Skyscraper, Inc. At-A-Glance

Check out our latest At-A-Glance overview PDF and reach out to us with your toughest innovation challenges!

Why do we deliver more actionable innovation strategy, new product ideas and prototype designs?  We combine real industry innovation experience with a unique process that brings out the best creative thinking from cross-functional teams.

The result is ideas that break through for consumers and are rooted in the client’s capabilities.

Skyscraper, Inc. At-A-Glance

Retailers: Embrace the Smartphone-Browsing Consumer

Retailers: Embrace the Smartphone-Browsing Consumer - Bloomberg BusinessweekA friend of mine, Stephen George, were out for coffee a few weeks back in NYC, discussing the future of retail.  We agreed that we’re just about to see a wave of innovation in the retail landscape, driven by the increased power of consumers to immediately search for information, pricing, and reviews.

While a lot of different innovations are sure to pop up, we believe there are some keys to success that many retailers will have to adopt.  So, we wrote about them for Bloomberg Businessweek’s Management Blog.  Give it a read, and post a comment to the article!

To be clear, we came up with far more potential innovations than the ones in the article, such as using market-based fulfillment modes and changes in the dynamic between retailer and manufacturer.  Stay tuned,  for another article on another day…

How Tim Cook Can Keep Apple Innnovative


Photo by Noah Berger/Bloomberg

Photo by Noah Berger/Bloomberg

Skyscraper, Inc. president Michael Murphy recently contributed to Bloomberg Businessweek’s Management Blog.

The topic:  supporting creativity, taking risks, and creating the right innovation ‘mix’ at Apple.    The article comes at a time when Apple is being criticized for their innovation strategy.

There will be issues as Apple continues to grow.  The core issue is that they must manage through a transition from a figurehead-lead model to the model more typical for mature organizations such as in CPG or traditional manufacturing.

Read on, and post your comments under the blog post on Bloomberg’s site!

Giving consumers a ‘Mission’

Check out this article via Jeff John Roberts on how J&J and P&G are changing the tenor of the dialog with bloggers.  While basic product placement with bloggers in exchange for an online review is nothing new (I’m sure you’ve heard of BlogHer by now), this is an interesting twist.  This twist on the traditional blogger placement is courtesy of Social Media Link.  (Nice work, SML!)

Giving bloggers a mission gives the blogger a purpose.  This is a far better way to highlight a  product’s features than a simple review that can take whatever form the blogger wants.



At my product innovation company, we like to do the same thing to get insights from consumers.  Focus groups and consumer interviews are useful tools.  But, what if we give a consumer a specific task to do in her home or at the store?  By giving her a challenging mission to accomplish, we can reveal:


- How the consumer meets current needs, especially when we tell them that they cannot use any of their existing products.

- Product and packaging delighters.  We can ask or infer what elements of the product or packaging are helping to communicate the benefits the consumer is looking for.

- Rationale.  The consumer can talk us through how a decision was made.


Missions of all sorts (religious, scientific, expeditionary) have been used for a long time to both accomplish worthy tasks, while discovering something about yourself.  Have you ever been sent on a mission?  Why not use this technique next time to learn even more about your consumer?


Would love to hear your stories on learning through Missions – post them in the comments!

Benefits of video gaming?

From Pong to PlayStation 3 –

I don’t have a long attention span.  So, I’m a miserable gamer.  I’m not much for crossword puzzles, or long games of backgammon either.

But, since I am just a bit older than the Atari 2600, I did grow up with the video game.  And, I always find the history of innovation fascinating.  I always like to consider the evolution of a product category’s benefits over time.  Certainly, the early days of video gaming primarily delivered a novelty benefit.  Today, I would suggest several benefits derived from gaming:

What benefits do you see from gaming?  When we consider product innovation in other categories, what inspiration can we find from the business of gaming?

The bigger question is whether or not we can successfully use gaming environments to help solve innovation problems.  I believe that games can uncover latent desires and needs in a way that traditional research could never do.  Gaming has already been used this way for scientific applications, why not other innovation challenges?

Post your comment after the break…

What’s Your Boost?

Passing through O’hare, decided to hit Jamba Juice.  I’m not a frequent Jamba Juicer (is that the right moniker for their fanatic clientele?), but I do enjoy a good smoothie from time to time.

I won’t wax gourmet about my beverage and instead get straight to the point:  The Boost.

For those not familiar, Jamba Juice and their smoothie fast feeder kin typically offer a range of flavor options. But, you can typically customize your order by adding vitamins, antioxidants, probiotics, or a colon cleanse.  (Note to self:  send colon cleanse show idea to the guys at Epic Meal Time)

The idea of upselling is as old as sales itself. High-function Boosts cost $1 extra (did someone say margin?)

But, some basic Boosts are often free. That is, customization of some degree is built into the product model at its conceptual baseline.

You’re not just trying to sell your customer on something additional, you’re creating the expectation that customization is core to the experience. It follows that once that door is open, the customer should be more open to paying for even higher-value upgrades.

The question is, how can we build Boosts into other product and service experiences?

- Hotels:  every reservation presents a range of customized free amenities (premium toiletries, free movie, snack assortment) but also presents a menu of high-value options (personal concierge, in-room massage)

- Consulting:  Ensure your base proposal has 2-3 options that are included in the price and must be chosen from, but then offer additional services as value-adds.

- Consumer goods:  Ensure every package has a ‘FREE PRIZE’ inside, but then offer additional relevant boosts via eCommerce.

- These are just a few from the top of my head, post yours after the break!



Would someone from 100 years ago recognize today’s classroom?

Think about how our lives have changed – pace, technology, skills needed to win.  Someone from 100 years ago likely wouldn’t recognize the way we work, commute, or communicate.

But classrooms are largely the same.  Someone form 100 years ago would still recognize a classroom today.

Our kids must compete globally.  For the knowledge workers of the future, does our education system support the creativity and competence needed?

Why don’t/can’t we innovate?

- Fear of failure?

- Performance pegged to standardized testing?

- Reluctance to let go of traditional curricula?

- Funding?  (I’m not sure this is a compelling barrier to innovation)

- Others?  Post your thoughts in the comments.


A non-exhaustive list of areas for re-consideration:

- Start times for high schoolers.  Recent studies suggest that physical changes in an adolescent’s brain chemistry shift the timing of peak mental capacity to later in the day.  Yet, high school starts earliest of all the grade levels.

- Technology integration, not supplementation.  Children at ANY grade level shouldn’t go to ‘computer class’.  The computer should be integral to their learning.

- Phase out unnecessary or outdated skills.  For example, why do we teach cursive writing?  Does anyone really need to learn the finery of an old-fashioned form of shorthand when touch-typing skills are so much more relevant?

- Brain psychology.  Our teaching methods have simply not kept pace with the latest research on how our brains process and store information.


Have you seen any great innovation in education lately?  What other areas in education are in need of innovation?  Please post your comments!