Eureka! Ranch History
The Eureka! Ranch was founded in 1986 with a focus on applying Dr. Deming’s systemic approach to accelerating innovation at companies such as Procter & Gamble, Nike, Walt Disney, American Express, Hewlett Packard. The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and Inc. Magazine has named the Eureka! Ranch one of America’s top Innovation Teams.
In 1999, on a trip to the North Pole - documented in the book North Pole Tenderfoot - Eureka! Ranch founder and CEO, Doug Hall made the decision to commit his life to a greater public service than simply creating new running shoes, potato chips, sodas, computers and even caskets for big corporations. Doug’s new mission became about bringing the wealth of wisdom he had learned working with mega corporations to small companies and entrepreneurs - while still helping the corporations thrive.
Doug embarked on an intensive research effort on the innovation process. He had a wealth of archives to mine from his many years of market research testing of innovations. He also had a “laboratory” where he could run experiments i.e the thought-leading companies coming to the Ranch and charitable projects he conducted with small companies and non-profits on Prince Edward Island in Canada and in Cincinnati, Ohio, located near the Ranch. This research and it’s application was so meaningful Doug was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada and an honorary Doctor of Engineering from the University of Maine.
The research also resulted in the book Jump Start Your Business Brain. The foreword to the book was written by Tom Peters and the book became somewhat of a classic - being named to the list of 100 Best Business Books of All Time by noted business book reviewer Jack Covert. The book documented the foundation of our learning on how to turn the art of innovation into a reliable science. The science was grounded in hard data - gathered with real world people doing real world innovation projects. Today this data base has grown to include results from 26,000 innovations and over 10,000 innovation teams.
As we developed systematic solutions that could help small companies, we licensed organizations from Maine to Arizona to Scotland and Canada that serviced the masses of small companies. In an effort to expand the reach of our public service efforts, Doug proposed to a number of universities the concept of teaching college students the mindset and principles documented in Jump Start Your Business Brain.
The new field of study known today as Innovation Engineering was born August 27, 2004 when University of Maine President Bob Kennedy met with Doug, who was delivering the Convocation speech to the UMaine class of 2008. President Kennedy agreed to explore development of an Innovation Engineering discipline as an alternative to Entrepreneurship. The new program would teach every student, no matter what their major or passion, how to Create, Communicate and Commercialize Meaningfully Unique ideas. It would be a “career accelerator” that would help them accelerate their degree, career or passion, whatever it was.
The first Innovation Engineering course offerings at the University of Maine began in fall 2005, piloted by an interdisciplinary faculty group spanning the disciplines of Natural Sciences, Engineering, Business, Education and the Liberal Arts. By the end of 2009, the program’s academic director, Professor Margo Lukens, had led the program through peer review and gained faculty approval for the addition of 14 Innovation Engineering courses to the University of Maine course catalog. Today, the program is offered as a Minor open to all undergraduates, and as a Graduate School Certificate. The University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation licenses it to other Universities and Colleges.
During early 2008, it became obvious that the clients were having a very hard time accessing and understanding the potential for new technologies. At the Ranch we realized that this was a major barrier to success. Our work with corporations taught us that without new technology, the probability of innovation success is very low.
The big problem for small companies - as well as the marketing departments of large companies - was that while inventors loved to talk about invention, business people were only interested in how much the idea would sell. To properly find out the sales potential for a a technology from a University, Federal Lab or Citizen Inventor, a company would have to invest 3 to 6 months translating the technology into a product and conducting research to forecast the potential for sales.
Eureka! spent the summer experimenting with methods of forecasting using our Merwyn Concept Testing technology that we used with large corporations. The result of hundreds of hours of experimentation and some serious inventions was the Merwyn Business Simulation.
The Merwyn Business Simulation makes it possible for a company executive to understand and evaluate the sales potential for innovations in 2 minutes or less. This makes it possible for them to review more technologies and find technologies that can help their company increase innovation and growth with increased speed and decreased risk - increased speed and decreased risk, because the “front end” of technology development has already been done.
Merwyn Business Simulation also made it possible - for the first time - to develop an Innovation Marketplace (InnovationSupplychain.com), making it easy for companies to find and filter technologies for igniting profitable growth.
Later that year, Doug took a sabbatical from the Eureka! Ranch and moved to the University of Maine for the fall semester to volunteer his time teaching Innovation Engineering with faculty teams at the new Foster Center for Student Innovation.
At a speech on September 25, 2009 for the annual meeting of the Maine Development Foundation, Doug announced - with the support of Jake Ward and Renee Kelly of the University of Maine - that three Innovation Engineering Leadership Institutes would be held in early 2010. With the support of the leaders of the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, all three events sold out in weeks. January 27-29, 2010, the first Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute was held at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine. It was an immediate success.
Innovation Engineering Leadership Institutes (IELI) are 3-day events structured similarly to the 4-day seminars that Dr. Deming led in the early 1980s (some 40 times a year) to teach the new mindset for quality. They feature teaching during the day, homework at night, audience questions in the morning. IELIs, like Deming Institutes, are a deep-dive immersion for transforming your mindset. From 2010 to the end of 2012 dozens of Leadership Institutes taught thousands the new mindset.
The foundation of the program was then, and is now, the teaching of Dr. Deming. He taught that 94% of problems are due to the system, 6% are due to the worker. Success in manufacturing required looking at the broader system. He said that 3% of company improvement came from the factory. In contrast, 97% came from never ending improvement in the company’s offerings (Innovation).
Continued cost cutting of the factory would not transform the company. Rather, as Dr. Deming said, “There is a need to find out what will help the customer in the future. To find out what will get ahead of the customer, entice him to buy your product or service. This requires design of product and service and redesign of product and service.“
During December of 2010 the first Innovation College course was taught (BB100) as the first step in a program to educate and enable innovation change agents. They are certified as Innovation Engineering Black Belts.
During 2011 it became clear that, given the state of fear that existed within company executives, a more structured system for transformation of cultures was needed. During this time a series of experiments were run with large and small companies where the leadership was committed to creating a culture of never ending innovation. This research effort lead to the development of the Innovation Engineering Cultural Change process for large companies and the Innovation Engineering Management System for small companies.
Early in 2012 it became clear that the demand for IE Black Belts - to teach companies and to teach students on campus was greater than our ability to supply expert education programs. To address this issue a year long research project was lead by Ranch founder Doug Hall to discover and develop a more effective method of teaching. The academic literature was reviewed - and Doug did a second sabatical at the University of Maine to experiment with the new patent pending Cycles to Mastery™ teaching technology. The method worked beyond expectations. It resulted in a 2.4 to 4 fold improvement in learning.
Cycles to Mastery has made Innovation Engineering scalable. It has made possible new offerings such as Innovation Engineering Leadership Retreats, IE Experiences, IE Green Belt and most importantly a more effective and efficient Innovation Engineering College experience for training Industry and Academic Black Belts.
During 2013 the Innovation Engineering Institute team of the Eureka! Ranch and University of Maine are accelerating more methods, more tools, more learning. The first Innovation Engineering Conference will be held April 28-30 at the Eureka! Ranch to further accelerate the movement to grow cultures of never ending innovation and growth.
Innovation Engineering, as a movement, is only a few years old. However, the learning behind it and the experiments that are its foundation have been developed over the past 30 years. The original idea for Innovation Engineering was sparked in Doug Hall, a Chemical Engineer by education, when he first learned about Dr. Deming’s work at Nashua Corporation in the early 1980s. Dr. W Edwards Deming was the American Statistician credited with helping rebuild Japan after World War II. The founder of Toyota said, “Dr. Deming is the core of our management.”
Doug applied the system approach of Deming to innovation at Procter & Gamble where he and his team set a record creating and shipping into live market tests nine innovations in twelve months. After ten years, Doug retired from P&G and founded the Eureka! Ranch. The Ranch’s primary business has always focused on helping thought leading multi-national companies such as Nike, Walt Disney, Pepsi, Hewlett Packard, and American Express increase innovation speed and decrease risk.
One thing that separates the Ranch from other innovation experts is a relentless focus on measurement, statistical analysis, and development of reproducible systems of innovation. To that end, over the past 26 years the Ranch team has conducted quantitative research on over 26,000 innovation concepts and over 11,000 teams during the process of creating and commercializing innovations.
Beyond corporate work, Doug has a personal interest in helping small and mid sized companies. To accomplish this, he has published multiple best selling books, been a co-host of two national TV shows and one national radio program. In May of 2002, he and Maggie Nichols (Eureka! Ranch COO) ran the first Eureka! Ranch small business innovation program in Scotland. It was then licensed to providers in the USA, Canada and Scotland who within a few years worked with over 300 companies.