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How Change Happens: Are You An Idea Monkey Or A Ringleader?

Innovation requires dreamers and doers, consultant Mike Maddock tells XChange Solution Provider 2016 attendees.

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Some people come up with the wacky ideas that change the world, while others keep them in line and mind the operational necessities. For an organization to succeed through innovation, both types are needed.

Mike Maddock, CEO of Maddock Douglas, a consultancy that helps large companies bring new products and services to market, told attendees of XChange Solution Provider 2016 on Tuesday that they should strike a healthy balance between dreamers and doers.

Delivering the opening keynote of CRN parent The Channel Company's conference, the serial entrepreneur, inventor, writer and champion for revolutionary innovation told solution providers gathered in Los Angeles that one thing he's learned in the 25 years since launching his first business is that being called stupid is just part of the job.

[Related: Here's Why So Many Companies Fail In The 'Innovation' Economy]

Maddock's mentor told him back in 1991 he knew he would succeed because he was "too stupid to fail." Being called stupid might just hint that you're on to something, Maddock said.

Wherever there's great change and innovation, there's an "entrepreneurial mindset" that many will doubt, Maddock said.

Those possessing that mindset Maddock dubs "idea monkeys." "They're all about inspiration," he said.

Their "soul mates" should be a type he calls "ringleaders," who focus on operation -- the actual process of driving products to market. "They measure everything," Maddock said.

Orville Wright, an idea monkey, needed his brother Wilbur, a ringleader, Maddock said. Without Wilbur, Orville likely would have perished in the skies.

"Together, the inspired dreamer and the brilliant operator gave us flight," Maddock said.

In similar fashion, Walt Disney needed his brother Roy to balance his wild aspirations.

It's important to remember, Maddock told attendees, that while they need each other, "these mindsets can go in the opposite direction when the future is coming at you fast."

Maddock drew another important, more subtle distinction in his keynote -- that between inventing and innovating.

Innovation involves identifying a meaningful need in the market for a product, then following with an idea that satisfies that need and will please customers.

If innovation were depicted in a Venn diagram, it would be an area of overlap between idea, insight and experience.

"Innovators start with a meaningful market need," Maddock said, as opposed to inventors, who first develop and then go look to fill a need.

Ringleaders should keep their idea monkeys on the track of innovation, and not mere invention, he said.

Alan "Skip" Gould, president and CEO of BrightPlanIT, based in Buffalo, N.Y., told CRN the distinction between innovation and invention is one that it makes sense for channel solution providers to consider.

"Not only for our own product set," Gould said after hearing Maddock's keynote, but "we have to be looking at our vendor partners, and ask, 'Are they bringing us a solution for a need that doesn't exist?' "

Whether selling a product or services, it's important to scrutinize new products from vendors, and consider if they're "seeing the market need, or is it something they just came up with," Gould told CRN.

An entrepreneur's mindset fades the longer someone's been working on a challenge or business project, Maddock told attendees, making it harder to recognize opportunities.

That's why a study that looked at 100 different companies disrupting their respective markets found what they shared in common was a CEO who came from outside the industry they were disrupting.

Maddock said some studies suggest that within 10 years, 40 percent of the Fortune 500 won't even exist anymore. Companies become so good at mitigating risk that they stop innovating altogether.

To help others avoid that fate, he shared three tenets for innovators: it's impossible to make a small idea big; advertising and marketing are the tax you pay for a bad idea; wisdom beats intelligence.

Maddock added, the top indication of a company's ability to innovate is the resolve of the leader.

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