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Innovation Navigation: An Interview with John and Bill Nottingham

John and Bill Nottingham were guests on Innovation Navigation, a SiriusXM satellite radio show from the Wharton School of Business. A six-minute cut of their half-hour interview is available on NS’s new Soundcloud page. Here are some highlights.

John, discussing NS’s Innovation Center:

“There was a study I saw once that said that the best ideas come from casual interactions rather than forced creative sessions where people are in a room trying to be creative. So we do both. We do creative sessions all the time, your brain starts to think about it, and [later] you bump into an engineer and say, ‘You know, I was thinking about this,’ and so forth, and you run into someone from Insights and you talk about that, and everybody is part of it.”

Bill on Vertical Innovation™:

“Have you seen the movie The Martian? That was a great example of complete collaboration — get duct tape, get balloons, make something happen so that Matt Damon’s character can survive. The creative sessions in the movie were wonderful, and it kind of made me think about us at Nottingham Spirk. It’s a flat organization; if you have a good idea, bring it to the table and let’s prove it out. So I guess the concept of Vertical Innovation is, let’s just get the job done, appreciate what everybody brings to the table, and create something wonderful. The concept is being open.”

Bill on getting things done within a flat organization:

“There are always going to be titles, but when it gets down to getting a project done, everyone has a role, and everyone’s ideas are always considered. A lot of what we’ve seen companies do is what we call horizontal handoffs. …Being a flat organization, [at NS] everyone is equal. There’s always got to be a champion pushing it through, but that champion may be different on different projects. So you may be supporting on one project, and leading on another. And everybody appreciates that, because there needs to be a ringleader, but the key in the mindset.”

Bill on the Schick Hydro5 Groomer, an NS innovation:

“It’s the only shaving innovation that doesn’t add another blade. This is a Schick razor and at the bottom of it is a trimmer for a beard or goatee. The same team that did the Spin Pop, the same team that did the SpinBrush, got together — and this is actually when I started — and we created a company that developed a product that we called the Shaveman. It was an under-$6 electric shaver, kind of like a Braun-style shaver with a skinny handle and a ‘try me’ package. We took this knowledge [from the Spin Brush project] about really reducing the components down to the right cost and performance, and we created a wonderful product that provided the user with a benefit.”

Bill on developing the Troy-Bilt FLEX with MTD Products:

“It all starts with user insights. We stepped back and we said to the user, ‘What do you need for lawn and garden?’ And they said, ‘We need to save money and save space.’ How do you solve that? We got our teams together, and we looked at all kinds of concepts. One of the things that really came to the top was a product that could utilize an engine with multiple devices. Why do you need five engines, five gas tanks in your garage, when you’re really only using one at a time? So we came up with the Troy-Bilt FLEX. And it was a really great example of where we’d like to go with companies and what we think is a model for companies to disrupt themselves.”

Topics: David Robertson, Innovation Navigation, News, SiriusXM, Wharton School of Business, Bill Nottingham, Interview, John Nottingham

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