally, I have been a PDSA, with s being shallow thinking. But now I will put more time into thinking deeply
As far as the course goes, I loved the fact that this course was offered online. Don’t get me wrong, it would be cool to visit the Eureka Ranch and try some whiskey, but doing the class online will allow me to start implementing IE sooner. I really like the way the course was structured and how the modules would unlock once items were mastered. I just wish we could have spent more time on the tools. There are so many to choose from, but we just didn’t have time to go through them all. But I am glad we had a chance to use a few of them during the application portion.
Now it’s time to start influencing my sphere with IE.
I believe innovation engineering will make a significant impact on how we do business in education.
The initial payment that I made is a small investment for a lifetime of more efficient thinking and problem-solving.
As far as critical thinking skills, plan-do-study-act has really helped me take the emotion out of decisions by breaking complicated and monumental tasks (in my head) into small actionable tasks that I can evaluate and quickly pivot if necessary. In the past I would often get overwhelmed if I started getting into new territories I have not dealt with but now I can successfully navigate uncharted waters and do it confidently.
On the creative side, some of the exercises such as mind mapping as well as matrix mixing are fun and easy ways to quickly expand my realm of thought. I have typically been pretty good at new idea generation in the past but these tools really get my mind flexing in new and different ways.
One of the tools that I really enjoyed was the Estimating Value tool where I put variables in and high and low estimates of the variables to get an estimate of risk and cost. This really helps to keep ideas in check as far as practicality and cost.
The concept of death threats has also been a game-changer for me as it really isolates points of failure and focuses on how to remove or at least minimize them. As someone who is very good at rationalizing reasons to shy away from new challenges because of the risk of failure, this reverse reasoning puts things in an actionable perspective.
Another nice concept that I enjoyed was the Blue Card. I think as a self-employed individual it is easy to fool myself into thinking that I don’t need a Blue Card because I am not a big corporation that needs to have a universal mission for many employees. As I started to think about it, I realized that I need one just as much as a corporation because I need to wake up every day working towards a unified goal as well even though I am the only one working towards it.
As far as ways to improve the course, I made some notes along the way. Here is what I wrote down: The cells remove punctuation from entries. It might be a security measure but I would work to allow more punctuation in cells to better annotate sentences and ideas. I am a grammar nut and noticed lots of spelling errors. It is not a huge deal but I would work toward fixing those as it makes the presentation of the course better. Color coding is not showing on the main map. This is a minor issue but I noticed that
Overall, I have really enjoyed the course and I am changing how I think and tackle new
problems on a daily basis. The initial payment that I made is a small investment for a lifetime of
more efficient thinking and problem-solving. Thank you so much for all of the feedback and help
along the way!
I have taken a lot of online classes in my past. This was very thorough and effective training in comparison.
I would have never taken this course if it was not for reading the Book Driving Eureka. I was driving across country (Virginia to Arizona without stopping) and thought the book sounded interesting. Even though I worked in an innovation office, we all took that as, we think outside the box and take opportunities when able to revise processes and procedures. I was under the impression that innovation was not something you can force, it just had to happen. I even went to the extent of building a slide deck that described innovation. I talk about how ice companies went out of business because they saw no future in refrigeration and refused to innovate. I also described how people innovated the home painting process from using a standard manual paint brush, to a paint roller, then to a paint spray gun (or power paint rollers). I now know that I was really describing a type of innovation [[disruptive]]. This class taught me an entirely new perspective. After reading the book I knew I wanted to learn more about the process. Allow myself to get into the weeds of how to lead an innovation initiative. Once I arrived at my new position I realized that we teach innovation. But we do not teach it this way. We use the Lean Startup Methodology because we have gotten great support from the inventor of this method (Steve Blank). We also use Strategyzer.com’s Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas. These are very similar to the Yellow and Blue cards used in this course. I like the visual simplicity of these graphics but prefer the framework of the yellow and blue cards. I don’t think this methodology is something I could outline on a white board and watch someone innovate on their lunch break. However, I do think after a few day workshop they would be able to pick up some cards and write some thoughts down. I was blown away with stimulus mapping. I have done mind maps before but this system works so well (for me at least). I will be presenting this system to some of the people at my company. The contracting company I work for is working to build an internal innovation office. I think I am going to do three days, one for blue cards, one for Yellow cards, and one for PDSA. This way we have focus time on some of the problem we have been trying to solve for years.
For something that absolutely terrified me when I first began, I have a whole new appreciation for Innovation Engineering and I’m looking forward to using the tools I’ve learned moving forward. All the (good) things I’ve heard about your organization have been true and I feel very fortunate to have completed the course.
It takes a lot of focus for me to really feel like I can come up with one good idea, let alone many to come up with or contribute to a meaningfully unique idea. Part of my job is teaching our Green Belt classes within our Process Innovation and Improvement Group and one of the pillars we focus on is Innovation, where much of our teaching is based on the very exercises I did throughout the labs. When I teach the class, I find myself using the SAME examples over and over and usually have my students travel down the same path, every class. Even though they’re different students and probably won’t know the difference, I find myself repeating the same prompts rather than challenging my classes or even myself to find something more.
What has been interesting is how excited I’ve gotten during my time in the Innovation Engineering labs when I have some sort of breakthrough. Breakthroughs for me are thinking beyond just an idea and building upon it or taking it one step further. I realize I wasn’t meant to come up with something that would make me a millionaire or that I could patent right away. However, I find that I’m more willing to at least keep these tools in my back pocket to use for future projects or use when I’m teaching.
Having prior knowledge on many of the same ideologies I practiced over the last 6 months made the concepts easier to understand, but at the same time challenged me to come up with new ideas. A lot of the tools I use every day when I teach are examples of things that have been laid out for me, not something I’ve created from ground zero.
Not only was I able to sharpen the tools I already had in my toolbox, but I now have more to add. I now have a better understanding of those concepts and feel more comfortable speaking about them and helping others implement them.
Being able to move at my own pace was both a blessing and a curse throughout this course. It was a blessing in that I could take something that doesn’t come as naturally to me and nurture it a little more than in a traditional classroom setting. I have colleagues who have gone through the in-class Innovation Blue Belt and I just cannot imagine that kind of pressure! It was a curse because here I am, finishing my final reflection at the last possible second. At the same time, giving my ideas time to grown and writing something down and being able to come back to it 24-48 hours later gave me better confidence when I submitted a lab for grading.
As stated in the last few labs, my team is trying to find various ways to deliver our content. For being a newer, virtual program that you’re offering I think you’ve done a good job delivering the message and creating a space that challenges the user on a platform that’s very easy to use. The feedback and chat features were key for me to be able to completely understand what I was doing and found them both extremely helpful.
The tool that challenged me the most was the yellow cards. When I saw a lab that had a yellow card I tried to avoid. By the end of the course though, I chose to use the yellow card to display and explain the ideas I had. I just felt like the more I used the tool(s), the more I understood them, especially when I used them for unrelated labs.
The tool I still have a hard time with is Spark decks. I feel there are a lot of moving parts, but I could just be over-complicating the concepts. Looking back now, I should have done what I did with the Yellow Card and challenged myself to attempt them more when given the option to choose my own tools in developing new ideas.
Overall what has changed the most for me is that I regularly think of how I can make things better or I’ll try to come up with a new idea for something that already exists. This course didn’t just change the way I look at my work, but it changes the way I literally look at everything around me. For something that absolutely terrified me when I first began, I have a whole new appreciation for Innovation Engineering and I’m looking forward to using the tools I’ve learned moving forward.
All the (good) things I’ve heard about your organization have been true and I feel very fortunate to have completed the course. Thank you for this opportunity!
This course was intense. It required some real commitment
The course used a number of tools, these were very useful. Even though I was familiar with a few of these tools I wasn’t using it on a regular basis. This course has given an opportunity to revive that knowledge and apply these tools with a twist. For example, mindmap. I have used mindmap in many situations. However, I have not used the tool with an unrelated stimulus to generate ideas.
The course is filled with innovative techniques. These are ‘techniques to jumpstart simple thinking to solve complex problems effectively’. Stimulus mining is a very good example. More stimulus more ideas. The knowledge about stimulus mining was very useful, how it generates lateral thinking through stimulus and cross train both the brain to bring together much more ideas. In addition to that knowing that disruptive and divergent stimulus ignite more ideas. Previously, I have considered disruptive and divergent stimulus as distractors. In future, I want to intentionally bring in disruptive stimulus to spearhead my idea generation.
The next area I want to highlight here is the topic of ‘how to improve your writing’ so that a 5th grader can understand it. Even though I still have trouble writing, it helped me a lot to think through the process of writing, structure the writing so that problem, promise, and proof are captured clearly. Writing the blue and yellow cards were good exercises. Building innovation confidence with math game plans was equally beneficial. Especially, why estimating matters and the two types of estimates; concept values (to quantify benefits) and concept impact (impact of the idea on our mission, sales) were an eye-opener. I liked the Fermi Estimating technique. This is the first time I have used this technique. It is worthwhile to know that you can use an estimating technique when you don’t know much, i.e.breaking down your problem into key factors you can estimate and how to gain trust.
Finally, the PDSA cycle, learn step by step into reality. How to confront death threats, identify the types of threats and analyze each with short PDSA cycles.
Another eureka moment was understanding the meaning of focus, i.e. focus means saying “No”, and a way to have laser-like focus is to be specific and numeric, about the customer, promise, problem, proof, and price. Some of the exercises in the course were very interesting. Especially, using two consecutive PDSA cycles to learn more about and reduce risk with an innovation project, building a paper plane to address a death threat. This took me back to my childhood memory and at the same time reinforced some underlying principles of how to use the PDSA cycle.
One of the frustrating moments about this course was the timing. Expected time to complete the lab/applications were unrealistic. I had to spend 5 to 6 times more time than the estimated time.
This course was intense. It required some real commitment
In my role at SAIT, I was asked to write proposals and reports, help generate new ideas and work with diverse groups of people that involve using creativity and imagination. This course covers a variety of topics that I felt were related to my role and would be helpful to me. For example, how to present ideas in a way that helps others see my ideas. I feel that the tools and techniques I have learned in this course will help me in my day-to-day job.
I think what impresses me the most about the IE culture is each time I’ve come back to it, it’s improved and changed, you guys actually practice what you preach!
This time, being able to work through each step of the process several times, getting real time feedback, helped my understanding and ability a lot. I was able to begin employing advice and learnings much more effectively, and start using the tools in our work. I think what impresses me the most about the IE culture is each time I’ve come back to it, it’s improved and changed, you guys actually practice what you preach!
When I went to the executive event, my biggest take away was fail fast, fail cheap. BUT, I completely missed the POINT of failing fast and failing cheap. The idea of conducting a rapid cycle of learning is the new “aha moment” from this course. Yes, fail fast and fail cheaply, but that really needs to be focused around the death threats and creating learnings for yourself and project. That is where the magic really happens, because then you can keep iterating and improving, or allow pivot the idea to something new and better, but you did all that based on some insight, some kind of data.
Another AHA moment was something Doug mentioned in one of the videos about many companies (mine included) have built “declare and defend” cultures when really we should all be data driven. If you’ve debated more than 10 minutes somebody needs to bring some data to the discussion. I’m going to use this when I implement changes to our meeting formats and hopefully help drive some culture change here for the better.
Working through the course, I realized how difficult it is for one person to drive the IE system in a company. For that reason I’m pushing our MGMT to send several more people through the course, once we have 4 or 5 people with a good grasp of the concepts, we will really be able to accelerate things. And while I wait for that to happen, I fully plan on using the course to help get my woodworking business off the ground. Since it’s only me, I’m not beholden to anybody’s schedule or priorities but mine. I can do 100 learning cycles a week if I want, and the sky is really the limit. I’m probably most excited about this possibility where I feel unencumbered and literally feel like my ideas can soar.
For some negatives, I think the greatest struggle I had in the course was in maintaining focus and clarity of mission. A lot of the feedback I had from the instructors asked if I could be more specific, bring more clarity to the blue cards, or tie the yellow cards together better so they flowed through each step. I think I improved some, but it’s easy to rush them and lose that focus, and I relied too much on the grading to pull me back in line or identify the weak areas. I think that highlighted why these cards can’t be stagnant, that you have to keep touching them every so often throughout the year to make them more clear, applicable, actionable etc.
If I would improve the course, I would like to see more teaching on the product launch and selling portion of the development process. The blue card, yellow card, and PDSA portion of the course are really well defined, and have great tools for actually generating ideas. But, it’s less clear how I actually move product and deal with challenges like MFG, inventory and distribution, and those kind back end aspects. I realize this was again a higher level course, so maybe in the green belt you guys touch on those concepts more but, for me, it feels like it’s setup to make a wicked cool widget but then at the end, it’s like OK now what do I do? How do I actually move this product? How do I support it? Do I keep making it better or let it sit as it is?
In summary, I really enjoyed the interface online course and delivery. The videos from Doug were engaging, something about the rhythm of his delivery with the stop and starts, and not just reading a script or right off the screen kept me engaged and listening. The course is relatable, it provides meaningful tools and education, without being overly pretentious or letting bullshit fluff get it in the way. It is a really refreshing way to learn. I think the tools have continually gotten better over the years, and I was really excited to see project portal and how far along that has come. I hope that I can get the company engaged in the system and we can send more employees through the course, it would help us tremendously.
Thanks for the opportunity.
The course was FANTASTIC!!! Through every step of the IE course I kept having a “dang, wish I had known that back then” moment.
I have started many businesses that were “good enough” for my family and I, but were never able to take it to the next level. We made a good living at it with just 2-3 customers at a time, but we never expanded or “went big”. We definitely had some “meaningfully unique” services and products and we had a great business plan, but after a couple of years the business phased out and I would move on to the next business and customer.
This course has really opened my eyes to a brand-new structure and way of thinking that I never thought was possible with a tiny business like ours in the past. I wish I had these principles and tools then. It would have taken our small businesses into areas we would have never thought possible. We wasted so much time and money on development without really getting the customers feedback. Yes, we did you use rapid development strategies, which saved us in the end, but the Innovation Engineering strategy and tools would have showed us in a few hours the direction we should go versus weeks and months of wasted time. I will give you an example of this:
We were asked by our customer (Alabama Power) to develop a device that plugged directly into the meter socket of a house to test to see if it was safe to plug in the meter. During this time copper prices had skyrocketed and people were stealing the copper wiring from the rental and empty houses. It was also during this time that “smart meters” were being rolled out. These are solid state meters that could explode or catch fire if the wiring is shorted out. It could also catch the house on fire if granny left a stove on with something on top. Alabama Power has an 18 to 20 step manual; process using a voltmeter to test the wiring for problems. However, it takes someone opening the meter box, testing the system with the power on and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to perform. Oh, it can also be very dangerous. These were all perceptions we discovered later…not facts.
We had meeting after meeting with everyone from management up to the VP level and they ALL wanted this device; hundreds of them. So, we developed it, on our dime. We built over 25 prototypes and got feedback after feedback after feedback. Three years later, and $150,000 of my own money, we had built a simple, blue-tooth enabled meter socket checkout device that you plugged into house meter socket. It ran over 147 tests on the house wiring, power from the pole, and could tell you EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about the power quality and house wiring, all for under $1500 in 23 seconds. It even had a green and red LED for those that were truly dense. You could run it from your phone and it uploaded it to their database for future reference and prove that installing the meter didn’t burn their house down. This was a major issue that still occurs today. We even included a $4 million liability insurance policy in case something happened to the house if we said it was safe to install the meter. Remember that they wanted hundreds of these at $1500 each, our cost to make was $500…this was going to be a million-dollar business in itself.
Management absolutely LOVED the MSC (meter socket checkout)! We provided 20 units for field testing. All the tests came back with rave reviews! No problems were ever found and they worked flawlessly. We got setup in their system to sell directly to the field offices and were so excited about the money that was going to start rolling in. We even built 50 first thing so that we could be ready for the first orders. We sold 1 unit. That’s right, 1 unit. That unit cost $150,000 and we sold it for $1500, not good business. We couldn’t figure out why. We then did the one thing IE principles have taught me…know your customer.
You see we thought the customer was the VP and management team. They weren’t our customer…the meter installers were. If we had met with them first thing we might have had a very different outcome. During the field tests the meter installers used our product, not because they wanted to, but because they were TOLD to by management. They provided great feedback on the device, because they were TOLD to. However, management couldn’t make them buy our device since they fell into a different budget. Had we used Blue and Yellow cards with the meter installers we would have found out that they only trust the voltmeter procedures. That was the only way they had ever been taught and they saw it as the safest way to know for sure if it was safe to install a meter. These were the same procedures that had been used for over 80 years. We also found out that they didn’t trust any piece of computer equipment test equipment to set a meter.
I mentioned earlier about perception. It is a VERY powerful thing. When we finally started to really dig into it, we found that yes, a smart meter had burnt down a house or exploded, once, in another state. We also learned that the problem we were solving, wasn’t even a problem. It was all just perception.
I’m sorry for the long-winded story, but through every step of the IE course I kept having a “dang, wish I had known that back then” moment. This last series of labs really brought it all together for me and I truly see the value in these processes, and their simplicity if done correctly, and early enough in the process. I want to thank all of those that guided my down this path to a renewed love for business and innovation.
My biggest AHA moment - the PDSA cycles really taught me how to not get hung up on waiting until everything is almost perfect before taking action. It’s ok if it’s not fully baked - the key is to move forward, be curious, and keep iterating at every stage.
In the circumstance I’m in now, I was introduced to project lead the project in midstream, long after they had gone through the ideation process. So I couldn’t try these stimulation tools myself in this situation. However the simulations and tests used in the course material gave me an excellent insight into how it can make me think differently and how such tools could be used with others. And as far as the rest of the innovation cycles and learnings, I have applied what I’ve learned to my project and it’s been great!
What worked: the platform didn’t disappoint – it was always easy to access and log into. The overall visual of the modules in the Course Introduction and paths at the start was very helpful as I got a good idea of how much work I needed to do and what was the next step. I also liked that there were times when I could pick and work in different paths simultaneously – that it wasn’t completely linear. I’d say for the most part the course work was easy to follow and self explanatory. Only a few times I had to email instructors when instructions seemed a little confusing. On that note, I was very impressed with the response time of the instructors – I would submit assignments and would get a prompt response, even on a weekend! I would always have a response in 24 hours, and I thought that was great.
What could be improved: Not much when it comes to the course. I found using the math tools was clunky at the end – if I didn’t input the variables of the formula exactly, it wasn’t calculating it at all and said there were errors. However when I left it and revisited it and refreshed it all was right again. For me, I was busy on the module up front, and then took a bit of a pause. I don’t have a specific reason regarding the material as to why I stalled. I honestly would say the summer, some personal stuff and my project work took priority at the time. However, when I found some breathing room I started it up again and was able to move quickly through it. I would just say that ensuring people who sign up for doing it understand the time per week that they should allocate to it would help to keep them on track.
My biggest AHA moment – the PDSA cycles really taught me how to not get hung up on waiting until everything is almost perfect before taking action. It’s ok if it’s not fully baked – the key is to move forward, be curious, and keep iterating at every stage. In my past work experiences, I was in organizations where the culture supported those who did it right, not those who took risks and kept evolving what often began as an imperfect idea. This PDSA process seemed like a great way to get people like me out of that rut and use a system that would show advancement of the idea with low risk and without having to have it all perfect out of the gate. Also, that every cycle is an opportunity to learn so don’t be afraid to ask, explore all angles- even if they don’t seem like they’re worth it at first. Sometimes those cycles turn out to be the most beneficial learnings!
Finally, having the system helped to take the emotion out of the project work – something I think all projects could learn from. Because we didn’t fall in love with the original idea we had, but rather the problem we were trying to solve, we were able to digest the customer feedback objectively, and refocus to make our product so much stronger, relevant and on mission with the brand of the organization. It is very exciting where we are headed with this product! I am very grateful to have the opportunity to learn the IE system, and have the support of a black belt and my organization for having faith in following it every step of the way!
I’ve learned that as creative as I might have thought I was, I have a lot of room for growth and improvement.
This is because as creative as a person thinks they are, does not make them innovative. I’ve learned that if I follow the ‘Freedom with a Framework’ system I can improve my business by leaps and bounds in a quicker and proven way.
The most frustrating part for me was Cycle 23, due to the length and almost losing my way. The new video at the beginning of this cycle will really help people out. I know that the biggest challenge for me was my choice of going with a survey in Cycle 23, and then not using it in a way that would have given me immediate pay-off. In looking for the ‘diamond’ in this challenge, I guess the whole premise of the Plan, Do, Study and Act cycles was to give me hands-on experience using the tools available. Not just to give me immediate answers to concerns.
While I just told you about my frustration; over-all this was a wonderful learning experience. In fact, I am very pleased to have taken this as an on-line course as it gave me time to expand my thinking before I worked on the assignments. Yes, it appears there is truth in the phrase ‘old habits die hard’.
I know that I will be able to use the concepts with my clients to help them expand their thinking. By doing this I will get more adept at using the tools, thus I will be worthy of calling myself an Innovation Engineer.
While never being the most proficient mathematics student the Math concepts left me wanting more information.
I must say that I did enjoy the beginning explanations about what it takes to create Meaningfully Unique Ideas. The ‘Fail Fast, Fail Cheap’ mantra makes me smile as when I started my first business decades ago, this idea was used by me after the first year when I was trying to be a ‘me too’ business. That meaning when I started a business and decided to copy what the competitors were doing. Then came the realization that I was going to starve if I didn’t become unique and set myself apart.
Thanks so much for your assistance and guidance.
Online Fundamentals has allowed me to learn the HOW and the WHY at my pace of understanding.
I don’t remember how I found the Eureka Ranch. Probably an online search. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe these guys were in town. In Newtown! I believe I sent an email to find out exactly what this innovation thing was all about. I probably still have have the email saved somewhere. Bruce Hall called me. He told me about an opportunity to spend some time at the Eureka Ranch. It was only a few weeks later we cobbled together enough people to show up on a Monday morning that would change the way I look at the world.
I got to see the process of Innovation Engineering in action. I was not there to learn it, but to be a participant in, and a recipient of the process and outcome of using IE. It was fascinating. The people were amazing. The excitement of the whole process and the enthusiasm from every person I met at the Ranch was infectious. We had one of the ideas pan out for us. It was a small win. The bigger outcome for us as a company, was a change in attitude and thinking. We stared to think in terms of, “there has to be another way.” Even if it was only a tech dig. We had a tool to use. Rick Rothwell gave us some sage advice that week to just keep getting base hits. With 8 years of base hits since that time spent at the Ranch, and an understanding of what is possible with IE, the opportunity to take the Online Fundamentals course showed up in my inbox.
The IE Online Fundamentals course helping me figure out the HOW and WHY of Innovation. I remember thinking to myself 8 years ago, “Why are we doing this or that exercise? How is doing X going to lead to Y and Z?” I got hung up on it, probably to some detriment on my part, because it put a mental roadblock up in my head. If I couldn’t get past the WHY, I subconsciously couldn’t get to the DO. Online Fundamentals has allowed me to learn the HOW and the WHY at my pace of understanding. Thinking back on my learning style in school, if I fell behind in a class in school because I did not understand something, it was very hard for me to catch up. Watching the videos and breaking down the blue card, yellow card and the PDSA into smaller parts has worked very well for me to learn those concepts, although I think I could take the entire course again, learn something new in each section, and apply it to a new lab.
There were definitely parts of the course where I would have to go back and watch the video to try and understand how to proceed with labs. Some of the videos were like drinking from the fire hose because there was so much information to try and pay attention to. I missed some of the “help us get smarter” questions. It helped to see the wrong answers next to the correct ones to think through the lesson.
Brad has been a huge help in explaining things when I had questions. A sentence or two of feedback would put me back on track to go back and try again. He helped me understand concepts that didn’t come through in the videos, or that I had trouble with in the labs. Sometimes a longer answer was required, but his explanations always made sense.
Another takeaway for me from the Online Fundamentals course is to get started. Learn the process. Do the work. I love the action verbs: PLAN. DO. STUDY. ACT. It’s one thing to read about a subject or watch a video, but to apply the learning has made the difference to me. I learn by doing. My problem is getting started. I will continue to battle that.
My biggest benefit from Innovation Engineering and the Online Fundamentals course is how the learning is shaping the lens through which I now start to look at just about everything. I know that if I can work through problems using Innovation Engineering, I have a better chance to figure them out. I have a lot to learn to get the skills down. I can use the skills I am learning, to think through how to learn and hone the skills better. That’s a trippy thought.
I am excited to do more with Innovation Engineering in my work life and personal life. I would love to get to the point where I can start to teach these skills to my children. As this course draws to a close, my thoughts drift to where do we go from here? What are my next steps? I am excited to continue working on my idea from the course application. Online Fundamentals course has given me the confidence to pursue it past thinking it might be a good idea. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. I now have a system to test it, alter it, kill it or move forward with it. I would not have done that before the start of this course.
As of this week I am fortunate enough to be the recipient of grant money from Ohio to continue to work with the Eureka Ranch to try and innovate at work as a small manufacturer. I am confident that the skills I have gained from Online Fundamentals will play a significant role in how I approach this opportunity and many others for years to come.
I like the idea of having a dedicated IE coach, where we submit responses and are critiqued based on our thought process and decisions. Having the same coach throughout the process was really useful as I feel I was able to get more personalized guidance as I completed each segment.
I’d like to thank you for your guidance and thoughtful critiques guidance throughout the Innovation Engineering Blue Belt course. As I think about what I learned over the course, there are a couple key pillars I would say are real takeaways for me that I can utilize in my professional and personal life. I’ll also provide some feedback on the course, its flow, and the online tools that are available.
1: Continuous Learning
In a sense, we are all trained to seek the correct answer on the first try. This course changed this mindset for me. In order to learn, grow, seek clarity, and drive down risk, we don’t necessarily have to be right all the time, as long as we learn from missteps and adjust accordingly. However, it is important that when mistakes are made, to make them cheaply. Even if we are just trying to learn, overspending by millions of dollars could certainly be a career limiting or career ending mistake.
I could see this mindset promoting strong cultural growth within my current organization. Emphasizing continuous learning and accepting failures has been a struggle, as we have evolved and grown over the past several years. I’m already looked at as a change agent here, and by using a grassroots approach with my colleagues in this course, we could really set the company on a strong trajectory, since the three of us are so close to product innovation, development, and execution.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My mother owned a business when I was younger, my grandmother just retired last year at the age of 78 and sold her business, my uncle owns a successful auto body shop, and my grandfather’s office supply business was huge in the Boston area before the advent of ecommerce and big box stores such as Staples and OfficeMax.
With that being said, my true endgame is to own a business and provide products and services that enrich people’s lives. I’m always thinking of new ideas and have tried multiple side businesses. I’ve won some and lost some, and as I continue to think about this path I will be using the IE methods to guide my decision making and brainstorming. From simple stimulus mining all the way to failing cheaply and quickly, these skills are very advantageous to have as a young, budding entrepreneur. That’s how great businesses are created – through fantastic, meaningful innovations. Taking a step back and using that lens will help me frame my ideas and plan for my own future.
I’d guess that the majority of students of this program come at it from a business angle. But, when you think about it, there’s so much to learn and apply from this course on a personal level. In my personal relationships and interactions with people on a daily basis, I can use this mindset of learning and building upon bits of pieces of stimulus I come across. I can use this to build upon my personal networking skills, presentation skills, and other facets of communication. There is a little more risk
associated with this considering personal relationships are at stake, but I don’t believe anything will go so poorly that I will be unable to correct.
The Innovation Engineering course definitely kept my interest over the past couple months, although I needed to break for a bit when the true day job got intense.
I understand that this online format is still new, but the site overall flows well. There were only a few bugs that I came across here and there, and whenever I used the support tool I always received a prompt and helpful response.
I like the idea of having a dedicated IE coach, where we submit responses and are critiqued based on our thought process and decisions. Having the same coach throughout the process was really useful as I feel I was able to get more personalized guidance as I completed each segment.
I know I mentioned this in one of the PDSA cycles, but I will reiterate. The wisdom mining tool was probably one of the most useful within the toolbox of programs and software add‐ons that were available as a student. Some of the others (particularly the surveys) were a little tough to use but ultimately proved to be good sources of data.
I’d say I missed out more on personal interaction, but this is the downside to online education. I’m the type of guy that thrives in peer‐to‐peer interaction and constructive meetings, so maybe it would be interesting to put together some small teams made up of students in a particular cohort that would collaborate on specific assignments. Building on that, there’s a possibility to bring on IE blue belts and black belts to work on real innovation consulting engagements for organizations of various sizes and structures (keep in mind the nonprofit and government sectors). I’d be happy to do so in the future as an alumnus and stay involved with that type of work or even with students of the program.
Taking this course has not only reinforced my belief that real knowledge comes from trying and failing, it has given me a structure in which to formally practice and apply that belief.
By far the most valuable skill I am learning and will continue to practice both personally and professionally is using writing as a tool. To become a better writer in not only important to be able communicate clearly, but to use the IE process as a tool to validate the content of what I want to communicate. This application makes it even more evident the value of this skill as I speak onto the page, work it in to a draft, read that draft out loud, and then revise it again. The dedication to using writing to clearly communicate your ideas forces you to sharpen your thought process into a format where other people will clearly understand the crux of your message.
Some of the tools I have used through this course I will continue to sharpen and modify into my own. Some I will do as prescribed, and some I will probably never use again. To me the beginning of the funnel or Discover phase, is where I most benefited from the course. The tactics of quantity breeding quality, of inclusion and diversity, and of stimulus to spark different thinking are all things I will take with me and continue to use long as new tools in my tool-box. I was amazed as to the difference in quality of ideas as a result of mind mapping with related and unrelated stimulus vs typical brainstorming.
I did have some trouble with applying develop and deliver as I felt them a bit over simplified and not completely in tune with manufactured or sourced goods. There is a lot more to take into account when doing the development, like a make vs buy analysis sourcing options advantages to import from one country to another, calculating the ROI for capital expenses for vertical integration, and other more granular portions needed to be vetted as you work through the develop phase. I would also like to see the math game plan improved a bit, I have used some very complicated business case templates and to me the most important part is to be able to explain what ever formula you end up using. In the past I have spent countless hours reviewing business plans with executives who go way too deep into projections. I still think this tool could either be improved or I need to spend more time learning how to use it better.
I have been at this long enough to have taken my own ego out of the equation from the get go and been knocked off of the high-horse associated with one system being better than all of the others to ever get on one again. Overall I am excited about what I am taking away from the course and hope to have the chance to continue on to a Black Belt!
This knowledge will not only be important in my work in IE, but in my daily life as well.
Although I was familiar with the overall process prior to taking this course, I now know how to write a Blue Card and the importance of stating the mission simply and clearly in order to get a team onboard for a project. This knowledge will not only be important in my work in IE, but in my daily life as well.
Since starting this course, I have started initiating Yellow Cards for my innovation product development projects. The gained knowledge of making the ask simple and direct to not only describe the project, but prove that it is meaningful and unique will help me in my work as well as getting senior leadership and marketing on board for investing time and money on a proven new product.
Lastly by understanding the importance of the PDSA cycle and that by using tools offered on the IE website there does not have to be a huge monetary investment before knowing whether a project is viable or not is extremely valuable.
I look forward to honing my skills and gaining further knowledge of the IE process to help me in my everyday life at work and at home and look forward to participating, and one day leading, create sessions to continually come up with meaningful and unique products that will aid my company in innovation excellence in our industry.
Thank you to the instructors for my IE course. You all have been great mentors on this journey.
I was thrilled to learn that innovation is something we can learn in a structured and systematic way.
I have been following Singularity University with its wonderful people and ideas for a while. And this was a chance of being close to them. I just could not afford to miss it.
When Doug Hall stepped into the stage that morning his voice filled the air with happiness and confidence while he was explaining how he did the Brain Brew whisky.
Doug had a one-to-one talk that same day during lunch time. The audience was very participative and eager to learn more. He surprised us all when he invited us to take the Blue Belt course at the site of the Eureka Ranch. That was unbelievable! I then started the course.
I have never heard that learning how to innovate would be possible. I retired from my first career as a Public Health scientist after 37 years of service for the Brazilian Government back in July 2019 and I decided to start a new career as an entrepreneur. Thus, since then, I had been working hardly developing a platform for the scientific community. This was an innovation platform and I was thrilled to learn that innovation is something we can learn in a structured and systematic way.
I started the Blue Belt course just after the Singularity University event was over and it all made sense to me. The first lessons I can recall were the blue card and the yellow card questions. The questions’ structure actually helped me to build my website, my pitch and my speech to contributors and potential members. I was learning by asking and replying to myself based on those questions.
The format the course was built was quite interesting and the short videos with Doug’s voice and his good humor followed by the no-stress quiz and hands-on exercises made all easier and fun to learn.
The other tools made available in the Eureka Ranch website, such as Spark Decks and Math Tools are also illustrative and can help anyone to build a project in the right direction. This certainly happened to me.
I was particularly intrigued with the fact that I could do mathematical Fermi estimates that are really close to reality, to document and to review based on my assumptions. Deming’s teachings on system fault >90% of the time was a lesson not be forgotten.
I wanted more. After taking some lessons I thought it would be appropriate to share the learnings with my audience in the scientific platform I am currently building. I contacted Lydia Carson for asking for a referral partnership to learn that she, as Doug, is also a fantastic person as seems to be the case with people at Eureka’s. My instructor Brad helped me in a very kind way to delineate and align my thoughts with timely feedbacks to my assignments. This was a time of change for Eureka that initiated a project called Jump Start Your Brain with modifications in the site structure and the way they teach Innovation. This has not affected my lessons even though slowed a bit down the partnership process.
What is next. I do expect that a referral partnership between our platform and Eureka will be successful. Our platform is firstly intended to be used in Brazil by Portuguese speaking people. In this way, tools that make possible for translations of written text and spoken videos would make Eureka’s lessons spread to a broader audience in Latin America.
Suggestions, if I may. I would like to suggest the availability of 1) free content, 2) small and 3) medium fees contents and even a 4) feasible membership access to the Jump Start Your Brain website. I believe these would help the Brazilian audience to take the courses and be able to cope financially.
All in all. This has been my first experience with Innovation Engineering. I was both surprised with the nice term and also with the fact that Innovation was a subject that can be learned. As a teacher, a mentor and entrepreneur I want to spread these good news.
the methodology of the course is something I will remember for years to come because of the universality of the material.
There are many aspects to the course that I feel are helpful, a few really stick out to me. Developing and honing Blue and Yellow cards are something that I think is not only beneficial to our students, but also to us as professors as I think it was an excellent tool for when we are laying out project work. The importance of clarity of thought, and tying it all together would aid both those receiving the cards and those who wrote them really get a clearer picture of the expectations.
Another tool that I think is beneficial is the spark decks. We had been teaching different methods of ideation for idea creation, but the way the spark decks tied to mind mapping is actually a great way to join what we had previously done with a jumpstart for the future.
A further aid to my learning was the amount of feedback, both positive and negative, that I was able to receive throughout the course. In my position specifically, there is not a lot of opportunity for feedback. It is easy to see the places now where I need to continue my efforts of growth. Also, it provided a different perspective on how to best offer feedback, and will help me further guide my own students.
In conclusion, the methodology of the course is something I will remember for years to come because of the universality of the material. The biggest takeaways from this course are theories which I think can be applied not just to my professional life, but also problem solving in other areas.
I think the concept of understanding what really makes something meaningful unique is important, it can’t be simple meaningful or simply unique, but that 60/40 split of checking both boxes
I think being able to communicate the idea accurately and precisely is an important concept that the course has taught me, and this includes communicating the idea to myself as the innovator too. The Blue and Yellow cards help to build structure around this and help to refine and define what the idea will look like and making sure the right questions are asked. Is there a market for this idea? What are the death threats? In the free writing sections I always chose to use the 20 questions approach and I found this helpful in then taking those thoughts and putting them together into an idea that can be effectively communicated.
Tools that I learned in this course for mining for new ideas will be useful going forward as well. I especially liked the mind mapping exercises, which is surprising because I did not at first think that they could lead to innovative ideas, but in doing a few both for the course and for another personal project I was able to get good results from this and let my mind see connections that otherwise would be missed. Other tools like the math game plan were fun ways to lay out the idea with data, and I can definitely see myself using this new tool going forward. I think the concept of the PDSA cycle (plan, do, study, act) is one that I have also already incorporated into some of my processes, and the PDSA term has entered my lexicon even with those who have not taken this class (and whom I have to explain what it means). Doing fast cycles of PDSA to eliminate death threats and focus on ideas that work is a valuable addition to my toolset.
Doing the two application assignments really helps to tie all these new concepts together. While the main application shows this from beginning to PDSA cycles, the process one is even more valuable for me in my current role. Really dialing in the aim of the system and defining the stakeholders and boundaries, and what metrics can be used to measure whether the system is achieving its stated purpose will be helpful going forward. In summary this course has helped to add new tools and changed the way I think about innovative problems, understanding what the market is for my solutions, refining that solution into a product that will be meaningful unique. I look forward to using these tools at work and at home in the future.
I never would have thought to incorporate an unrelated category of thoughts to brainstorm and innovate meaningfully unique ideas that have high probability of success.
I had experience using Innovation Engineering which really helped to understand where this course was driving too. The background of how to accurately and correctly go through the process outlined in this course was very helpful to understand the importance of going through it. I can now more effectively write yellow and blue cards to express ideas and work through them in a more focused way than is currently being done. Before this course, I would go through the motions of parts of Innovation Engineering and it was rushed through at some points, but this course highlighted that we need to slow down and focus on the steps to make more ideas successful.
The great thing about this course also is that it can be used in all aspects of life, not only in work, but also personally. As was mentioned in the course, there is a system for everything we do. There is always room for improvement in any system, and this course has provided the tools for finding the ways systems and processes are failing, and the skills learned in this course will improve these processes to optimize them. Everything we do is meaningful and unique in its own way, and what is the point of doing something if it’s not meaningful to you? If it’s unique to what has always been done, that opens up so many ideas as well.
Thank you for putting this course together!
I had trouble with the Idea Coach Toolset while working with Yellow Cards. I mentioned this to Brad, and he gave some guidance which made a difference. I did find the math exercise difficult as well as it just felt clunky. It’s needed, however, I had to jump through hoops to make it work initially. Again, Brad was there to help.
When I saw this course had a “System for Ideation” a set of rules, parameters that respected the idea, irrelevant if its good or bad, it didn’t matter. No judgment, nothing, it was a small part of the bigger picture. Generating quantity of ideas and the “structure” would guide it through the “system”.
A great concept/solution relies only on 10% for the idea and 90% on the implementation, execution, etc.
Historically I never worried (in-depth) about the execution during the ideation phase. Yes, I said it, I know blasphemy. Now get back up off the floor and get back in your chair (Dunning Krueger Effect!)
The programs’ structure you provided was very easy for me to grasp Blue Cards, Yellow Cards, Stimuli, Importance of Diversity, Spark Deck, etc. This to me is what I think is the foundation of the program’s success and all those who practice it. Did it make the Ideation phase harder, you bet it did! Even knowing that I needed the structure, there were a couple of times where Brad “rained” me in by letting me know not to jump to conclusions early on in the process. Just write it down and move on. Don’t jump the gun, wait for the process to unfold. Grrrr, however, he was right. The Death threat aspect of this program was of great interest. It seems obvious now after taking the course, however, this has to be one of the most important aspects. Everyone takes the easiest death threat and works on them. It was like the skies parted looking back at Clients I’ve worked with/when “AVOIDED” the elephant in the room (including myself). You could put a trench coat on it and call it undercover, however, the elephant was still there. No, this is where the “IDEA” gets busy living or gets busy dying. Take the biggest, baddest Death Threat and tackle it head on. If you can’t overcome this, you are wasting your time. I also remember Doug’s voice in one video that sounded like thunder, don’t compromise on Death Threats. Oh, and he also mentioned you eat an elephant one bite at a time. By the way, I really like the audio of Doug during the videos as it was comfortable. Quirky, hokey, awe shucks kind of approach but brings out the big guns and a serious tone when needed to reinforce the message, fact, statement, claim, etc.
I was also surprised about, right, left and whole brains (yes, I think I’m better looking than the other brains. The “Brain” style each of us have and the stimuli we naturally gravitate to. Related, unrelated tossing in diversity, alone time, group time all creates one heck of a wild ride and one that is exhilarating. Instead of ringing out a sponge (brain suck), we’re pre-filling participants sponges (brains) overflowing with juicy, gooey, slobbering, jet-fueled stimuli, sparks, etc., all this while eliminating fear that were in this together and no matter what happens, no matter what their ideas, it’s ok, no judgment.
I had trouble with the Idea Coach Toolset while working with Yellow Cards. I mentioned this to Brad, and he gave some guidance which made a difference. I did find the math exercise difficult as well as it just felt clunky. It’s needed, however, I had to jump through hoops to make it work initially. Again, Brad was there to help. The “Grading Guidelines” was PERFECT as it did help me reflect on what I had done. I had never experienced this before and was a very pleasant surprise and nice touch (this may be standard for online courses, if not, kudos to you).
As you probably can tell I write like I speak and when it came to “Improving Your Writing” I was smiling ear to ear until I then had to state my idea clearly and succinctly. This was the hardest part for me. I believe the exercise mentioned that I’d need 30 minutes or so to complete.
Wow was I wrong, less is more!
All in all, innovation engineering challenged my ways of thinking and helped me apply different ways to look at, approach and solve problems. As an engineer and innovator that is the most useful tool one can have.
In this innovation engineering course I really learned the process both physically and fundamentally of problem solving and capturing ideas. Starting with the question “What is an innovation” was truly the key to the whole course, setting the stage for what was to come. We went into purpose, delivery and introduction, and accelerating success. All of these are integral in the engineering process ad skills I use every day in my own job.
I have found immense value in PDSA’s. I had never heard of a PDSA cycle before working here and before taking this course, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Being able to quickly screen through multiple variables and get quick results has had a huge impact on my work with my current project. Also being thorough in my analysis post PDSA cycle. I think the hardest thing about PDSA cycles is documentation. Because things here move so fast and then the screening is also rapid doing multiple PDSA cycles in parallel has become a documentation challenge and nightmare. I would suggest adding something that helps with documentation.
The yellow and blue cards are extremely helpful in capturing my ideas in a short and concise way that does not lose the people I am engaging with. We use a yellow card system to track improvements and ideas.
One aspect I REALLY liked was the turbo charging creativity and the idea of unrelated stimulus. This was really an interesting concept to me initially but then once I started implementing it into my thinking, I began to not only realize how useful it is but that I kind of already do this often! The unrelated stimulus is so fascinating how it plays into generating ideas. You start with this thing that may or may not be parallel to your idea but somehow you find similarities and helps you get out of your “tunnel vision.”
All in all, innovation engineering challenged my ways of thinking and helped me apply different ways to look at, approach and solve problems. As an engineer and innovator that is the most useful tool one can have.
This course opened up multiple ways to fail fast, fail cheap and to do so quickly and effectively.
This course has also highlighted the need for data collection. While a conversation with a customer or user is a great way to gather information, without documenting it, comparing it to others, and most important, having the record to review your decisions are being made in a way that will not make sense to anyone outside the process. Verification of an idea or process change and justification for the decision can easily be done with survey records. The ability to then use this data to refine and improve on your ideas and processes is a huge improvement over my previous methods. These methods usually included a single representative of the user or customer group. Thinking back it was impossible for this to be representative of all users/customers and the information gathered was certainly skewed.
I think the most important takeaway for me is how these methods can be applied within my personal and professional life. Whether it’s within my own family, the school PTA, or at work.
I really started getting excited about my project when I started inventing ideas and doing the plan do study act.
When I first started the course in December, I felt overwhelmed by the flowchart and the number of materials that needed to be completed. It was a lot more in depth than I expected with videos, labs, and the applications. Once I got past the initial shock, I enjoyed the process and learning about all of the skills. My favorite skill was plan do study act. It came more naturally to me with my engineering education and experience. I found the yellow card skill particularly challenging. I think the yellow card summary is valuable but I found writing a yellow card very difficult. I think it requires more creativity and to not be a perfectionist in writing which I guess I am. I think it would be easier for me to write a yellow card with a small group where you could discuss and build on each other’s ideas to better communicate a concept. I tried this in my class and I had teams of four write a yellow card for a concept that they created and would be building. I was impressed with the majority of the yellow cards that teams completed and will plan to continue including this as part of my course.
The final application project was my favorite part of the course. It took me awhile to select the opportunity for the project so I think it might be helpful to include another application for coming up with ideas and selecting the opportunity for the project before diving into the blue card. It would also be useful to have more details about example project opportunities and ideas for selecting a project.
I found the blue card a little difficult to complete because my project was a personal opportunity vs. a business opportunity. It might be helpful to have a different version of the blue card for non-business opportunities because some of the input fields just did not seem to fit.
I really started getting excited about my project when I started inventing ideas and doing the plan do study act. I had a lot of fun researching a topic that was relevant to my family and I found some great new ideas for helping me son with ADHD. Through the plan do study act process I was able to narrow my focus and better define my concept. I was actually a little disappointed that the course did not include another plan do study act cycle so I could test out a prototype of the Bedtime Playlist. I really enjoyed the process for coming up with the concept and I will still plan to make the playlist and test out with my son!
Thank you for a great course and all of your helpful input and suggestions!
As a continual learner, I am truly appreciative of the beautiful lessons, theories and applications learned in the Innovation Engineering blue belt course over the past month. It is with enormous gratitude that I thank Corie, Brad and all the individuals at Eureka! Ranch that aided in the innovation engineering methodology and process.
As I reflect upon the new learnings within the IE blue belt course and dovetail it with my experience, I am thankful for the opportunity to take part in a start-up Innovation Center of Excellence for a Fortune 18 company. The visionary direction of leadership and the contagious pioneering spirit of the innovation team was a powerful force in developing my creative confidence and innovation tenacity. Innovation requires creativity as does curating actionable insights from a sea of information. At its core, creative confidence is about believing in your ability to create change in the world around you. The belief in your creative capacity is at the heart of innovation and analytics. It is the same value and belief that supported my conviction to shun a comfortable corporate career and start an innovation business on my own. If one can embrace a mindset that rejects the fear associated with failure and replace it with a joy associated with exploration and experiential learning; innovation happens! The path to creative insights and innovation success is not linear, but rather a rigorous process that enables repeatability.
Process, Process, Process. The IE methodology and process are an amalgamation of the scientific method and rapid learning cycles. As a result of an open on-line learning style and innovation mentor, I was afforded the opportunity to apply new learnings to existing problems within the overall design of the innovation structure and process. The foundational process interwove design thinking, innovation math/metrics, agile methodology and lean efficiency to prove an idea. Ultimately, it established a controlled structure and process to creatively solve problems in an effective and cost-efficient manner. The process can be summarized by four words: Plan, Do, Study, Act. The innovation process was simple and intuitive. The IE process balanced creative imagination with scientific rigor. Speed with thoughtfulness. A green light on any initiative was when patient/consumer purchase intent and business needs intersected. I believe the IE process is the most effective way to respond to the unprecedented disruption and growing uncertainty across various industries. During the final project, the IE process allowed me to examine a problem, silence the noise, focus on the mission, and deliver an idea with greater relevance and business value.
Experience is often a powerful teacher. In general, corporations spend a significant amount of time, energy, resources, and budget in planning and studying problems . . . with very little Doing or Action. The stage-gate process fortifies past beliefs and values which influences future outcomes. Under the guidance of an innovation mentor, (Brad Hall) I experienced first-hand the power and value of experienced innovation leadership. Regarding the management of innovation, I learned the importance of managing the energy of creativity can be just as important as managing people. I have found you do not need to be the smartest person in the room to be successful within innovation. From personal experience and reinforced in the IE class, encouraging people to speak up, respecting the differences of opinion and championing the best ideas (regardless of where it originated) are the foundation for leading within innovation. During the innovation process, things fail. IE mindset minimizes risk and fear through rapid prototyping. A humble leader is quick to admit their mistake and take responsibility. Conversely, when a prototype experiences success in the test environment, shine the spotlight on those who deserve credit. A key takeaway was to celebrate success, console failure and encourage the joy of exploration and experiential learning. When an innovation leader works to harness input from everyone around a common target or mission, it carries throughout the organization.
I am at a point in my career, where I would like to transition from “doing” to “empowering others” to problem solve or innovate. A new personal goal is to teach and develop a culture of innovation within an organization(s) that I serve. Throughout my life (professionally and personally) teaching and mentoring others that I serve has always been a priority. Therefore, I view IE as a turbo charged enabler to not only learn specific techniques and methodologies, but to address culture change and leave an organization poised for organic future growth opportunities. One of the best ways to develop a culture and process of innovation across an organization is through multiplicity or creativity mentoring. I believe a key tenant is deliberate one-on-one relationships. If these relationships are established within the innovation team, then an opportunity exists to share expertise, values, skills, and experiences from a mentor to a mentee.
Personally, I would like to incorporate the IE framework for innovation insights into innovation mentoring through a three-fold approach; each innovation team member would have an upward innovation mentor (internal/external resource to receive knowledge), peer innovation mentor (internal resource to share knowledge) and downward innovation mentor (internal resource to give knowledge). I have experienced personal growth as an individual through this process and now would like to incorporate innovation growth throughout an organization by prototyping this model.
As a continual learner, I am truly appreciative of the beautiful lessons, theories and applications learned in the Innovation Engineering blue belt course over the past month. It is with enormous gratitude that I thank Corie, Brad and all the individuals at Eureka! Ranch that aided in the innovation engineering methodology and process. Thank you for sharing the “behind the curtain” innovation techniques for those interested in solving problems through creative ideation to make the universe that we live in a better place. . . . one idea at a time.
While I loved gaining an understanding of the tools to create and develop new ideas, the biggest “aha” for me was the module on Systems. The recognition that systems exist everywhere, whether visible or not was a big revelation.
As I began to explore my options, it became quite clear that my extensive experience in a very narrow field, trade show exhibit sales, that in most online job postings, my experience did not match up very well with what companies were looking for. Based on key words and algorithms, I was not having any luck securing interviews. I needed to reinvent myself.
Through following the news and keeping in contact with my professional network there seemed to be a familiar theme in the economy in that companies that were able to “pivot” or “innovate” quickly, were able to survive and even thrive when other less innovative companies shut down abruptly or died a slow death. For me, the opportunity thru OhioMeansJobs to take the Blue Belt Engineering Innovation course came at a perfect time.
This course has given me a new way of looking at challenges and new opportunities in both my professional and personal life. In following the template in cycle 22, here are my reflections on the course.
In my professional life, I have always saw myself as a student of sales and self improvement. I have read many books, listen daily to podcasts, taken other courses and I feel I have always been able to take away something of value. The issue was, the experience or the information gained often did not make it into a practice that produced any measurable improvement or success. The structure of this course has been invaluable in not only laying out a system for creating new ideas or solving challenges but the lab work really helped make the lessons stick. At times it was a real struggle. As I progressed thru the course, I was able to more and more organize my thoughts and put the course tools like the blue card and yellow card to work.
While I loved gaining an understanding of the tools to create and develop new ideas, the biggest “aha” for me was the module on Systems. The recognition that systems exist everywhere, whether visible or not was a big revelation. In completing this module, I couldn’t help but think about the 100s of systems I have tried to implement as a business owner and if I had this knowledge back then, not only would I have been much more successful, but I think I would have enjoyed the experience more using this framework and understanding.
The most fun I had was the module on Concept Writing. This has always been something I enjoyed but again, the framework laid out in the course (problem, promise proof) is a roadmap for me going forward that will help create focus and more effectively communicate my ideas to others.
Going forward I think what I have gained from this course will be put to work in my personal life or in my personal professional pursuits. I do not envision (although that may change) working in an environment where I would be leading a team, creating spark decks, create sessions, diversity of ideas, etc. I mostly see my professional future as an independent consultant. As I said, that may change and I must admit, I am intrigued to take this learning to the next level.
I have nothing but great things to say about the course. If I had to make some suggestions they would include:
-perhaps consider a module with a more in-depth case study of a concept that became a successful product/service and walk thru the journey
-consider periodic touchpoints via Zoom or phone call to review 4-5 modules upon completion. The response to questions from Brad and his team in the Chat was always responsive and very helpful. I think there would be value in maybe 2 intermittent calls to review progress and exchange feedback.
As a parent, I feel there is an opportunity to teach my daughter to use some of these techniques to help her in her personal and eventual professional life. PDSAs, stimulus mining and concept writing are all tools that can help her develop good life habits. Personally, I am already finding that the concepts here help on a daily basis in some of the smallest ways. Approach to a golf shot, how to organize my day, how to plan a vacation, etc.
I would recommend this course to anyone that feels they are struggling with how to improve themselves personally or professionally or simply wants to add to their talent stack. Implementing these lessons will lead to greater career opportunities and more productive solutions to personal life choices, challenges and opportunities.
Overall, I believe I got what I needed from the course. It still requires practice until it becomes a routine, but it definitely brought more light and clarity into my planning and problem solving thought process.
The PDSA cycle is my biggest take away from the course. Again, the course put labels onto a process I already subconsciously do. By formalizing it, I now approach situations with more intent. Blue and yellow cards do not completely apply to my current job title, but it was good to be exposed on how project leaders or higher ups can potentially present projects to solve and execute. They help at least bring attention to areas that should be considered even if not fully.
Before this course, the word “innovation” heavily implied science. I did not realize it could also apply to how song writers/producers produced and select new songs to be released. Surprisingly, I had already used the concepts and tools of Innovation Engineering when it came to my extracurriculars (directing shows, choreographing, graphic design, etc.). Science is so technical, there is not a lot of freedom to be creative because the science must also work. It is not easy to think outside the box or consider outside factors besides for technical variables, but the course provided the connection to do so. It is still not easy to do, I still am very tunnel visioned into one variable or death threats, but at least I know I can fall back onto teachings of the course.
Overall, I believe I got what I needed from the course. It still requires practice until it becomes a routine, but it definitely brought more light and clarity into my planning and problem solving thought process.
It has already had a positive impact on my organization and in my work life, and the tools provided and skills taught are already changing the way I approach my work.
Going into this course I admit that I was a skeptic. I, perhaps unfairly, tend to view most programs and courses that promise to do things like “turbo charge your creativity” or “10X your innovation decision making” with a wary eye. Part of it seems too good to be true and I tend to question the creator’s motivations. And the other aspect is that I often look at things like innovation and creativity as an innate skill. You have it or you don’t. And if you have it, then it should be a matter of simply having an idea or brainstorming to solve whatever problem you’re having. Going through this course and implementing the application activity in my real-life work setting proved that I was wrong. Innovation is a skill that can be learned, honed, and practiced.
From the very beginning, I found the use of the Blue Card to be so helpful. It forced me to explain exactly what single issue we’re solving for and why, and very clearly define the parameters around it. I struggled with this at times, adding in more or starting to “solve” for tangential problems. The Blue Card was invaluable in keeping me on task, and I often returned to the mission when talking with others or when doing future activities. It guided the innovation process from the beginning.
And then I clearly saw how innovation is more than an innate skill when leading a Spark Deck create session. If I had been asked prior to this course to lead a meeting to get ideas for our stated problem, I would never have gotten the caliber or volume of ideas that I did. I probably would have just done a brainstorming session and it would have been boring, unproductive, and unfocused. Instead I had a clear mission from the Blue Card, and a process to get a diverse range of ideas in a guided way. I was blown away by the level of engagement from my attendees and the ideas they contributed. As a bonus beyond just getting great ideas, it also had the added benefit of really making people feel included and heard. The process provided by this course got others invested in the problem I was trying to solve, and we are still feeling the positive benefits from that session. This whole process challenged my assumptions of who is creative and who can innovate. I would say facilitating this create session was the most fun I had in the course. I was nervous beforehand, but this class gave me the tools to do it and once we got going it was an exhilarating and fun challenge.
There were a lot of little learnings along the way that helped. I admit that my fear of estimating numbers is still lingering, but the Fermi-estimating helped and provided good guidance for tackling death threats. Speaking of, learning to hold space for death threats and document those was a great learning. It kept the team from killing ideas early, which was an issue we have faced in the past. Additionally, it took the worries and concerns from my brain and put them on paper where they could be planned for. I am always reminding myself now that things are a “cycle of learning,” so even bad outcomes mean we learned something, and we just need to adjust and do a new PDSA cycle. And then the one stat that I keep with me in the back of my mind and that I imagine will stick with me for years is a quote from Dr. Deming. He states that about 94% of problems stem from system issues instead of from the workers. It really hit home the idea that the bulk of “failures” or variations in a workplace are not malicious or due to negligence but instead are a problem in the system. It really drove in the fact that we can make huge improvements to whatever it is we do if we just tackle the system issues and do VIS projects. With that in mind, the rest of the learnings in the course become so valuable because they empower me to successfully evaluate, innovate, and improve these systems to make sure workers are successful.
This class upended a lot of my thinking and challenged me in ways I was not expecting. I came in expecting this to be a lot of fluff that felt good but maybe wasn’t practical in person. But I was wrong and I’m glad I was. The tools and processes guided huge improvements with my application activity and has made the organization better as a result. I’m excited to fine tune these approaches and continue using them in the future.
I was told that the specific project I completed with this training would not work the way I wanted to do it when I first proposed the idea. By going through the whole process with this course I was able to address all death threats and really think through the engineering and installation and the system works better than expected.
Improve Your Innovation Capabilities by Learning These Skills.
Create Disruptive Ideas
+ Maximize Your Creativity
+ Strategic Thinking for Innovation
Communicate and Sell
+ Communicating with Numbers
+ Selling with Meaningful Marketing
+ System Mapping
Develop Profitable Ideas
+ Faster Prototyping
+ Systems for Problem Solving
+ Business Analysis & Modeling
+ Research Analytics
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does it Take to Complete the Certification?
- You determine the speed of your certification as it is done at your own pace.
- You have 12 months to complete the certification in order to qualify for the reimbursement.
- We recommend starting the program at least 6 months before the deadline.
- It is roughly 20 – 25 hours of effort.
Who From My Company Should Take the Course?
- This course is built for everyone.
- No skill or experience required!
- If you want yourself or your staff to be able to create, communicate, and take action on cool new ideas…this fits!
What Type and Size of Company Should Participate?
- This course is built for every type of company & organization.
- Everyone except for government organizations are eligible for Ohio TechCred funding.
- One person companies through 75,000+ employee companies.
Eureka! Ranch was founded more than 35 years ago by Doug Hall. Doug was at P&G and got a record number of innovations shipped in a short period of time with a tiny staff and budget (9 products in 12 months with a team of 3). He did this by using a systems approach because of his knowledge of the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the inspiration for Lean, Total Quality and Six Sigma.
Doug left P&G and founded Eureka! Ranch and started helping large companies like Nike, American Express, and Disney create big, disruptive ideas, which it continues to do today.
By the early 2000s, it became clear that some companies did not have the systems in place to commercialize the disruptive ideas Eureka! Ranch helped create. They would either compromise the ideas (to pass Stage-Gate milestones) or even kill them due to fear of change.
That experience inspired a sabbatical at the University of Maine and the creation of a new field of study, Innovation Engineering®. It includes 48 skills or competencies for creating, communicating, and commercializing meaningfully unique ideas and system-driven leadership skills that help innovation leaders implement the system company-wide. It teaches people to create disruptive ideas like we do (not guru, it’s a system) but also teaches them what to do next – all the way to market/implementation.
Today the Ranch is led by CEO, Maggie Nichols, and a strong cadre of innovators, engineers, educators, and programmers, with founder, Doug Hall, remaining actively engaged as CIO and on special projects. We help organizations in 3 ways:
1) building their innovation pipeline,
2) improving their innovation process, and
3) training their people to think more innovatively.
Meet Your Instructors
VP of Education, Innovation Engineering Institute
Innovation Engineering Black Belt
Innovation Engineering Black Belt
Masters, Educational Administration
Innovation Engineering Black Belt
CEO of Innovation Engineering Institute
Together they have trained thousands of students in person, online and at universities.