Isn’t it time you create your gazelle or unicorn? Or at least learn how to leverage, scale and ‘breed’ a big opportunity? – Blog 0005

Gazelle on grass looking at camera

“Opening our eyes wider and wider, to bigger and bigger opportunities.”

Can you answer this question?  As an independent collaborating maverick, what’s the best way for you to create revolutionary innovations?  Or,

Alternatively, how do you run with, and disseminate, already-created revolutionary innovations, for the good of all?

Should you…? 

  • join an innovative corporation like M&C Saatchi’s design consultancy Tricky Jigsaw, Atlassian, Planet Innovation, Apple, Intel, Google,, Amazon?
  • set up your own start-up – alone, or with others?
  • join, or form a skunk works?
  • take on the restructuring of an entire industry? Or…
  • What?

Here, in this and our next Blog, we spell out a few of your and our options.  And we make some surprising recommendations – including:  See the world as your client.  Aim to make the world far better.   Ask and answer just one overwhelming question.   Look for the gold within, and mine, leverage and ‘breed’ the gold you already have.  Set up a skunk works.  And, ‘ditch that business plan’

Making the world better!  We’re bananas!

Try not to cringe.   But at Innovating Cosmos, as a global community of collaborating innovators, we have 20/20 eyesight.  We see the world, the whole cosmos, as our client.  And we’re on about making this world significantly better, fairer, ‘richer’, more sustainable… not just for an elite few… but for the many.

As co-operating capitalists, entrepreneurs and innovators, we throw scarcity out the window.  And we bring whole-hearted abundance in the front door.

“Abundance comes from the root word for ‘overflowing’.  It’s:

  • a very large quantity of something
  • the state or condition of having a copious quantity of something;
  • plentifulness of the good things of life; prosperity.”

Sceptics say we’re bananas – totally idealistic and unrealistic!  Maybe they’re right.  But won’t it be great to prove them wrong? 

Making the world far better

Action:   Stop for a moment.   Roll that BIG, hairy, audacious, vision – of making the world, far, far better – around in your brain for a minute or two.   Allow the idea of comprehensive abundance, like honey, to percolate through the 130 grams of tissue that lie between all our ears.   And observe what happens to your awesome, creative mind.

Then ask just one overwhelming question

As a way to get us re-thinking about opportunities that can scale, leverage and ‘breed” or multiply,  at Innovating Cosmos we work hard on two types of questions:

  1. $100+ million dollar added value questions:
  • How can we add $100+ million to the total supply chain of the food industry?
  • How can we take $100 million of investment in tertiary education and make sure it delivers $1 billion value?
  • How can we add 10 lots of $10 million to 10 mature organisations? Or 100 lots of  $1 million value add to 100 declining organisations?
  1. Big, fat, hairy, audacious social impact questions
  • How to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint?
  • How can we make it possible for every one who wants to, to work productively, and earn, to age 95?
  • What are ten innovations that might enhance and enliven the lives of the 3+ billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day. And the 1.3+ billion who live in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 a day?  See:   11 Facts About Global Poverty.

Told you, it can be done!

Before and after our launch at the end of September 2017, the Innovating Cosmos community has, so far, kick-started four big, fat, hairy, audacious world-changing social impact gazelles – including two $100+ million for-profit platforms.   One of which is a possible ‘unicorn’ – a firm that reaches $1 billion market valuation.

In Australia, totally independent of Innovating Cosmos, Atlassian is a great example of a social impact, profit-making, unicorn. Atlassian provides low cost tools that make it easy for innovators to innovate.  It’s current valuation of  $A11+ billion proves it can be done!  And done from Australia.

But wait… there’s more

A week ago, another Innovating Cosmos team started on a 5th project – the redesign, automation and productization of knowledge-based services industries – like consulting, mentoring, coaching, company directoring – so instead of selling their time, advisors add ten times more value, and gain a percentage of that value add.   See Blog 0007 in two week’s time.

So…what’s a gazelle?

“Gazelles know how to leverage, scale and ‘breed’.”

A gazelle is a highly innovating and agile start-up – whether company, co-operative, tribe, or community  – which grows big fast, and makes a strong and positive impact on the world, for good – whether it’s about social impact, for profit, or a hybrid of both.

Keaz is an Australian example of a gazelle.  Started four years ago by the core team of Innovating Cosmos, Keaz is now a global platform for the sharing economy.  By focussing initially on just one global application – car pooling – Keaz has reached a market valuation of $40 million after four years.  Now Keaz is leveraging its platform to ‘breed’ at least 20 other market applications.

What about you?

So… we ask again:   As an independent collaborating maverick, what’s the best way for you – to create revolutionary innovations?  Or, even better, for you to run with, and disseminate, already-created revolutionary innovations for the good of all?

Five starting points for you and us to consider

  1. Capitalism ‘works’ when it adds significant value, erodes when it merely takes value from many pockets into a few, and implodes as it destroys value for the many.

See this punchy article about the Great American Bubble Machine.

  1. We add value when the output we produce exceeds all costs, including societal and environmental costs, and the benefits gained by users are far greater than the price.

Our output can be: an idea, product, service, software, on-line training modules, life-changing psychological processes, tools, technologies, radical business models, organisational change programs, enlivening new business strategies, different pricing models…

And we can dramatically reduce costs by barter, volunteering, sweat equity, automation, customer-funded software development

  1. What the world needs now is… collaborating, co-operating capitalism, that embraces a strong value adding ethos – for the good of all.

Look for the gold within, and mine it

  1. If you are a service-professional, then over the years, you have developed transformational ideas, tools and programs. So now, when you see the world as your client, you apply this ‘gold’ of yours to a large-scale social ‘problem’ – and you work collaboratively with key others –   you morph from a ‘consultant’, into a highly effective large-scale innovator… from a frog to a Prince or Princess!   [Okay, okay, yes I get carried away sometimes].
  2. If you lead a well-established medium-size or large firm. or social organisation … and if you have a long, hard look:   Inside the minds of your talented team… At your past projects…Within your client organisations…  And at your proven systems and processes… you’ll find hidden, I guarantee, much, much gold for you to release and mine.

“ Most larger organisations identify and mine less that 10% of 1% of the rich-making IP they already contain.”

Why not start with this one-year team project:  What’s the hidden gold we have within us all that we will turn into $100 million new value over the next 3-5-10 years?  How will we do that?

Set up your skunk works

Ever since the second industrial revolution, R&D labs, think tanks, break away maverick start-ups, and secretive skunk works have created the world’s most revolutionary innovations. At least that’s true of technology and product innovations.

Today, at the smaller end of town, these skunk works are more likely to be incubators, accelerators, or collaborative work spaces – like WeWork, Hub Australia and Gravity Co-work.

The three distinguishing features of most of these ‘revolution-creating’ groups are:  1.  They sit outside existing organisations.   2.  At least in intent, they are collaborative.  And 3.  They have a strong product and technology focus.

So… three reminders, as you set up your skink works

  1. An invention is not an innovation until it’s taken up and used in a ‘market place’ or by an audience.
  2. There are millions of innovations which are not technology or products.  e.g. Systems for getting competitors to co-operate.  Ways to identify and measure intangible assets and values.  Major cost-reduction processes.   New raw materials and forms of energy.  Marketing which creates new customers.  Different channels of distributing – like the original Party Plans.   Creative way of funding… like micro-financing, crowd-funding, and crypto-currencies.   Social network maps.
  • Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line. But two of his key innovations were dramatically improving its effectiveness and efficiency. and doubling the wages of his workers so they could afford to buy his cars.
  • General Motors’ innovation was aquiring a financing arm that provided both dealer finance and debt finance for customers to buy their cars.
  • “Virtual currencies, perhaps most notably Bitcoin, have captured the imagination of some, struck fear among others, and confused the heck out of the rest of us.” – Thomas Carper, US-Senator.
  1. The value add of innovating lies more in the dissemination of the new technologies, new ideas, new possibilities, new ways of being, doing and having, than in does in the invention of them.

What are skunks works?

The term ‘skunk works’ originated from a famous Al Capp cartoon, and was applied to a smelly, working tent of a secret group working at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation during WW11.  A team lead by engineer, Kelly Johnson, was tasked with creating a jet plane to counter the growing German jet threat.

The formal contract from the US military arrived four months after work had begun.  But Kelly Johnson and his team – using 14 rules and practices –  designed and built the XP-80 in a staggeringly short 143 days, seven less than required.

Autonomous group

The term Skunk Works is now a registered trademark.  But it’s still widely applied to maverick groups sitting ‘outside’ a business or not-for-profit  – operating with a high degree of autonomy, removed from bureaucratic controls, and producing highly advanced or secret innovations.

“In 1980 Big Blue [IBM] used a skunkworks to break free from its suffocating mainframe mentality and join the world of the PC, at a time when many of its rivals were unable to make the switch,” says The Economist.

What’s disruptive nnovating all about…?

Disruptive innovating is like Start Trek:  “We’re going where no one has gone before.”

This means we’re

  • learning on the job as we go
  • finding out. and getting answers to. what we can only guess at, when we begin our innovating journey
  • discovering what it is we do not even know we do not know – the thing that once got Donald Rumsfeld tied up in knots
  • working iteratively through many trails and errors, and possibilities and dead ends
  • failing fast, learning as we go, and adjusting
  • tick-tack-toeing with potential customers all along the journey…

Shaking up the givens

“Great works of fiction…”

Innovating is also looking at the ‘givens’, the certainties, the sureties, the verities, the ‘ways we do things around here’ and giving them a big shake.

And of course, that’s risky, the outcomes of that shake-up are uncertain, and of course there’s a strong element of capricious and luck, and being the ‘right’ person, doing the ‘right’ things, at the ‘right’ place, at the ‘right’ time.

None of this can be captured in a business plan.  At the beginning of the creating-inventing-innovating journey, a business plan is one of the best works of fiction in the business.

70% don’t have one

In fact, despite enormous institutional pressure on entrepreneurs and innovators to create detailed business plans, recent research published in the book Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck” found that 70 per cent of successful founders did not start with a business plan.

Their success was due to a combination of the four elements in the book’s title:  Heart, Smarts, Guts, and luck.

So… ditch the idea of business plans.   For the first 2-3 years, at least

What to replace it with?  We take this up in next week’s blog:


As you launch out as an independent maverick innovator… consider these seven things:

  1. See the world as your client.
  2. Aim to make the world far better.
  3. Ask and answer just one overwhelming question.
  4. Look for the gold within, and mine, leverage and ‘breed’ the gold you already have.
  5. Set up a skunk works.
  6. ‘Ditch that business plan’
  7. Work collaboratively with your allies and your competitors – a theme we take up next week.

Happy innovating

Neville Christie

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