Last week I attended the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, and I’m always awestruck by the event. This is the fourth decade in which I have attended, and it still showcases innovation like no other gathering. Our industry continues to reveal new innovations such as Marvin Windows’ new DH hardware, Jeld-Wen’s sashless glass sidelites, and lots of massive folding doors. Many companies use the show to reveal innovation, and this annual event is a great deadline generator for your innovation projects.

If you commit now, you can show off your innovation at the 2017 show!. Let’s get started with some advice: Build purpose into your innovation project to gain the best results. Since we are in the shelter industry and shelter is one of the basic needs of people, purpose underlies our products. But this is not enough if you want to excel. We must be connected to the core purpose of why we need this innovation by asking these questions:

1. Safety- will this make our customers safer?
2. Transparency- will this make our products environmentally advantageous?
3. Efficiency- will this improve our customers’ cost of living?
4. Experience- will this improve our customers use of this product.

A deeper sense of purpose will develop from the answers to these questions. Your team should then create a tagline for the project utilizing shelter purpose and your answers. An example may be “Our Innovative (insert product nickname here) will improve our customers shelter needs and save 20 tons of greenhouse gas release every year” Use this tagline on your reports and in your war room to remind everyone why we need this done.

Another method to utilize during your 2016 project is following the plans in a great innovation book, The Tao of Innovation from Teng-Kee Tan. This is a book about innovation, but it is also a very innovative way to look at innovation. Tan suggests nine questions be asked about your project:

1. How is the nature of your business changing?
2. How do you know when there is an opportunity for innovation?
3. How will you compete to outsmart established players?
4. How do you move beyond status quo?
5. How do you put yourself in the right place at the right time?
6. How do you craft a lasting go to market strategy?
7. How do you know if your idea can survive in the real world?
8. How do you scale successfully?
9. What drives you to innovate?

These are not easy to answer, and Tan guides you through the action steps to take. I believe most innovation projects are not well planned or purposed. If you take these steps above, you will not be in the majority, and you will have a great innovation reveal at IBS 2017.

Lastly, during the show I met with two foundations of our industry who are retiring. It is hard to imagine how much experience and insight we will lose, but we wish them well. Phil Lester of Deceuninck is retiring as VP of sales after nearly 30 years. Phil has helped thousands to build great vinyl products and was instrumental in many companies converting from aluminum or wood framing to vinyl. Great job, Phil!

Jim Krahn, director of research at Marvin, is also retiring after 50+ years. Jim has been on nearly every committee for window and glass standards in the USA and Canada during that time, and I will offer that every window made now has Jim’s influence built into it. Both these men built their companies and careers with great purpose. Have fun!

Please let me know how your Innovation project is going by email at and see over 60 innovations in the Fenestration Innovation Network on Linkedin

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