Digging Deeper for Innovation

Greetings. It’s hard to resist writing about what appears to be an important breakthrough in antibiotics that was reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature. After all, antibiotics are vital to our ability to fight infections. Yet many bacteria have become increasingly clever and increasingly resistant to the drugs we commonly rely on. So reports of a new drug called Teixobactin, that is potentially resistance-proof and seems capable of curing very severe infections without worrying side effects, is very encouraging news.

It is also exciting because it once again suggests the power of stretching our thinking to new places and new terrains in order to unlock breakthrough ideas. Terrains that include dirt or more specifically microbes that were discovered in “soil bacterium just beneath the surface of a grassy field in Maine.” These microbes are in a constant battle to survive and their unique skill in fighting could be the key to successfully battling many of the illnesses that threaten us including some seemingly intractable diseases. And while Teixobactin has not been tested in humans yet there is real cause for optimism about its potential.

As reported in the New York Times, researchers believe that the key to Teixobactin’s success is its ability to attack bacteria “by blocking fatty molecules needed to build cell walls.” This is a very different approach than current antibiotics which target the proteins in bacteria. These proteins, and the genes that encode them, seem quite capable of adapting and eventually resisting medicines designed to control them.

For most of our companies and organizations, our success is also dependent on our ability to continually look for new and better ways to respond to threats, opportunities, and the challenges of new and existing competitors. Competitors who are always looking to get around our best efforts by creating new offerings, experiences, or business models. And our ability to respond and innovate requires us to cast a much wider net and to seek new ideas and approaches from other industries, walks of life, strangers, and even places where we might have to get a bit dirty.

Antibiotics from Dirt

Which begs the question, where will you look for new ideas and possibilities?

We win in business and in life when we dare to dig deeper in our quest for new ideas that can change the lives of those we serve.


Creating a Corporate Newstand

Greetings.  I'm often asked to suggest the best things to read for teams that are eager to spark innovation but too busy to make it through a book.  And there are lots of great choices including a short book, a really fun book, a few chapters of a fantastic book (of which I'm partial to a couple listed below), along with a wide range of magazines and blogs.  The key is to keep reading and searching for ideas to unlock your curiosity, creativity, and sense of possibilities.  So let's think about magazines for a few moments, because I know that practically all of us love to read them.  We read them in waiting rooms, bring them along on trips, pick them up at the airport or train station, and are often excited to find one in the pocket in front of our airline seat.  And if it's a copy of the latest issue of People magazine…all the better.  Not that we'd ever actually pay to learn about the private lives of celebrities (or be caught dead reading it in the office).  But in travel mode it's a fun release.

Given our pension for quick and glossy information, why not make magazines an important and useful part of our learning and exploration?  The trick is to pick the right ones.  And here you have plenty of leeway.  Because different things spark different people.  But if I were looking for a good place to start, I'd begin by creating a small corporate "newstand."  Or at least a roving cart to push down the halls looking for takers.  And on it I'd include a bunch of interesting magazines from any number of fields or disciplines.  I might even decide to periodically "deliver" magazines to everyone I work with.  The key is to pick publications that are all about new ideas, best practices, and insights from people and places we don't normally come in contact with or find in any of our trade or industry journals.  Of course, I have my favorites–found in the modest newstand at our office.  They include:

And, of course, what office newstand would be complete without:

The real challenge is to expand your reading horizons and, in the process, to unlock your curiosity and genius.  By thinking thinking about new topics.  Seeing new perspectives.  Figuring out what really matters to people in other industries, places, and walks of life.  Imagining other possibilities.  And then starting to spark new conversations and connect the dots between different ideas and the challenges and opportunities you and your colleagues face.  Not that these magazines will hold the exact answers to your problems.  But they are likely to help you discover a more valuable question along the way.

People Cover 

We win in business and in life when we broaden our reading horizons and challenge ourselves to have fun with new and remarkable ideas. And by taking the time to curl up in a comfortable chair with a new friend who opens our eyes.

Cheers and happy reading!