Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What’s the Big Deal with Miniaturization?

By: Emily Warner, Research Engineer, bb7

PRODUCT MINIATURIZATION IS HUGE. THE TREND IS DRIVING PRODUCT INNOVATION. HERE, EMILY WARNER SIMPLIFIES THE METHODS OF MINIATURIZATION INTO BITE-SIZED PIECES.

WHAT IS MINIATURIZATION?

Miniaturization is a powerful innovation tool utilized in nearly every industry. The basic concept of miniaturization is taking something and making it smaller. Sounds simple, right? It’s easy to assume that miniaturization merely involves scaling a component’s dimensions down to create a smaller component. Sure, this scalar shrinking can work up to a point; but this approach breaks down when the fabrication processes and/or materials are incompatible with the miniaturized component.

To illustrate limits to miniaturization, take a piece of paper and fold it in half. You reduced your writing space by 50% through the process of folding. If you keep folding the paper in half, eventually you will be unable to fold the paper anymore. At that point the folding process breaks down. To make that piece of paper even smaller, you must change the process. At this point, you need to try a new process: break out your trusty scissors and cut the folded paper in half. The size of the paper is still reduced, but through a different method. The original method, folding, eventually broke down and a new process, cutting, became necessary to continue. If only product miniaturization were so easy!

While oversimplified, the process of miniaturizing that piece of paper illustrates the driving force behind many innovative miniaturization methods.


METHODS OF MINIATURIZATION

MINIMIZE

Reducing the size of individual components to make a smaller overall product is a straightforward concept. However, the implementation is often more complex. When components are reduced in size, the whole system can be affected. The connections (or communication) between the component and other pieces of the system could change. Imagine taking a gear of a watch and changing its size. The altered gear is not going to fit with the other gears of the watch. To make it fit, the surrounding pieces will also need to be altered. In the case of miniaturized electronic components, associated changes can include signal output, board mounting and interface alterations.

The influence of one component on the overall system is often extensive, and adapting the original design to incorporate miniaturized components requires a fair amount of time and effort.
Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS) have spurred major advancements in electronics miniaturization. MEMS are extremely small mechanical or electro-mechanical systems. Imagine a system of gears that is smaller than a dust mite but produces an electrical signal that can be detected by the larger system. For perspective, see the next image (below) where a MEMS is compared to a human hair. In general, MEMS can be categorized as structures, sensors, actuators, or microelectronics, and thus can be utilized for a wide variety of applications in almost every industry.

Battery technology has also paved the way for miniaturization. Through the development of new chemistries, manufacturers have been able to pack more power into a fixed space. This allows for either a longer battery life in the same footprint or reduction in the size of the battery while retaining the same life as the original. Additional flexibility in battery geometry also permits the design of smaller products.

Battery geometry can be tailored to utilize available space, unlike traditional bulky batteries which forced the product to be designed to accommodate them.

Much like the mobile phone, data storage has experienced major improvements with miniaturization. Movies used to be stored on film and in relatively large VHS and Beta tapes. Now, physical copies of movies are stored digitally on DVD and Blu-ray discs, which in turn are being supplanted by streaming services. Data storage for PC’s and other devices has followed a similar path, to USB flash drives and SD cards. The Micro-SD cards are a far cry from floppy disks. Not only has the footprint of the data storage device been drastically reduced, but the storage within a given footprint has skyrocketed. To store 1GB of data on 1.44MB 3.5” floppy disks you would need 729 disks! A 1 GB storage capability is considered small by today’s standards, where 32GB and 64GB SD cards are commonplace.

COMBINE

There are many examples where miniaturization of a product is not focused on shrinking the size of individual components within a product package, but rather combining functionality. In these cases, multiple components with historically independent functions are combined to save space within the product. For example, capacitive touchscreen technology has allowed for the combination of the keyboard and display in smart phones. A smart phone itself is a combination of several previously independent devices, merging the functions of a phone, PC, personal organizer, media player, camera, gaming console and GPS.

OUTSOURCE

Outsourcing shifts functionality from the physical hardware of a device into software. Outsourcing was initially done by adding more intelligence to the devices themselves. The rapidly expanding market of internet-ready devices has enabled additional computational power and intelligence to be outsourced to remote servers.

Instead of doing all the computation on its own, a connected device can send and receive data from a larger computing system possessing the hardware that would otherwise take up space in the device.
For example, the popular music identification app Shazam allows a user to record a snippet of an unknown song on their device and upload it to the Shazam system. Once uploaded, Shazam compares the unknown song to a comprehensive database of songs. If a match is found, Shazam sends the song info to the user’s device. While the phone sends and receives data, the analysis (and the robust database and computing power required) is “outsourced” to Shazam.

Outsourcing is also applied to data storage. Data can be uploaded to that famous “cloud,” where it is stored and managed on remote servers. More and more companies (e.g. Netflix, Google and Dropbox) base their business model on leveraging cloud technology. These companies offer services for managing personal and enterprise content. Our devices, files and libraries have all shrunk because of outsourced data storage.

Rather than a single large server network, small computing tasks can be distributed to many independent devices to accomplish a larger objective. The Samsung Power Sleep application allows individual mobile devices to assist in global scientific research led by the University of Vienna. Users donate mobile power while they sleep as small packets of data are received by their phones to perform calculations on. Results are returned to research lab servers before app users awake, harnessing the vast network of computing power in idle smart phones to help scientists solve problems. Currently, the app is being used for comparing protein sequences. The University will release the results via an open source (free access) database, available to scientists worldwide for use in a wide range of scientific endeavors, including disease treatment and prevention.

IMPROVEMENTS BY INDUSTRY

COMMUNICATIONS

Miniaturization has had a far-reaching influence on many different industries, but one of the biggest benefactors is the communication industry. Thirty-two years ago, one of the first commercially available cell phones, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, hit the market. Measuring 13 x 1.75 x 3.5 inches and weighing in at 1.76 pounds, the only thing it could do was make calls. An average smart phone from 2015 measured 5.8 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches, weighed 0.34 pounds, and was packed with enough functionality to provide multiple communication platforms, entertainment, internet access, and so much more. This transformation was achieved through miniaturization, and it has fundamentally changed the way that we interact daily.

MEDICAL

The medical industry has also reaped the benefits of miniaturization.

One of the main drivers is the need to make portable, patient-friendly equipment. X-ray machines were historically installed in a dedicated room, but are now small enough to fit on a cart that can be wheeled to patients’ rooms.

Improvements in portability have allowed for more treatments to be administered outside of a traditional clinical setting. Patients are now able to take treatments home that historically would have required weeks of hospitalization.

To that end, bb7 partnered with Bellerophon to develop the INOpulse Mark2 device, currently in clinical trials. This medical device is a miniaturized, portable version of a larger predicate device. It delivers nitric oxide to patients to treat the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension. Initial devices that used this technology were on a wheeled cart, while the Mark2 weighs 2.5 pounds and is about the size of a paperback book.

On an even smaller scale, Nano-Robotic technology is being developed to aid in medical diagnosis and treatment. One application under development plans to inject tiny machines into the bloodstream that will selectively deliver treatments directly to diseased tissues. Technology like this will allow more intelligent, patient-specific treatment options that may lead to better outcomes.

AUTOMOTIVE

Like the communication industry, the automotive industry has embarked on a radical transformation. The industry is shifting from “simply” manufacturing vehicles to creating the much-publicized self-driving cars. Already, cars are self-diagnosing smart vehicles that double as multimedia entertainment systems and personal navigators. The automotive industry has always added “bells and whistles” to high-end automobiles but, with the help of miniaturization, an increasing number of features can be included in standard vehicles, including smart headlights and Bluetooth connectivity.

Driven by gas mileage and consumer demand, weight is a critical factor of vehicle design. Miniaturization has provided the industry with the small, light components which make it possible for some car models to have features like automated parallel parking and blind spot monitoring. And those self-driving cars that will forever change the industry and our lives? An achievable reality – thanks to miniaturization innovation.

About the Author: Emily Warner is an Associate Research Engineer at bb7, a product development firm. She studied Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in musculoskeletal biomechanics at the University of Iowa. Her work within product development is diverse and includes everything from competitive analysis of consumer goods to improving the performance of medical devices. She has worked on products in every stage of product development from the initial ideation sessions through product performance evaluation. Emily leverages her extensive knowledge to bridge the gap between engineering and medicine.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Introducing the FEI On Demand Webinar Series!

As innovators, we are constantly seeking the next big idea, product, or service to make ourselves indispensable to the organization.

 The producers of FEI: Front End of Innovation are excited to announce that we’ll be bringing you the cutting-edge content and speakers to keep you informed on innovation imperatives and best practices year-round. Our innovation webinar series takes you beyond the in-person event, and is designed for executives with a relentless focus on year-round innovation. Each quarter, the FEI team delivers a 3-part webinar experience designed to empower innovation executives to think and act differently around the hottest topic in innovation.

Schedule of WEBINARS:

CONSTANT DISRUPTION
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 – 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST
True cultural transformation now requires a disruptor to mobilze a companywide grassroots movement. This 3-part series  focuses on how interanal disruption- from creating internal diverse teams to looking externally for new partnerships.

FAILING FORWARD
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 – 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST
Real innovators are those who don’t shy away from the provocative- those who are willing to openly discuss the topics that are considered ‘taboo’ in the boardroom- like change, failure, and starting over. This three-part series tackles how to fail forward, pivot fast, and turn obstacles into opportunities.

BECOMING A CORPORATE INTRAPRENUER
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 – 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST
Intrapreneurs are emerging as powerful forces across innovative organizations. Unlock new business value by harnessing the potential of the most entrepreneurial minded innovators within your organization to drive growth beyond your core.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thought Experiment: Describe a World Without Innovation


How would you describe a world without innovation? 

We are heading into our annual trip to Boston for the Front End of Innovation conference. And, in honor of our book, The Physics of Brand we’ve identified an appropriate thought experiment.


What would the world be like without innovation? For those of us living, working and thriving in the “innovation” universe, it seems like heresy to even write this thought experiment. We are taught in business school, “innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage.” We grow used to seeking out the new, intriguing and innovative solution to age old problems. It is the energy source for any organization aspiring to grow, lead or stay out in front of the marketplace.


How could we even consider the idea?


To know how valuable something or someone is to you, consider the world without. What would you miss? What wouldn’t happen? What would you do instead? What would we imagine if we didn’t ponder new solutions to problems? What would we daydream about if we didn’t consider an alternative future? What would the human race be without imagination?


To start, innovation is rarely associated with the “new to the world” but dowsed like salt on an English meal to describe much of the iterative stuff we see daily. The list of history changing “new to the world” innovations includes the printing press, paper currency, the compass, democratic governing, magnifying lenses, transistors, the telegraph, antibiotics and perhaps a few more. The list of what a majority of people describe as innovative would be too long for this writer to type before the FEI conference begins. So, we would live in a more dangerous, economically challenged and unexplored world if innovation wasn’t something we did as human beings.


According to Yuval Noah Harari, Author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, imagination is our single attribute which puts us above all other species. We evolved to dominate the planet and all other species because we imagine. The ability to imagine is the first step toward innovation and we have thrived because of imagination. Though I do wonder what Yuval would say to the iterative innovations like Snuggie for Dogs, Fake Ponytails, Vibrating Ab Belts and Subprime Mortgages. Perhaps these are the inventions for which the human race is not proud. And, if that’s what we consider “innovation” then yes, take me to a place where innovation is no longer an imperative for survival.


Yet, for those who don’t abuse the word innovation, let’s continue to hold it high and reference to our greatest accomplishments as a human race. And, if we consider a world without innovation, perhaps more of us would show up at places where it thrives. We would immerse ourselves in the warm pool of knowledge a conference like FEI offers. We would run to the places where ideas are exchanged, minds are lit up and participants leave with a renewed energy for finding the next solution to a nagging social ill.

Let this thought experiment be a test, as you connect with people at FEI in May, ask them this simple question, “what would the world be like without innovation?” If you get a thoughtful response, then you know they’re a member of a class of human beings with a high standard for what we can accomplish. If they brush it off, perhaps they’ve not thought hard enough about what their work means to the world. If they say, “well then I wouldn’t have to come to this conference” you might want to move on to the next person.


If you’d like to connect and talk more about innovation as a cultural challenge, how thought experiments can be used to inspire or how your organization values imagination, design and innovation, please reach out. We will be at the conference all week talking about The Physics of Brand, design and the stories that inspire us.


Kitty Hart, Lucy Robb and I write for the FEI event blog, please reach out if you have a story to share.


Founder, Capsule Design

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Innovation Interview: Q&A with Keurig Senior Innovation Director

In our Innovation Interview series, each month we talk to thought leaders, inspirers, and innovators in the industry to pick their brains about the state of innovation, trends, and what’s in store for the future. This week we caught up FEI: Front End of Innovation speaker Rachael Schwartz who is the General Manager of Keurig Connect and Senior Director of Innovation at Keurig Green Mountain.

Day-to-day, Schwartz has one mission: drive strategy and flawless execution of Keurig Connect through better understanding consumers wants and needs to provide them with improved, smarter, and more personalized beverage experiences. When it comes to strategy-driven innovation, she is in her element. For nearly two decades, she has artfully navigated innovation for companies in the consumer products, food and beverage, and financial services industries. Today, Schwartz is leading the development of Keurig Connect, Keurig’s IoT platform at Keurig Green Mountain, the $4.5 billion personal beverage system company responsible for changing the way North Americans drink coffee with its Keurig single-serve brewing system and a portfolio of 80+ powerhouse specialty beverage brands.

Here's what Schwartz had to say:

What is the key to transforming ideas into market winning strategies? 

Schwartz: I believe it’s critical to obtain a solid understanding of the unmet consumer needs in the category and ensure your strategy will help make life better for the consumer.

How does design thinking improve innovation?

Schwartz: Design thinking is a good process to make sure the consumer need is matched with the technology capability and the business strategy as all three need to be aligned to have a successful product. Design thinking incorporates many different methods of really understanding the consumer and their needs to map to the technology and business strategy.

How can innovators learn how to work alongside the technologies that will shape their product/service/experience innovations of the future?

Schwartz: Innovators can study the projected trajectories that a technology may take and identify how that could affect the consumer experience with their product.

How does leadership, teams, and the environment help empower and accelerate innovation?

Schwartz: Innovation can easily get stuck in large company processes or killed by large company metrics and never can come to life.  Therefore, it is important for leadership to provide the resources to fund innovation and clear the path, from a process standpoint, to allow innovation to be developed. 

Why is business model innovation a powerful way to breakthrough?

Schwartz: How can companies stop conventional business models from impeding innovation? In today’s digital world where there are much fewer barriers to entry in many industries, every company needs to think broadly about what industry they are in, what problems are they solving for consumers, and who their competitors are.  For example, oil companies are pivoting to become energy companies, car companies are mobility companies, and pharmacies are becoming wellness centers. 

Schwartz: When you rethink the problem, you are solving, you recognize that companies with more diverse business models may be more successful at solving those problems.  That’s why it’s critical to innovate without the constraint of your current model. This, however, is hard to do when you are disrupting your current company.  Therefore, many companies will choose to place bets through investments in companies with the disruptive business model or create arms-length subsidiaries to place those bets.

How can open innovation leaders de-risk external collaborations and usher in more efficient pathways into their organization?

Schwartz: They can enter external collaborations with a clear understanding of what learnings they wish to gain from the collaboration, what are the metrics for success, and what is the path for introducing learnings from the collaboration into the greater organization.

Join Rachael at her FEI session “Journey into Connected Appliances and the IoT” on Wednesday, May 10th at 12:00 PM EST.  Learn more: https://goo.gl/R0ycmv


FEI takes you through the entire innovation process- from ideation through to execution. Get the tips you need for creating fast, agile & opportunistic innovation teams to turn a great idea into a market winning product. Use exclusive LinkedIn discount code FEI17LI for $100 off a pass to FEI in Boston next month. Buy your ticket here: https://goo.gl/R0ycmv

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Perfect Business Book

Don’t we all wish it existed? That book that holds within its pages the elusive magic formula that weaves its way from Ideation to Execution and results in a successful venture. I am constantly being asked by clients and participants to recommend IT, The Perfect Business Book, and I struggle with the question every time.


There is no one Perfect Business Book. It’s a bit like parenting, there is no onesizefitsall. Unless you are geographically located in the same place as the author, have the same perceptions, the same upbringing, the same support, circumstances and a myriad of other ‘samenesses’, how can a book that is the sum of one person’s experiences, be the perfect solution for your business or your life? It can’t.

My recommendation is always to read wide. Read chapter headings and summaries of business books. Read authors who have created businesses similar and far removed from yours. Read articles and journals and books and listen to Ted Talks. Read fiction so your creative juices are stimulated. And then adopt and adapt the philosophies that most resonate with what you are trying to achieve through your business and the goals and vision you have set. You have set them haven’t you?

Read to fill the gaps. What are the skills you lack? What aspects of business do you know little about? Are you a control freak? Read The Surrender Experiment by Michael A Singer. Are you an introvert? Read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. The truth is a book won’t solve your problems but it should stimulate you to develop your own solutions.

The most successful business people read (success measured by what makes you happy and brings you a fulfilled life, not by your bank balance). Warren Buffet reads between six hundred and one thousand pages per day. His advice is to, “Read five hundred pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest”. 

So where do you start selecting the books to add to your bookshelf? OK, or device.

Books on the list could include The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, Purple Cow by Seth Godin and Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder. Personal development, marketing and planning covered in just three titles.

And then there’s Blinkist for the lovers of ear buds and audio. It’s a wonderful little app that gives you a 15-minute summary of a book while you’re on that treadmill or pounding the pavement on a sunny day.


Fortunately, there is no magic formula. After all, who wants to be swimming in a sea of sameness? Happy reading.

Christina Gerakiteys is an ideation, innovation and creativity expert. She is the Founder of Ideation At Work, dedicated to opening hearts and minds to possibility. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

It’s All About the Product, Silly!

The seminal Harvard Business Review article, Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma, transformed the way corporations approach strategy. The article argues that to become an industry leader, corporations must choose to focus on one (and only one) of three value disciplines.

The value disciplines are Operational Excellence, Customer Intimacy and Product Leadership. According to the article, Operational Excellence means “providing customers with reliable products or services at competitive prices and delivered with minimal difficulty or inconvenience.” Examples of companies typifying this value discipline include Amazon, FedEx and Wal-Mart.

Customer Intimacy, as defined by the article, is “segmenting and targeting markets precisely and then tailoring offerings to match exactly the demands of those niches.” Consider Home Depot, Disney and Starbucks.

The third value discipline, Product Leadership, is defined as “offering customers leading-edge products and services that consistently enhance their use or application of the product, thereby making rivals’ goods obsolete.” Think Nike, Google and Apple.


While the article argues that companies can become industry leaders by going after one of these value disciplines, bb7 dares to argue that there is an area in business where you can succeed at all three value disciplines. That area is (naturally) product development. Yes; it's all about the product!
We believe that, if your product development strategy scores in all three value disciplines, you will achieve market dominance.

Operational Excellence can be achieved through product development in many ways. A major way bb7 helps companies with this focus is through design for manufacturing (DFM). Customer Intimacy can also be improved by product development. We advocate user research; it’s an important step in the product development process for uncovering user needs and developing a path to user-centered designs. Product development is obviously necessary for Product Leadership, and a major way to maximize the impact in this focus is through product road mapping.

bb7’s Kerr dental wand case study is one of many examples in which a product achieved market dominance by hitting all three value disciplines. bb7 worked with Kerr on evolving dental curing wands, resulting in the Demi Plus and the Demi Ultra.

We achieved customer intimacy through user research, which revealed many customer needs and directed the team to focus on improved ergonomics, usability, weight and cleanability for both the Demi Plus and the Demi Ultra. Meanwhile, we upheld Operational Excellence by incorporating DFM at every step - bb7 worked with Kerr’s manufacturing source from the very beginning to ensure feasibility and efficiency.

The team aimed at Product Leadership through product road mapping. While developing the Demi Plus curing wand, they simultaneously worked on its successor, the Demi Ultra. The Demi Plus was advanced but the Demi Ultra was developed to take advantage of future technology. Product road mapping provided Kerr with a first-to-market product - the Demi Ultra curing wand was the first and only curing light to feature two ultracapacitors, which recharge to full power in under 40 seconds. The ultracapacitors never need to be replaced or serviced and allowed the curing wand to be fully sealed (no vents for cooling required).

The Demi Ultra was born from product road mapping to achieve Product Leadership but it also incorporated findings from user-research to achieve Customer Intimacy and DFM principles to achieve Operational Excellence.

If a company approaches product development with concurrent emphasis on user-research, DFM and product road mapping, it can simultaneously target all three values: Operational Excellence, Customer Intimacy and Product Leadership. If a product achieves all three, that company will be poised for market dominance. In short, “It’s All About the Product, Silly!”

About the Author:  Maggie Graham is an accomplished marketer and performer. Target audiences and theatrical audiences need to hold on to their socks – Maggie will knock them off. For more than fifteen years, she has worked across the country in sales, marketing and entertainment. She has worked in product development for over a decade.

Her marketing work has included experience with multiple design firms, a Tony award-winning theater, a market research company and a web development agency. She is responsible for all things marketing-related at bb7: campaigns, events, advertisements, public relations, content and more. Notably, she was the mastermind behind bb7’s website.

Her entertainment career has included acting, ballet, improvisation, standup comedy, film, teaching and puppetry. She has worked with Second City, has been featured in media (print, television, radio, etc.), and was named runner up by the Chicago Reader for best stand-up comedian.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Human Capital Management Just Got Easier

By: Ciaran Nagle, Global Marketing Manager, OND LLC

Managing. Human. Capital. When you ally the word 'capital' to 'human' you start to make people into an asset that can be invested. They begin to be equated with money. And that, I submit, is exactly the way that we should - and now can - view the whole process.

When we invest money in a business we follow up that investment by tracking the share price and comparing the dividend. We look out for news items about the companies we've invested in. Bad news - should we sell? Good news - buy more? We have skin in the game and we pore over all the metrics to find out how our money is doing. We care about our investment.


But when we recruit people into a business, we plant them in their new team and walk away. If they're not salespeople we have few ways of observing their progress and finding out if the investment was worthwhile. We get reports from time to time from their line manager, but these are frustratingly subjective. We have no real way of knowing if we have made the right decision.

Talent investment - a better strategy?           

Talent investment is a new phrase that has the right ring about it. It sees people as valuable items who should produce double, tenfold, maybe a hundredfold their value. When you have an item that has the potential to produce a hundred times its own worth, you look after it, don't you? You watch it daily as it develops and give it everything it needs. You treat it with care and place it in the right environment.
It's the difference between throwing seed on the ground and hoping it springs up and a scientific approach of planting seeds into carefully prepared ground where they'll receive exactly the right amount of light and water.

Now there is a scientific approach to planting people into carefully prepared ground. It involves a detailed exploration of the business team you're about to endow with a new team member (the prepared ground) as well as a perfect understanding of the natural capabilities of that member (the seed).

The new approach works. It is associated with unprecedented levels of employee engagement, productivity of circa 90% of potential and staff retention results that are putting cobwebs on recruitment interview rooms around the globe.


The new approach is embodied in Method Teaming, an established teaming science. It can be taught to anyone. But Method Teaming is especially relevant to those who want their human capital to produce a hundredfold return. You might be a venture capitalist. You might be a hiring manager. Or you might be in HR. But whoever you are, if that's the kind of talent investment you're looking for, you now know how to sow that seed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Innovation and the Tech World


While the world of Technology has filled the world with tools of productivity and connection, it has its drawbacks. Many people today suffer from the shadow side of technology.

Droves of burned out screen-addicted zombies sign up for Digital Detox weekends. Families schedule a family night without cellphones at the table once a week or only allow their preschoolers to play games after reading. As well, technology has imploded many of the societal norms we once held sacred: look how online dating has disrupted generations of courtships rituals, for example.

Indeed, with culture moving at the speed of a Tweet or a Pin, it’s hard to make sense of it how it all either enhances or distracts from life. Even more perplexing, the lines between our digital lives and non-digital lives blur in so many ways that the fabric of a contemporary life has some pixels, code, cloud uploads, profiles, and updates woven into the overall tapestry.

This week I presented to a room filled with CIOs and IT directors. It was unusual for them to hear about Innovation, as the subject is often heard only by those in Strategy, Marketing, Product Management, or RND.

And yet, it was the right audience. Given the way they work, they were familiar with many typical aspects of innovation. They work in rapid, iterative cycles in Agile development, began user-centered design with personas for software creation, etc.

In many ways Technology was the fulfillment of the Industrial Revolution, making us more efficient and accountable, ensuring we are all billable and productive. Unknowingly, the rush to digital the world of business and culture at large has ushered in a new era: the post-industrial world.

After we mapped the world, shared it online, digitized the office, and reached Big Data’s dream of optimizing supply chains and accounting for operational excellence, a new hope is realized. Technology is here to serve people, not the other way around. Computers and devices that once seemed so monolithic now empower our species to think about our role in a more noble purpose than the Industrial Revolution’s primary objective: the profit motive.

Now, we see how we can positively impact education, the environment, healthcare, and other systems in need of redemption using the these tools. In other words, we are seeing the rise of the human-to-human era where empathy trumps power and a win-win relationship between organizations and people is a preferred outcome to a monopoly.

The most interesting aspect of this human-centered movement is to see technology companies embed innovation practices into their cultures and to see such empathy-based methods as Design Thinking, mindfulness programs, or generative frameworks like Growth Mindset Training be integral to leadership training as such companies as Microsoft, Intel, GE, IBM, aspects of Google, and even at companies such as Citrix.

They know the world has changed and they need to transform and pivot to remain not only relevant, but vital in the human-to-human era. The companies that innovative themselves will innovate the world.


Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.





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