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« Working for a great organization and for great people - from one of the greatest | Main | Does your organization have a learning disability? * »

October 21, 2010



When we were in elementary school, we had this teacher who make big slogan to us "Think Health" Every Day We all need to shout with our teacher Think Health. One day after slogan, Saito was still standing and looking at the sky. The teacher asked "What are you doing?" Saito said "I am still thinking health. But I don't know what to do." We were very small but all kids laughing.
Slogan are not good if there are not goals and as Mike talks "Ridiculous Goals." Better to propose some ideas, methods or set goals.



To add one more to the four qualities you point out
5. Share examples of innovation from your personal or professional life. I mean Walk The Talk.

So often managers and innovation experts challenge employees or other departments to be innovative but themselves have nothing to show for it.


East Coast Guy

You should go and see the movie “Secretariat”. The owner sold Stud Fees on the horse to pay $6 million in inheritance taxes. The Stud Fees came with Performance Guarantees so basically the horse had to win the Triple Crown or she would lose it all (and a horse had not won the Triple Crown in a very, very long time as it is nearly impossible since the Belmont is such a long race compared to the Derby and the much shorter Preakness). Yes, the horse had to win, of course, it helped that she had the best horse of all time.

I know, it’s not the same as Apollo 13, but it is a feel good story. In this industry, in this economy, we all need “feel good” stories.


Yes, half the money and double your scope challenge was great innovative idea from management to shift our focus away from negative news. In addition to recognizing what we do in Quality is useful in many fields, It also gave me big confidence (and ofcourse a sense of security in a bad economy) about my Personal Worth.


Great Reflection.


The Apollo 13 mission is an extreme example with lives on the line, however, conceptually when management challenges their groups to “ridiculous” goals it’s amazing what creative juices tend to be stirred.

Years ago I worked for a company where Management way of challenging us for ridiculous goals was...(well I better not say this)...Any way let me take a chance.. file xx invention disclosure forms per employee per year. You can guess what happened then. Employees behave how they will get measured. It was a very ridiculous way of setting very ridiculous goals.

Setting Ridiculous Goals is an excellent way to generate innovation as long as those are meaningful goals and connected to the bottom line. Money, Yields,Time, ZERO customer issues....

Man from Malaysia

It all began with an iPhone...
March was when my son celebrated his 13th birthday, and I got him an iPhone. He just loved it. Who wouldn't?

I celebrated my birthday in July, and my wife made me very happy when she bought me an iPad.

My daughter's birthday was in August so I got her an iPod Touch.

I casually told this to my friend. I said "Steve Jobs has an eye for innovation."

My friend was responsible for benchmarking for innovation in his company. He said "Eureka", there is some magic in the letter i.

He told my story and shared benchmarks to his Boss.

They made a slogan "i For Innovation."

September came by and one of his employees got his wife an iRon.

It was around then that the fight started......

Believer from distanced land

Wonder why stocks of companies like Apple get Ridiculous Stock Price where companies making great technology and ridiculous profits get ridiculously low stock price?

It boils down to Innovative People who talk about possibilities, create optimism, consumer desire, excitement and culture of innovation vs Technocrats who imprison them in the sea of data (much of it irrelevant), bog down in technical details vs explaining in simple way how the application will serve useful purpose, take refuge under "technical" caves believing that is the only place to get innovation, label any people and ideas that are drawn from nature, music, movies, history as Philosophers and 50000 feet high ideas. Those technocrats failed to tap into enormous potential of employees and create a culture of Bureaucracy.

If Steve Jobs worked in such environment, he would have never passed Performance Management system and released long ago.

The biggest innovation those technocrats needs is in their mind and thoughts. It is not what you make but what you make possible.

Quality Guy

Mike, thanks for the though provoking article.

Innovation is nurtured, not dictated. In the Apollo 13 incident, failure was not an option. There was a clearly set goal and well defined time period, albeit short time, to perform. The scientists and engineers rose to the challenge and succeeded in their task. To use a cliche, "Necessity is the mother of Invention." In retrospect, could the scientists and engineers innovate on a continuous basis day in and day out, if it were merely dictated and not nurtured? I think not.

Boilermaker - CTG

Mike, thanks for the well written article. Even though the challenges we face may not be life & death as it was for those in Appolo 13 incident, we should still be of mindset of focusing on what "can" be done instead of limiting ourselves with preconceived ideas of what "can not" be done.

micro CEO

For me, too, this movie is particularly memorable. The engineers who thought of the solution to save the astronauts' lives must have been working under incredible tension... usually not conducive to creativity. There is probably an incredibly great fear of failure... but in the light of necessity it can eventually give way to great innovation.

I once attended a corporate team building seminar, where we were given a small red ball among a group of about 50 employees. Then we were asked to clock the time it took for each employee to touch the ball. How long would it take? Before we were ready it took some planning and discussion. Who would hold the ball? How would we coordinate the touching so that everybody didn't get in everyone else's way, etc. We defaulted to the manager, who held the ball. It took something like 25seconds (0.5sec per employee on average... not bad we thought).

Then the trainer said, "OK, now you have 10 minutes to come up with a plan to cut that time in half". We were doubtful, after all ten minutes is not very long and 25sec seemed like a pretty good time after all. But we dug in and tried a couple of quick concept experiments. In short we were able to cut the time to better than half. I remember being particularly amazed. Sometimes it really is possible to cut the Gordian knot and achieve ridiculous goals by revolutionary methods. We have to be willing to take a risk sometimes, and throw out our accumulated knowledge.

JD (China)

Thanks for sharing this, I still remember this movie. It is true that the pessimistic way of thinking may take away the chance of being success. We should watch carefully.


This guy obviously didn’t focus on what “could not” be done. Simply amazing video.

Mike Goodner


Well said. Often we approach problems from a "that's how we solve it around here" point of view. It takes leadership (from a manager or an individual contributor - either can do it) to take a step back, look at the problem in a different way, and come up with out-of-the-box but usually simple solution.

Thanks for this reflection!

California Guy

I really like the movie "Apollo 13" and have watched it multiple times because it is a compelling story that contains so many leadership and innovation examples.

Gene Kranz stating that the Apollo 13 mission has changed from "landing on the moon" to "bringing the astronauts back home alive".

After watching them gaze longingly at the Moon's surface, Jim Lovell asks his fellow astronauts what are their intentions, and Lovell stating that he wants to go home.

While talking to Ken Mattingly, Jim Lovell stated that it was his decision to replace Mattingly (due to measles concern) with Jack Swigert as command module pilot for the Apollo 13 mission.

Ken Mattingly going "outside the box" to find more power for the Odyssey command module start-up procedure.

Gene Kranz saying "I don't care what anything was designed to do, I want to know what it can do" when rallying his team to find solutions to achieve the new mission objective.

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