Toni Newman: Innovation
When I grow up, I want to be more like my brilliant friend, Toni Newman. We met through a beautiful community of speakers and in every interaction I become more in awe of this ladies talents. As the third Canadian in this series it would indicate that there are good things in the water across that border because Canada sure has some exceptional people!
This episode is simply stellar. So many practical, thought-provoking and actional takeaways that come from our chat about a hugely overused and underappreciated word. In “Words With Friends” you get to hear me chatting about a specific word with one of my incredibly talented friends. In Episode 7 I talk to Toni Newman who shares her insight into the word “Innovation”. Listen in on our conversation and enjoy being a fly on the wall to our discussion. Oh and one more thing – check out Toni’s speaker video at www.toninewman.com – it is incredible and demonstrates how she truly practices what she preaches.
The full transcript
Phil Jones: Here we are for time for another episode of “Words with Friends”, and today I have my good friend Toni Newman. Toni, welcome to the show.
Toni Newman: Thank you very much. I’m really thrilled to be here.
Phil Jones: Toni, we’re talking a word today. The word we are talking is “innovation”. Why do you think I might have picked you to talk about the word “innovation”?
Toni Newman: Well, it may be because pretty much everything I do is about innovation and about thinking differently. It’s what I do for my work, but I think it’s also how I live my life, so it seemed like a pretty logical word.
Phil Jones: Well, when we think about the word “innovation”, I see appearing in dozens of conferences that I perform at regularly, it’s often like included in a theme somewhere.
Toni Newman: It is.
Phil Jones: But what does the word really mean? It feels a bit like a buzzword right now, but to you, what is the word “innovation”?
Toni Newman: Well, I’m gonna throw it back to you just for a second. So when I say the word “innovation”, what are the first things that come to your mind?
Phil Jones: I mean, I have a simple definition of innovation, it’s almost like the relentless quest for better.
Toni Newman: Oh.
Phil Jones: That’s my kind of definition of what innovation is to me. It’s this continued need for improvement. It’s not necessarily a technological advancement or a rocket to the moon, it’s something got better because of thinking.
Toni Newman: Okay, so that’s really cool. We can have some fun with that, and that is because I believe there’s a huge difference between improvement and innovation. You’re right, and I’m gonna come back to that. You’re right, it has become a huge buzzword. As recently as yesterday, somebody put out a request for a speaker on innovation, and there were all kinds of people saying they spoke on innovation, because it seems that nowadays, as long as it’s new and different, it’s innovative. And it is a buzzword, and that’s one of the big problems out there in the marketplace, is people don’t truly understand what it means.
So we do have a definition, and I say we because I work with my partner in everything, Ger, and so we do have a definition, and our definition is value-based change that resets expectations. Value-based change that resets expectations, and that’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. Basically, when we think of innovation, a lot of people go straight to technology, so we wanted a definition that was broader than that. So anytime that somebody does something that creates value and resets the bar so that that becomes the gold standard, that for us is the first step to saying it’s innovative.
Now, we have some other characteristics that we go through that we can talk about later if we have time, but the big thing for me and the thing that I’m so passionate about is better isn’t good enough anymore. I think better is the price that we pay to continue to have the privilege to play in the sandbox.
Phil Jones: Agreed.
Toni Newman: And I think a lot of people, and no disrespect intended, confuse better and innovation and think they’re being innovative when, in fact, they’re being better. So what I like to say is better takes something that exists, or improvement takes something that exists and makes it better.
Phil Jones: I love this idea. This value-based change that resets expectation. I think that’s pretty clear to me.
Toni Newman: Absolutely.
Phil Jones: Where have we seen examples through time that you could see quite clearly as being almost checkpoints or landmarks of a value-based change that reset expectations? Help us bring some color to this.
Toni Newman: The obvious one, the go-to one is Amazon, for example. Amazon reset the bar. They reset our default mindset about what it’s like, first, to buy books online, and then buy everything else online. They then went on to reset our mindset about how things get delivered, how things get packaged. They continuously innovate, not just better, different. They come up with different ways to do things.
A counterexample for me would be Apple.
Phil Jones: Right.
Toni Newman: Well, I think there are moments when Apple is quite innovative. The invention of the iPod reset the bar. That was value-based change that reset the bar on how we interact with our music. However, what I believe about Apple now is that they fall more into improvement than they do into true, what I would call innovation, which is value-based change that resets expectations. So I had a girlfriend here yesterday, my daughter’s tutor, and she had the new iPhone X, okay? And great camera, got the best camera. She said it’s the only reason to buy an iPhone X is because it’s got that great camera. Okay, it’s got a better camera. That’s not necessarily, for me, in my definition, innovative. It’s better.
Phil Jones: And it’s why here in 2018 when the obvious thing to have is that phone, I still have an iPhone 6S, and there have been various points with that same company where I felt an obligation to change through the fact that the innovation … I like that example. What about some other examples that are less obscure. I mean, Apple, Amazon, Uber … the list of … these examples have been talked about a lot in 2018.
Toni Newman: Yes, absolutely.
Phil Jones: What are things that we know but we don’t necessarily know were innovative until you’re gonna then explain to us that that’s been true right now?
Toni Newman: Well, I think the other thing to put out right away is we are very focused on experienced innovation. So there’s lot of technological innovation out there and there’s lot of product innovation out there, but where I get really excited is when we apply the principles of innovation to creating experiences and influencing mindsets. So for me, that’s really a big part of what being innovative is. So there are small experiences, so let me give you an example. When you go to my local bookstore and there’s a long line, they bring you chocolates in line. That for me is a better way to stand in line.
Phil Jones: Yep, way better.
Toni Newman: Way better way to stand in line. Not innovative, but it’s a better way to stand in line. When you go to, and I hate to talk about them again, but you go to an Apple store, they haven’t invented a better way to stand in line, they’ve invented a different way to stand in line. In fact, you don’t stand in line anymore. And now there’s a few brands in the banking industry and other industries that are starting to do that, so it’s not necessarily just about redesigning something, it’s about redefining something.
So those are things we might not notice, but for me, I’m standing in line, you bring me chocolates, that’s really cool. That’s a better way to stand in line. I walk into your store or your bank and I don’t have to stand in line because you have redefined what it means to wait your turn, that, for me, is innovative.
Phil Jones: Okay. But being innovative is a sexy thing, right? People in business right now, they say, “I want to be more of this thing,” and this can become confusing. What are reasons where innovation should be something that comes to front of mind, ’cause I feel like people are sometimes looking at change for change sake, more so than to try and uncover something else. So what does Toni think of that?
Toni Newman: Well, I think that often, the mandate to be innovative comes down from on high, as opposed to some grassroots place of service, because I actually think that’s what innovation is. I think it comes, true innovation comes from a place of service and wanting to create value. So for example, if somebody listening has a 16 year old, you can come up with a better way to have a conversation with your 16 year old or you can come up with a different way of having a conversation with your 16 year old, and you are more likely to be in service and you’re more likely to influence outcomes if you come up with a different way of having a conversation with your 16 year old. Because as long as we, and this goes personal life, business life, anywhere in our lives, as long as we are getting a version of what we expect … It’s like when a computer goes to sleep and you put it on it’s using the lowest amount of power, that’s why innovation is important ’cause people don’t really notice better a lot anymore, they expect it.
So when we go into organizations, what we want is for innovation to come from a place of service. We’re trying to create value, we’re trying to make a difference, and quite frankly, it is now the only way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. But if you come from a place of service and wanting to create value, innovation becomes a whole different ball game.
Phil Jones: Yeah, I hear it. And I also think I’ve found some clarity in what you’re saying about definitions around the word better as well. The risk is if you look for better processes, then chances are what you’re gonna do is come up with a situation like handing out chocolates at the bookstore. If you look at better outcomes, then what you might end up with is stumbling across an innovative solution.
Toni Newman: I love this example. It’s not mine, but a CEO of a company I was speaking and working with shared this example. It was Häagen Dazs ice cream in Europe, and they had this huge dilemma, Phil, and this is what made me think of it when you mentioned processes, because the ice cream needed to be just the right temperature, and if it wasn’t the right temperature, the stick wouldn’t stay in and it would fall onto the ground. And they were literally losing mega money because of all the waste of these sticks once they hit the ground.
So they brought in all of these engineers and all of these really smart people to try to come up with a better way so the sticks wouldn’t fall on the ground. Nothing worked, ’cause they were looking at the ice cream, and they were looking at what you could do about this, and you can look at what you can do about that. And a janitor walked by one day and said, “Well, what if you put a net under where the sticks fell so they didn’t hit the ground and you could recover them and reuse them?” And everybody kinda went, “Okay, we could do that.” But he asked a different question, he asked a different question and he was focused on something different.
So to your point, when we go out to look at making something better, and this is … It drives me nuts. When we look at making something better, what we do is we assume that what is there has value already and that all we really need to do is tweak it. Now for anybody listening, I just wanna be clear, I’m not saying we don’t need to get better. I’m saying that better isn’t enough. To come up with those … I mean, I don’t wanna keep talking unless you want me to. I have so many-
Phil Jones: No, keep going. And what you’re saying is it’s not different for different’s sake, it’s different with purpose.
Toni Newman: It’s different with purpose, and we have five S’s and one of those S’s is strategic. Different for the sake of being different is a waste of time and it’s a waste of money, and it doesn’t do anything. But for example, there’s a little island in the Pacific Ocean named Palau, and Palau has about, I don’t know, 90,000 people or whatever, maybe. No, I don’t even think they have that many. But double or triple the number of tourists that come to their beautiful pristine island every year.
But the tourists were coming and they were damaging the reefs and they were littering and they were doing a bunch of stuff, but the population was so small and their resources were so limited that every time they tried to come up with a solution of how they could police the tourists so that they would stop doing this behavior, they couldn’t come up with anything. They tried things and nothing worked, until one day somebody said, “How do we get the tourists to police themselves?” And everybody went, “Okay, if we go down that road, what does that look like?”
Well, they came up with something called the Palau Pledge, and now everybody going into Palau on the airplane watches this incredibly innovative movie narrated by the children of Palau asking them to take care and be careful with their island. But they went even further, they totally redefined, they didn’t redesign, they redefined their immigration process. Now when you get to Palau, there’s a stamp that goes into your passport and you pledge to the children of Palau to not damage their heritage, and if you don’t sign that pledge, you don’t get onto the island.
I mean, think about this. That is so innovative. That’s not a better way of getting people to stop something, it’s a different way. It’s an innovative way. And in our lives, there are people around us who we want to stop doing things.
Phil Jones: Let’s play with something right now, and I don’t know whether this is gonna work or not, but a real thing in the world right now that is front of my mind is just the amount of plastic that appears in a variety of different areas, whether it’s somebody’s had a fresh vegetable smoothie or green juice, etc., that happens to come in a plastic carton with a plastic lid with a plastic straw in it that then gets put into a plastic bag that we all know that once it’s made is highly likely to exist for the rest of ever. And I see lots of better solutions that appear for that, and this is thinking just organically here in this conversation. And to me, this is a perfect example where everybody’s looking to say, “How do we get to make this better?”, not asking the right question.
Toni Newman: Yes.
Phil Jones: Play with that problem. This is “Words with Friends”, this is completely unplanned. How do we, in this conversation, start to make a dent in the amount of plastic that exists in this world using the powers of innovation?
Toni Newman: Well, it’s so amazing that you brought up this example, and no, this was not planned, but I just think it’s so cool ’cause there’s some really cool stuff going on. So on the one hand, there’s a technological issue in plastic, and I don’t know a whole lot about that and I know there are people out there trying to create some kind of substance that is biodegradable, and I know lots of people are working on that and I don’t intend to touch that stuff. Here in Canada, actually, straws just became illegal. You can’t use straws. You can only use biodegradable straws. Restaurants and places get fined if you … So that’s one set of solutions, and people, yes, we don’t want a better plastic, we want an entirely different substance that we can put these things, drinks or food, into.
On the other hand, there’s a whole question of awareness, and if I’d known this question was coming, I would’ve checked my facts, but I know that in the Cannes Film Festival or advertising festival right now, one of the big awards went to something called Trash Island to raise aware-
Phil Jones: Right.
Toni Newman: Did you hear about Trash Island?
Phil Jones: No, no, no.
Toni Newman: It’s absolutely amazing. So what these people did to raise awareness of the amount of plastic that was in the world is there’s a place, I forget where it is, where the trash, the plastic has all come together, and it was big enough to be a small island. So they applied to the UN, they actually got a status as an island. This is not thinking better, this is thinking differently, so that as an island, they have citizens of the island. Judi Dench is their minister of I don’t know what. Al Gore is an honorary citizen. But what they did by creating this island is then they were allowed to do things that people are allowed to do when you’re a country. So that’s another thing innovative about raising awareness.
A third thing is what do we do with the stuff we have now? And there’s a company in the UK called Ecover, I believe. They’re a plastic type manufacturing company constantly searching for a better solution, and what they did is they opened a rubbish café. Now, they don’t sell rubbish. What they do is they sell food and drink, and people can exchange used plastic items instead of money for the food and beverage.
So it’s about coming at a problem, it’s about coming at a challenge not only from how do we fix the challenge, how do we raise awareness of the challenge, and then how do we also find different solutions and ask different questions about what we do? So I think that’s a great example. Three completely different approaches to the same problem.
Phil Jones: Yeah. And interesting, really, as well, and it makes me think about what’s the question that we should be answering towards that. And as I think out loud right now, which is often what happens on these kind of interviews, is is the real question why do we believe that we should have disposable items in our life?
Toni Newman: Absolutely, and that would be a different question that somebody could ask that would take us completely down a different road.
Phil Jones: In another direction. Wow, okay.
Toni Newman: Now, if you think about it, Starbucks, a few years ago, decided to come out with their … They do have, they have a reusable cup that you can get. The first ones they did were actually kinda ceramic and they wanted people to bring that back and forth, and there was a bonus, extra points or a discount if you did bring the cup back. That didn’t work. Now they’re in a disposable cup, but I think you can use it … I’m gonna MSU here, what I call make stuff up, you can use it several times, five times, six times, ten times, whatever it is, but then it’s gone. So that slows it down. So Starbucks was trying to come up with, I think, an innovative, better perhaps, way to solve the problem, but it just hasn’t worked.
Because, for me, Phil, and this is what is so key, I think innovation is a game of influence. And in all of the work we do with people, we start from their innovation challenge, and their innovation challenge is how can we get, fill in the blank of a group of people, to do, do meaning think, feel, act, whatever, fill in what it is what you want them to do, or stop doing in the case of the Palau island, and then why do we need them to do that? So if I take your question, do we need disposable, let me think of this off the top of my head, it would be how can we get … And I like to be more specific, so let’s say how could we get millennials to not feel the need for disposable products so that there would be less plastic in the world? That’s not a really good one, but that was off the top of my head.
Phil Jones: And we’re playing with this, right?
Toni Newman: But that’s where we’re going is influencing people’s mindsets and behaviors.
Phil Jones: Now, what I see within company life right now is many of the world’s problems that exist that innovation could talk towards, what companies aren’t doing is contributing towards the solution of the problem, they’re enjoying the fact that they are being seen to care about the problem.
Toni Newman: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Phil Jones: And this is why I think when we talk about something like innovation is how do more real people start to actually become more innovative by approaching it in a different way? Because instead what happens here is if we take the problems that we could be fixing, what people now do is they sign petitions or go on walks to be able to make change or shout loudly about it on social media to nobody about change, but they don’t do what we’re talking about here which is innovation is reframing the question.
Toni Newman: Reframing the question, absolutely.
Phil Jones: As a starting point and then defining a strategic purpose to it. So if I’m a normal person and when I see something that I don’t like in the world and there’s something I wanna do to be able to change it, should I scream, shout, whinge, and moan, or should I look to be able to ask a better question? And if so, how do I make that change in mindset?
Toni Newman: Well, I think that’s a very big question because what I don’t want to underestimate is the fact that we normal human beings, there are some very big issues out there in the world. I would love to be able to solve the problem of plastic. I would love to be smart enough to come up with an innovative solution of how to create a different substance. That’s not me. What we can do is influence other people to ask different questions.
Phil Jones: Boom, love it.
Toni Newman: And I think that’s the purpose. And certainly, I wanna go back to the fact that one of the things I love about innovation is when it comes from a place of service and when it comes from a place of wanting to make a difference. And that can be wanting to make a difference in how much plastic there is in the world, it could also be wanting to make a difference for your customers, it could also be wanting to make a difference for your children’s elementary school.
I remember I was a single mom and I had two children, three and five, and I was a working single mom. In our industry, you know how much we’re on the road, Phil, and I made a very large commitment to not go on the road enough. I thought of a different business model. But the example that I wanted to share was I would watch all of these mothers go and they were available for story time, and they were available for all of these things in the home and school, and every time I went to speak to one of those places and volunteer, it involved me being somewhere every day of the week at a certain time and I could never commit. And so, I simply changed the question, and it used to just break my heart. I mean, I couldn’t even get my head around chocolates or cookies every week, let alone showing up at the same time.
So instead of asking and feeling guilty and upset about what I couldn’t do, I changed the question and I said, “What can I do?” And from that simple shift in mindset, which I think is so huge, what can I do? Well, I said, “Okay, I can create a program for the school.” So I did, and we created an entire week of creativity and innovation. We did something for the kids, we did something for the teachers, we did something for the parents. It was phenomenal. There were five days where we planned music, and at certain points during the day in all of the grades through elementary school, learning stopped, a different music came on, the kids had a task. I did something with the parents, I participated in Ped Day.
And I don’t share that because … It all came from changing the question, from feeling bad about what I couldn’t do to saying, “Okay, what can I do?” And so, I may not be able to come up with a solution for plastic, but I can influence other people with what I know and what I have to think differently about things.
Phil Jones: I see it now. So before taking action, before making noise, the question we should be asking is are we asking the right question?
Toni Newman: Are we asking the right question? Absolutely.
Phil Jones: Right, which reminds me of the great Henry Ford quote was, “If I listened to my customers, I’d have tried to make a faster horse,” and then instead he invented the motorcar, right? And we see how that’s gone on to be able to change the world.
Toni Newman: Right, right. And I think the key is that better is you take something exists and you make it better. Improvement, you make it better. But innovation is imagining what could be and making it happen, and that’s a totally different process. If I wanna make a better pencil, I’m stuck with the fact that this is a pencil and there are all kinds of better pencils. There’s all kinds of … But the question should be how can I create a different … How can I imagine what a different writing instrument could be if writing is the ultimate objective?
There’s a great company in Europe called the Fritz Water Company, and in Africa, as we all know, we have these stereotypical pictures of the women and the children with these really heavy urns of water on their backs, on their heads. Everybody’s tried to make a better urn, a lighter urn. Well, what Fritz did is they invented water vests. This stuff gets me so excited. They invented water vests that come in different sizes. So what happens when the children and the women go to the water hole, they fill the vest with water so the weight is proportioned over their body and it’s much easier to walk and carry the water. So the question is how can we think differently about getting water from point A to point B, not how can we create a better something that they can carry on their heads.
Phil Jones: Yeah, how do we put better handles on the jug. Right.
Toni Newman: Yes, or make a lighter jug so that it’s not so heavy.
Phil Jones: Right, okay. I see it. Well, we’re scared of innovation now. We’re having this conversation in 2018 and innovation is happening so rapidly around us, we’re seeing it in a multitude of different areas, and even if you class yourself as being somewhere at the forefront of change, you’re a million miles behind the line, which creates almost a paralyzing, “Why do I bother, given everybody else is bothering so hard and change is so inevitable?” The rate of change is the new normal. It’s almost that innovation by itself is not innovative anymore because that is what the norm is. Innovation would almost be why don’t we create something that outlasts innovation, which is a strange kind of paradox or irony in the whole thing. Am I alone in thinking that or is that something that you see in the world too?
Toni Newman: Oh no, I absolutely see it in the world. But again, the way I make a distinction between better and different, improvement and innovation, I make a distinction between innovation and change, because, again, we confuse the two. We assume that all change is innovative, which is isn’t at all. There are just changes. And then I think the other thing is we see change as something, and it could be, out of our control. It’s happening to us as opposed to us being involved in it. Innovation is a response to change, for me. It’s a response to change.
I’ve always laughed, I was a lawyer in a past life, and during my legal studies, I worked in a storefront legal aid office. And all of us were … I would say there was a line down the middle of the group. There were the people who wanted to change the world. There were the Mother Teresas and the Dalai Lamas and the people who wanted to change the world, and I admired them so much. And then there were those of us on the other side, and it was almost, to go back to your point, Phil, that “I wanna change the world” was just a little too overwhelming for me. What I wanted and what the people, my group, we used to have these debates, there might have been a lot of wine involved, until five o’clock in the morning. I wanted to change the life of the person who walked through the door the next day. That’s what I wanted to do.
So I am very much, and this has impacted my whole view on innovation, I am very much about what can I do? What can I do? What can I do to help this situation right now? So if one of my clients, for example, because of change that’s happening in the world, is less interested in their product. I’m MSUing, I’m making stuff up, but has gotten distracted because there’s a shiny new object. For me, my job is not to help them come up with another shiny new object, my job is how do we use innovation, get those people’s attention back. If you can’t get noticed, you can’t get heard. Can’t get heard, you can’t get the job done. So how do you get them to stop? And it’s the little things in life that are just so cool.
And I think the other thing is innovation is such a big word, it is scary. In our work, what we want people to understand is it’s not that big a deal. You can do it. Now, when I say not that big a deal, it’s not that it’s easy and you can snap your fingers, but everybody can do it.
Phil Jones: It’s not a monster, right. It’s not a scary venomous snake that’s gonna hurt you is a thing we should all have consideration. I’m listening to you right now and I think about a question that we often ask in my consulting work when we work with clients, and we ask the kind of why question times nine. So whenever looking at something, if this is what we wanna achieve, it’s like why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why? And we get down to a reason that often means that the thing that they thought they wanted to do is actually nothing like the thing that they really wanna do.
Toni Newman: And in our work, what’s so cool is when you’ve got them down to the why and you’ve got them down to that essence of what it is they want to do, we come along with the why nots. I do this whole thing about why, why not. Why is a great question, and it’s a great … it’s a powerful question. But in what I want is when people look at something, because we all get ideas. There is nobody in the world who has never had … We get ideas. What we do is immediately censor them. We immediately don’t even let them land in our brain cells. And so, the first step for me with people is once they done your process and they’ve gotten to the why and they actually know why they wanna do what they wanna do, is once they start thinking about it, everything has got to land on the table. Everything has got to land on the table, even if it’s not viable because in that non-viable thing is an idea that could be.
Phil Jones: Right. But sometimes then we get too many ideas.
Toni Newman: We do. We do, which is where our formula comes in. ‘Cause we actually have, we call it the Five ’S’ Solution, and for people listening, this was not planned either. It’s called the Five ’S’ Solution and I’ll say them for anybody who wants to know them. So it’s Surprising, Strategic, Seductive, Sustainable, and Simple, and each one of those serves a purpose. So as you’re coming up with ideas, what these Five S’s do, they’re each worth five points and yada, yada, yada, is they help you go through the ideas that are on your table, or your metaphorical table, and evaluate them and see which one has the greatest probability of success. ‘Cause the other stumbling block, Phil, about innovation and why it scares us is risk.
So what we set out to do many years ago was come up with something that would help people minimize the risk and maximize the return. And so, if you’ve got five great ideas in front of you on the table and you have no way, which 99% of people don’t, to look at them except to go, “Well research and my gut say, let’s do this.”
Phil Jones: Or this one’s my favorite.
Toni Newman: Or this one’s my favorite. But if you don’t have any kind of matrix that you can run the idea through, and what we say is you run it through the matrix to find the hole in your cheese, ’cause I guarantee you that that idea that’s your favorite has a bunch of holes.
Phil Jones: So what were the Five S’s again?
Toni Newman: So it’s Surprising, ’cause you gotta do something to get their attention. First you gotta get them to stop. Strategic, because, to your point and your nine whys, you gotta know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing. Seductive, because there’s gotta be something in the experience that makes people want to go all in and participate.
Phil Jones: To lean in. Yeah, love it.
Toni Newman: Sustainable, which, yes, means sustainable in the traditional sense of the word, but the way we use it is ideas have a shelf life just like that yogurt that’s been in your fridge and we all should’ve thrown it out a month ago. And so, ideas go bad. So what is the shelf life of your idea? How long has it been designed for, to exist for? And then, what’s next? And then the fifth one, which is my favorite, is Simple. And we talk about ideas …
I mean, if you think about it, Phil, that Palau Pledge, everybody had to come together. The government, the tourist industry, the people of Palau. Everybody had to come together, but obviously, at some point in their process, they got to the ninth level of your why. They got down to the fact that the only objective was the protect the heritage of this country for future generations. Well, once you’ve got that, then everything is possible. Everything is possible. So it might not be simple, what they did wasn’t simple in the traditional sense, but it actually ended up being quite simple for them because they knew what they wanted to accomplish.
Phil Jones: Hugely simple idea though, right?
Toni Newman: Right. A pledge.
Phil Jones: This is can we get a simple stamp in passport for people on the way in to scout’s honor say that I’m gonna behave and not be an idiot? Right, that is a simple solution. And although complicated with some moving parts, relatively simple to execute by comparison to, “We’re gonna train a group full of people, we’re gonna put feet on the street chasing people, we’re gonna put camera systems in place.” Versus the alternative, a remarkably simple solution that is executionable not just to start, but executionable to the finish line as well.
Toni Newman: Absolutely. And again, they didn’t redesign their policing system for tourists, they completely redefined the entire tourism experience, completely redefined it from the film on the plane to … Now, you violate it, local or tourist, there’s a million dollar fine. So we’re not talking about the fact that they just did this and they’re whistling dixie, but they created this entirely seductive campaign that people … I mean, how difficult is it to get on board when you’ve got children asking you to take care of the future of their island? I mean, you get on board.
Phil Jones: I’m welling up at the thought. I mean, it’s pretty seductive. I love this. I could talk about this stuff all day long. I have a problem-solving mind and I think that’s where innovation kicks in. It’s not change for change’s sake, it’s look at something real, try and uncover the truth within the issue itself. But I love this benchmarking formula of yours where it’s surprising, strategic, seductive, sustainable, simple. And I think anybody listening in right now could take that towards anything. I’m trying to think of what to do for my daughter’s birthday party. Well, I want it to be surprising, strategic, seductive, sustainable, and simple. It could exist there or it could exist as, hey, my business is going through some challenges right now, we’re losing market share to a big competitor. I need an idea that’s surprising, strategic, seductive, sustainable, and simple. So it’s everywhere. Love it.
Toni Newman: Yeah, and it is simple, it is straightforward. Not as easy to master as most people think it is. I love it when clients rate their own ideas and they give themselves five out of five on all Five S’s and end up with a perfect score, and then I go, “Okay, let me take a crack at it,” because the purpose of it is to find the holes. The purpose of the Five S’s is not to be able to pat ourselves on the back and go, “Look at this great idea.” The purpose of the Five S’s is to look at it and go, “How do we plug this hole or these holes so that we minimize our risk and maximize our investment?” And of course, it’s always great in 20/20 hindsight, you remember the ice bucket challenge?
Phil Jones: Yeah.
Toni Newman: Well, let’s run that through the Five S’s. It was completely surprising. It was very strategic. They wanted to raise money, they raised more than they ever thought it was. Who knew it would be so seductive, but it was. Everybody liked pouring ice water over their heads. Even the people who didn’t, like Patrick Stewart, I think, did it with scotch or something because he didn’t believe in wasting water. It was so seductive that everybody wanted to find their own way to do it. It was sustainable for the length of the campaign, but they couldn’t have done it again the following year because then it would’ve been old hat. And simple. You pour water over your head, you film it, you ask three other people to do it, and it spread like wildfire. I don’t remember how much they earned. I think it was 140 million or something.
Phil Jones: And it was also of the moment, right? If you look at that particular example, if it wasn’t for the communication channels existing like Facebook in the way that it was at that beautiful moment in time that it existed, that would’ve worked great.
Toni Newman: Sorry, excuse me. I’m so sorry.
Phil Jones: This is a real interview. Phones can ring. It’s fine.
Toni Newman: I know. We’re just chatting with friends. And nobody ever calls me, so I’m very surprised. I didn’t even know it was mine ringing.
Phil Jones: I didn’t even know phones rang.
Toni Newman: Yeah, yeah. But it is, as you say, the Five S’s apply to absolutely everything, absolutely everything.
Phil Jones: But you take that ALS ice bucket challenge, is if that was tried to be done today via Instagram stories as opposed to four years ago where Facebook was the primary medium to be able to make that run, I don’t believe that it would’ve run at the same rate.
Toni Newman: Nope, I don’t think so either. I don’t think so either.
Phil Jones: So I think that’s the important need to be able to continually take an idea and push it back through this. You know my favorite thing about these Five S’s?
Toni Newman: What?
Phil Jones: They’re surprising, strategic, seductive, sustainable, and simple.
Toni Newman: They are.
Phil Jones: They are a product of themselves.
Toni Newman: They are.
Phil Jones: Which I think is masterful, so well done to you on that.
Toni Newman: Well, thank you. And it’s because, and this goes back to everything you said, people are scared by the concept of innovation. They think they can’t do it, but it is actually not necessarily easy to pull off well, but it is not as intimidating as people think it is. And as long as you have some place to start from, you have a challenge and then you start looking for something that’s surprising, and we always have to remind people it can’t be surprising ’cause you’ve never done it, it has to be surprising to the people you’re trying to influence, and think about using our nine questions, for example, what your why is and why you really wanna do this and what your target audience values. Well, just by doing that exercise, you’re halfway down the road of asking the right question and coming up with some really interesting responses, solutions, ideas, whatever you wanna call it.
Phil Jones: And I’m getting the feeling here that, to your definition of the word innovation, this is better experienced from a position of strength rather than a position of desperation or weakness.
Toni Newman: Run that by me again.
Phil Jones: Well, if you’re feeling that your back is against the wall, you’re desperate and you need to be able to make a change because the whole world is against you, then innovation is a hard process to follow if what you are is in a crisis, so to speak.
Toni Newman: Well, that crisis is a double-edged sword because a lot of times it propels us to do things we wouldn’t have had the courage to do before. The challenge with crisis is that our souls are often beat up by that point, and so we don’t believe anymore that we can do anything. Sometimes asking what can I do and understanding that I don’t have to do what everybody else is doing can actually be a really good thing, because instead of, talking about Facebook, how many people listening to this interview have ever gone on Facebook, scrolled through the supposedly amazing things that are happening in everybody else’s life, and at the end of it thought, “I’m a loser.” There’s so much of this great stuff.
But when you think about innovation and say, “I don’t need to do what they’re doing. I don’t need to be able to do their business model or be successful the way they’re being successful. What I wanna do is think about what I can do.” And when you’re in crisis, if you combine that sense of, “I’ve gotta do something,” that sense of urgency with, “You know what? I’m free to do anything. I’m free to come up with any solution.” That’s the best way to go about it, as opposed to looking at what’s out there. I mean, that’s the problem with best practices, Phil, is that everybody looks at it and they wanna do the same, and so now everybody looks the same.
Phil Jones: That becomes the right way of doing things.
Toni Newman: That becomes the right way and I have never believed in the right way. My entire life, I’ve never done anything the way I was supposed to.
Phil Jones: I’m okay with best practices in things like heart surgery.
Toni Newman: Yes.
Phil Jones: I’m okay with best practices existing there and other very procedural elements of life of which innovation and experimentation can happen to one side. Until we’re certain of a better way, best practices do have a place. Through my lens, I 97% agree with you that best practices are stupid most of the time, but it doesn’t mean that they’re always …
Toni Newman: And I wanna be clear, I think best … We have best practices in our business. What happens though with a lot of people is we stop at best practices. So it’s like I’m not saying you don’t need to be better, I’m saying being better is the price of playing in the sandbox, but you do need to be different. So we all need best practices. If we didn’t have best practices, we wouldn’t know from one client to another how our contracts should read and what works and what doesn’t work. But when best practices become the ultimate objective, then that’s when it becomes everybody looking the same.
I’m struggling, your example, I’ve got my back against a wall, I’m struggling. I’m in a crisis in my business. I look at what everybody else is doing and try to mimic what they’re doing. If that’s all you’re looking at, then that becomes risky because you’re not thinking differently. So I don’t wanna leave anybody with the impression I don’t think we need best practices, I’m just saying if they’re the ultimate objective, that’s when it gets a little touchy.
Phil Jones: Is innovation the enemy of contentment?
Toni Newman: I’m very content, so I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s the enemy of contentment. If I listen, if I hear now the question more clearly, perhaps, complacency. If we get complacent, we don’t … So I would say complacency or contentment is the enemy of innovation. I’d throw it the other way, ’cause as soon as we get complacent, we stop looking for different ways to think about things until we’re in crisis.
Phil Jones: And I wanted to go there on purpose as well ’cause I think many of us strive to be content or we have aspirations in our life that contentment is a feeling that we would like to have some more of, yet innovation can evoke that feeling. I think the differentiation between contentment and complacency helps alleviate this problem and this argument. So you know me, I’m a stickler for words, and I just like to sometimes play with people. Okay.
Toni Newman: Caught me off guard with that one.
Phil Jones: Well, that’s the deal here.
Toni Newman: But it was a good question. It was a very good question.
Phil Jones: I’ve got three more questions for you.
Toni Newman: Yes.
Phil Jones: First is if you wanted to turn this interview around in some way and ask me one question in and around the world of innovation that you might be intrigued by, what might that question be?
Toni Newman: I would ask you what you believe is the most innovative thing you’ve ever done in your business.
Phil Jones: What’s the most innovative thing that I’ve ever done in my business? The most innovative thing I think I’ve ever done in my business is combined to the ways that I’ve used tools like Facebook before everybody was using Facebook. So we were using Facebook groups to be able to grow and develop franchisees for my training business in 2010.
Toni Newman: Way before the rest of the world caught on.
Phil Jones: When people saw Periscope as a tool for being able to broadcast live, we saw Facebook Live as an idea existing within groups. And when everybody else was trying to create an online training course and I knew that I loved the interaction with people, instead of doing webinars, we used Facebook Live inside Facebook groups and continued the conversation 24/7, and then found ways of monetizing that and did that in 2013 and 2014, which is now being taught as a best practice and a strategy in 2018.
So I think if I look at anything that I’ve done that I would class as being innovative in my business, it’s trying to look for a tool where all the people are at that the majority of people enjoy to be able to use, that can benefit from leaning on the architecture that is created, managed, monitored via somebody else in a trusted place, and finding a way to be able to make that work for everybody. Always looking to be able to do that, and I’ve probably got five, six, seven other examples.
And my most recent example, let’s see if this one plays out too, is I believe that the future within our world of experts, so I might as well get this on camera, is very much tied towards the companies that have grown heavily in the decade prior to now through building content machines and subscription based models. But this means Netflix, this means Amazon Prime, this means Audible, this means all those big companies that we’ve learned to love that have people paying 9.99 a month, 19.99 a month, etc., that have got distribution in place and are finding themselves short of content, then there is a space for us in this expert world to say, “Why don’t we learn to be able to operate at the we’ve got a product that’s $2.99 as opposed to $2,999 and be proud of the fact that we can serve the many, not serve the few.”
So that’s where my head is at and that’s the problem I’m trying to solve right now in my business is how do we remain profitable and sustainable with a product that is a lower price than what somebody would charge for a piece of music?
Toni Newman: Right, right. And it’s a great question. And in our work, we talk a lot about touch points and creating experiences at touch points, but the touch points available to us are changing. So ten years ago, the idea of putting content from somebody like you and me on Netflix never would have even … But now, that’s a touch point opportunity. We just need to figure out, somebody very smart like you figure out how to make it work for people like us. So those touch points are changing every day.
Phil Jones: And the question is not how to make it work for people like us, it’s how do we make it work for people like people?
Toni Newman: Yes.
Phil Jones: So that that’s the way that they want to be able to consume their content.
Toni Newman: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Asking a different question.
Phil Jones: Yeah. Two more questions.
Toni Newman: Yes.
Phil Jones: If there was a conversation happening about Toni Newman and you happened to be able to overhear it, and this is people that you trusted and admire talking about you, and they used one word to describe you, what would you hope, wish, or pray either that one word was?
Toni Newman: Truth.
Phil Jones: Say it for me one more time?
Toni Newman: Truth.
Phil Jones: Yeah?
Toni Newman: Yes. I think that in what I do, I would hope that people know that I always speak the truth, whether it’s a difficult truth or an easy truth, and that the best way to be in service to people is to be authentic, to be true, to be transparent, and to be the person that asks the tough questions, because I think if people understand … I think at this point … I don’t think, I know at this point in my career, many of my clients come to me because they know that I will tell them the truth. I don’t play games, don’t do that. You hire me to get a job done, and if me getting that job done and helping you get that job done means that I have to speak a truth in a gentle and loving voice, but speak the truth, I think that’s the compliment somebody can pay me.
Phil Jones: That’s beautiful. Well, leave me one more question.
Toni Newman: Yes.
Phil Jones: Toni, how do people find out more about you? What are the kind of things you do for people, organizations, companies? Where can people plug in to get more information about Toni Newman?
Toni Newman: The website, which is toninewman.com. That’s the logical first step. You can find us everywhere on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. I think my favorite spot, and I’m not just saying this ’cause you do this, we have a Facebook group called Influential Innovators and it’s a group of, I would say entrepreneurs, but there are other people in there who are not entrepreneurs. We’ve got some musicians in there. We’ve got a bunch of different people in there who are just determined to think differently about their lives and what they do. So that would be one of the places where I hang out the most and, as you say, have the greatest conversations.
And in terms of companies we’ve been serving, I’ve been serving the corporate market for a lot of years and we’re going to continue to do that. But I think the most exciting thing happening is, starting in the fall, we are going to be creating content that entrepreneurs and anybody can have access to so that they can think differently about their lives and what’s going on and that they can be of service. So that’s the thing that I’m the most excited about because, as you say, the Five S’s applies to everything and it’s just a message that I really wanna get out there and people have the courage to do something with it.
Phil Jones: One thing I’m gonna invite everybody to do is to check out Toni’s speaker demo reel on her website. I want you to see what she does with a giant red set of step ladders. That’s about all I’m gonna say.
Toni Newman: Yep.
Phil Jones: So Toni, thank you for joining us on “Words with Friends”. Thank you for chatting “innovation” with me. It’s always a delight to be able to catch up. I know you’re going on some vacation time, so thank you for your time with me today and I look forward to catching up with you on the road real soon.
Toni Newman: Thank you for having me. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you.