Friday, August 28, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 8/24/15 - 8/28/15

When we talk about innovation, the most common imagery that comes to mind is usually tech companies right? Well this week Blair Palmer, UNICEF Innovation Lab Lead, sat down with Sibi Lawson-Marriot, the UNICEF Humanitarian Policy Specialist to talk about the ethics for innovation in the field of humanitarian assistance. Below is a small clipping from the interview. To read the full interview (which I highly recommend) visit 

“Blair Palmer (BP): Are "ethics of innovation" for UNICEF any different than a more general "ethics of design"? If so, why? If not, explain.

Sibi Lawson-Marriot (SLM): I do believe there is a difference. There are elements of accountability to the affected population that may not be present in a purely deign-driven scenario. There are risks and power dynamics that make for a different kind of innovation process. There may be a need for more upfront investment in capacity building to enable a genuine, informed consent, and there may need to be reflection on how the benefits of the innovation can be most fairly shared amongst those who created it. 

BP: How does UNICEF develop its ethical viewpoints, especially when it comes to technology?

SLM: We start by applying the Principles for Innovation and Technology in Development, which has become a standard ethical framework that UNICEF developed some years ago. We work closely with private sector partners, academics, fellow practitioners (both development and humanitarian) and community and government representatives to share ideas about what ethical dilemmas or risks may exist. We also review comparable bodies of ethics, such as medical or research papers, and compare them with areas where we have had to develop ethical standards, such as interviewing children or conducting research that involves children.”

Did you know that one of the biggest growing fields for innovation is the Agtech field? For those of you who don’t know exactly what this is (I’ll be the first to admit, I had no clue), Agtech is simply the field of agricultural technology. Well, with Agtech on the rise, Forbes wrote an article this week that discussed the various forms of innovation with the Agtech field. These forms include sensors, drones, and sustainable nitrogen. “The Swiss company Gamaya has created a small and light hyperspectral imaging system (HSI) in a camera for drones. HSI is used to collect and processes information from the electromagnetic spectrum and lets you more easily identify materials, detect processes, find objects when the sensors scans or take an image of something, in this case, terrain.” Gamaya equips these drones with the HIS camera and from there it is able to capture images and develop a survey of the crops. One of the organizations discussed with respect toward sustainable innovation is calles Azotic Technologies. This UK Company “has created a new nitrogen fixing technology based on a food bacteria which makes it sustainable nitrogen.” The rest of the article features fascinating facts about the world of innovation in Agtech and explores its future.

According to an article this week by The Guardian, there is a proposed bill in California that will ban drones from flying below a certain height in order to protect public privacy. The cause of this bill stems from an instance in which Hannah-Beth Jackson, a state senator, was vacationing and experienced a drone fly into her backyard and record her conversations. The counter to this bill argues, that this bill will squelch innovation within the drones and technology field. Mario Mairena, senior government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), argues that “’There is a growing commercial drone industry and companies are developing legitimate uses for drones. This law leaves very little room for a commercial drone corridor in the sky…’” What do you think about this bill? Could it harm the innovation field for technology like its critics are claiming? Or is this bill simply just a protection act to secure public privacy? Read the full article and figure out where you stand.

Are you a mobile user? Odds are, that if you are, you either own an IPhone or an Android. This point easily illustrates how hard it is to break into the smartphone world as an innovator. However, John Sculley, former Apple CEO and cofounder of the Obi Worldphone is doing just that. Sculley’s master plan however is to completely avoid the U.S. markets altogether. “Obi is launching two android models aimed at countries where the smartphones that matter most are not high-end flagships such as iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models, but rather budget-priced phones for young, first-time buyers.” According to an article on Fast Company that discusses this new business, both of these models look very sleek and were well designed for their price-bracket. The interesting point from this article is the innovation that was able to continue on by simply just changing the market audience. 

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Continue Learning This Fall with IIR’s Portfolio of Innovation Conferences

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day is almost here, and with that, the unofficial end to summer.

As the kids start heading back to the classroom, now’s the time to think about continuing your learning as well. The producers of FEI: Front End of Innovation have a full line-up of innovation events dedicated to your professional and personal development.

Take a look at what the Fall has to offer:

Foresight & Trends
@future_trends, #FT15
Activate Trends. Find, Sell & Create the Future
September 29 – October 1, 2015
Los Angeles, CA
Download the brochure:
Register today & save an additional $100 with code FT15BL:

The Corporate Intrapreneur Summit
@fei_innovation, #IntraSummit
October 8, 2015
New York, NY
View the agenda:
Register today & save an additional $100 with code INTRA15BL:

BEI: Back End of Innovation
@BEI_innovation, #BEI15
Exclusively Focused on Innovation Execution
October 21-23, 2015
San Jose Marriott, San Jose, CA
Download the brochure:
Register today & save an additional $100 with code BEI15BL:

Innovate Canada
@fei_innovation, #Innovate15
Get Ready for the Next Wave
November 16-17, 2015
Toronto, Canada
Download the brochure:
Register today & save an additional $100:

Plus, Save the Date!
FEI: Front End of Innovation USA
@fei_innovation, #FEI16
The World Leader in Advancing Innovation
May 10-12, 2016
Boston World Trade Center, Boston, MA
Subscribe to receive program updates:

We hope to see you at one of our innovation events this fall!

All the best,

The IIR Innovation Team

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Earn a FREE Pass to Foresight & Trends 2015: Become a Guest Blogger

Earn a complimentary all-access pass to Foresight & Trends 2015 by serving as a Guest Blogger at the event. As a Guest Blogger, you’ll have access to FT’s comprehensive agenda attracting attendees from all functions and disciplines who are responsible for identifying and translating future opportunities. Whether you are in strategy, marketing, trends, research and insights, innovation and/or brand strategy and design, FT has something to meet your needs. Learn more about the conference here.

By participating as a Guest Blogger leading up to and at the event, you’ll receive an all-access pass for the entire event, taking place September 29-October 1st in Los Angeles, CA. As a Blogger, you will get a pass to the 3-day annual event, which includes breakfast and lunch every day, plus exclusive access to a networking community and on-demand webinars, to help you grow and learn throughout the year.

Guest Blogger responsibilities will include writing at least one post per week for the Front End of Innovation Blog between now and the conference and attending specifically assigned sessions at the event and blogging live or same day. 

Apply today by sending your name, title, company, short biography and links to your blog or writing samples, along with a few sentences about why we should choose you to be our 2015 Guest Blogger to Amanda Ciccatelli at We will review your submission and contact the chosen Guest Bloggers directly with more details.

Additional blog post guideline include:

                     Blog Posts must be original content or a list of curated resources not easily found elsewhere.
                     Titles ideally should be provocative and about 6 words in length.
                     Post must contain at least one large image or rich media (logo, shutterstock, video, etc.,) and credit must be given.
                     Content must be practical, entertaining, informative and timely but must holdup over time (does not need to tie-in to any event).
                     Ideal length is somewhere between 300-500 words or a 5-7 minute read.
                     Must include an author byline with bio, contact and photo add credibility to each post.
                     Please share your posts with your own networks and LinkedIn groups.
                     Bonus points for backlinks and keywords use.
                     No promotional or selling, marketing content ever – A quick tie-in at the byline or editor’s note level is okay but we don’t to use our platforms as a marketing channel, instead we want to offer thought leadership and informative POVs.

Guest Bloggers are responsible for their own travel and lodging.

All readers of our blog receive an exclusive 100 discount off the current registration rate with code FT15BL. Register here:

Use Driving Insights To Bolster Growth

The lifecycle of an innovation project uncovers far more insights than can be filtered, harnessed or used.

Those new to an innovation discipline can get intoxicated from this endless wellspring of insights.

The insights range from deep consumer empathy that augments, validates and deliciously contradicts everything a company thinks it knows about a market segment, customer ritual or product category to a staggering range of myth-busting insights about competitors, novel and new distribution channels, technological possibilities, different revenue opportunities and business models. As stated, the possibilities ferment into a heady brew.

Organizations new to an innovation will codify each insight and seek to find a way to actualize it. The analogy would be a teenage boy they easily falls in love with any girl that is remotely nice to him.
There are real consequences for taking these actions – and the foremost one is Opportunity Bloat. One organization cannot possibly handle the typical influx of insights that spawn from even one innovation project challenge.

Insights are useful only if they are aligned with core strategic growth priorities. Then, you have to sift through the heap and refine the most potent insights.

We call these shape-shifting insights “driving insights.” Inside them resides the ardor that inspires leaps in the market, real growth.

Driving insights sometimes come from consumers, sometimes from the engineering or technology teams, sometimes via rigorous business analysis. Most often, a driving insight is a fertile combination of these lenses: customer experience, science or technology, and commercial sense.

Therefore, a driving insight is a leitmotif that cuts through the dross and doldrums of corporate orthodoxies and market prejudices.

Driving insights provide real competitive advantage that can compound top-line growth while providing a useful, usable product, service or experience new to the world.

Filter all of the insights ruthlessly. Prioritize. Watch out for the ones that show up with the urgent sense of a burning bush, but end up low-watt once the refining fire of initial interest wanes. Work to articulate two to three driving insights and allow them to serve as a compass for your innovation project.

The trick is to not get distracted by the false gold of too many insights. Some may have value; some may not. Using a lens that is part customer-centric, part technology possibilities, part business strategy, your organization can uncover the driving insights.

By finding the driving insights, you can choose where to play, how to win and how to turn these findings into a sustainable leadership position within a given category.

Michael Graber, managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, can be reached at

Friday, August 21, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 8/17/15 - 8/21/15

Earlier this week Google, in a blog post, announced that it will be “entering the Wi-Fi router business” by launching its own router. The router, called OnHub, will be priced at $200 and will be so aesthetically pleasing that it’ll be able to sit out in plain view, meaning it will also sit somewhere where you can have the best connection). This new product will be co-produced with the Chinese computer manufacturing company, TP-LINK. Features of the router include the ability to allow “users to monitor bandwidth by device, run network checks, and text passwords to friends.” According to Google’s post earlier this week, the new router will be able to support Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4 connections. This is a very smart move coming from a company that is always trying to add to its repertoire of internet based products. Interested in buying this jazzy little thing? The OnHub is rumored to appear for presale within the next coming weeks, so keep an eye out.

Can you build and design a blueprint for innovation? This was the question being asked in an article on Fast Company discussing a groundbreaking new design to build an innovation district in Miami,Florida. The design of this new district is described like so: “a gleaming building wrapped around an expansive tree-filled courtyard. All the walls are glass so you can see what's happening in the ground-level retail and open-plan offices on the upper floors. In lieu of cramped hallways there are wide-open walkways and a snaking ramp that ascends to a rooftop lawn. Apartments are close by and there's a constant hum of activity and interaction throughout.” Sounds like something out of a dream right? Well much like it is in the world of business where everyone is chasing to develop to “next big thing,” developers and cities are starting to build on this idea (no pun intended) and foster innovation within entire neighborhoods. The common themes of this “innovation” district are, transparency, flexible spaces, and multiple different ways and opportunities for people to meet spontaneously. Learn more about the design of this “wonder-world” on

Big things are happening in the world of innovation within companies promoting the concept of maternity leave. This week Fast Company featured an article that highlighted a unique tech startup called LeaveLogic. The basis of this organization is to give employees a platform to use that will answer their maternity/paternity questions and help them plan their pregnancy in advance. According to the CEO Anna Steffeney “’Our research indicates that our technology is touching the employee an estimated three to five months before they would be comfortable going to HR to get these answers...’” The new software also confronts another common cultural problem in the workforce dealing with people being encouraged to hide a pregnancy. With this software, once an employee notifies the employer “’just-in-time training’ is delivered to a manager, which explains the available resources for a team with a member on leave and the importance of employee retention.” This is just another example of innovation and growing within an organization’s internal system.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…LeTV comes along and shocks you. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Chinese company, they are essentially the Chinese version of Netflix. Much like Netflix, LeTVproduces their own show, movies, and sports. However, not like Netflix, they are attempting to build an electric car of their own that will compete with Tesla. According to the article on Fast Company, in 2014 the CEO Jia Yueting “even cashed in $1.2 billion of his own shares, then loaned the cash back to LeTV, presumably to help fund the project.” This week the company just released their draft sketched for the electric vehicle being named “Le Supercar.” This is extremely exciting innovation news as it touches on the trend of companies breaching into different fields and markets then the fields they were originally design for. The article is very interesting for anyone who loves to hear about explosive innovations and companies going outside the box to reach different audiences.

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Go From Idea to Market with Innovation Execution Best Practices at BEI

FEI: Front End of Innovation has shared the tools, tips and best practices to generate the ideas, but what comes next is true challenge.  Your great idea is nothing without great execution. Join us at FEI's sister event, BEI: Back End of Innovation to uncover innovation execution strategies proven to drive revenue and unlock growth within your organization.

BEI: Back End of Innovation 2015
October 21-23, 2015 // San Jose Marriott // San Jose, CA
Why Should You Try BEI: Back End of Innovation?
Innovators Need Permission to Fail
Nintendo's Tim Russell, Manager, Organizational Development will share the effect fear has on innovation, and how leadership development can support innovation on the back end.

See Firsthand How Innovation is Brought to Life
BEI brings you outside of the conference walls to TechShop. In addition to a private tour of the facility, you'll hear from entrepreneurs who arrived with an idea and left with a multi-million dollar business (think companies like Square, DoDo Case and Lumio Book Lamp). Tour limited to 35 people, register early to secure your spot!

Select, Value & Scale New Ventures
Intel's General Manager of New Business Initiatives, Mark Pontarelli will share the processes THEY USE for execution and strategic selection that are not based on the judgement of individuals, but rather processes that can be applied for selecting, valuing and scaling ventures.

Accelerate the Pace of Innovation in Your Organization
The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation reveals how they've incorporated human-centered innovation methodology and design thinking practices into new care delivery models.

Solve Your Million Dollar Problem
Innovation leaders from Hewlett-Packard, University of Oregon, SmartOrg, DuPont-Pioneer and Ingersoll Rand provide the insights you need to overcome your challenges to drive innovation forward. From building credibility for your innovation team, overcoming objections to balance your portfolio with incremental and innovative projects, this workshop covers it all.

Download the brochure for the full agenda:

BEI delivers truly unique experiences not found anywhere else. Register today to secure your spot and save. Use code BEI15BL for $100 off the current rate when your register:

All the best,
The BEI Team

Monday, August 17, 2015

When Less Means More. Product Portfolio Strategy.

Anxiety floods the boardroom, the conference rooms, every decision. Costs are rising. Returns are flat. Margins are thinning. Now, private label competitors are beating us in every area: technology, price, placement, design, and sales. Worse, they have turned the category that we invented into a commoditized war zone and keep us in a rigid box that controls every factor of our influence and gives them every advantage. 

At this point, most companies who can relate to the above scenario make a horrible misstep, line extending their current product line. They assume that more lines in the water equal growth. While this theory may sell a few more SKUs, in reality it feeds an addictive mindset: more is better. The issues compound. Now, that the brand name hits the shelves with a new line, private label flanks their move and copies their makes and models. The universe of decisions, already too rich with choices for even the most discerning consumer, expands. 

While consumers are reeling amidst a bad-shopping experience, the competitors are fighting it out over new features that only they will understand. The race is on, but the game is fixed. 

At this point a novel, industry-wide technology trend may appear. Even though your company is not the major player (the platform), the default thinking inside the company is that this wave—despite slow as molasses market adoption—represents a way out. Indeed, this technology wave may break the deadlock of our existence. Thought through, though, this area is merely another distribution channel where we are a minor player without much authority or autonomy. So, symbolically speaking, taking the mask off of the mass retailer and putting it on the face of the connectivity giant. As the Who sang, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” 

The essence of the issue at hand is brand management, coupled with product management and innovation. Given the feature-creep galore and fixed mindset, no one is taking risks to be a market leader. The equity of the brand—and the category—was sold up river and now every circuit of the business is plugged into the losing game, without the saving grace of brave actions taken to re-establish market leadership. 

Our advice: change the mid of the category. Invert the thinking around the category. Start with the product line. In the above scenario, more is not more. More is less: less margin, less profit, less market share. Trimming the product line into a few to several choices will do three, key things. 

(1)First off, having fewer products means more standardization and less parts; less costs. 

(2) Second, fewer choices have been proven to be a good thing for driving consumer preference and brand protection. 

(3) Third, focus. 

With fewer products, the company can reinvent itself with a focus that is not spread across an acre-long spreadsheet of poorly performing, me-too products. 

Yes, it seems counter intuitive, but it the retail game of brand verses private label, less is more. 

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 8/10/15 - 8/14/15

Imagine growing up in a region where the worst thing that could happen in your morning commute was not a slow metro train but rather, a Scud missile launch crippling the buildings around you. For many people around the world in war-torn nations like Syria, this fear is a reality and innovation for peace and protection is more necessary than ever. This type of innovation, bearing the name PeaceTech, is actually on the rise in nations like Syria. PeaceTech is a field of innovation that applies technology to the issues of violent conflict and war in order to bring out peace. An article released by Fast Company this week followed the story of a 26-year-old Syrian named Dishad Othman that built a system that would warn his peers when a Scud missile was launched by the regime. “The system, called Aymta, received reports from local activists of missile launches, calculated the trajectory and likely arrival time, and sent mobile alerts to registered civilians inside the strike zone.” Due to the fact that most casualties from Scud missiles are caused by collapsing buildings, this alerts gives people more than 10 minutes warning to get away from the buildings and or into a bomb shelter. According to Sheldon Himelfarb, President and CEO of PeaceTech Lab, “’When the bullets are flying these are not the tools which are going to end that kind of warfare," he says, "but they are critical to preventing those wars from starting.’" This just goes to prove that innovation is key to bringing about big change in every corner of the world.

This week Fast Company released an article announcing that Google has decided to launch an umbrella company called Alphabet, Inc. that will replace Google as the “publicly traded” entity. The official announcement from Google was made from a corporate blog post by Google CEO Larry Page. “The new Google, Page wrote, will be ‘slightly slimmed-down’ and focus on the company's core Internet services.” This decision comes at very interesting times when Google is often criticized for trying to offer too many services as its core has matured. Now with the creation of Alphabet, Google can focus on running the company’s major services while Alphabet can focus its efforts on more innovative and newer services. It should be interesting to see what new practices and innovative steps this development may lead to.

You know that small arrow on your screen that follows your motions as you move your mouse? Well give it a couple of years and that white arrow will soon be an avatar for the smartphone that we will physically hold in our hands. This is, at least, what Tomás Dorta, an associate professor at the University of Montreal believes. In an article posted earlier this week by Fast Company, the issue of how to “reinvent” the modern day mouse cursor is explored. According to the article, Dorta unveiled a new approach to the mouse cursor at the SIGGRAPH 2015 conference. “His approach uses a smartphone or tablet as a sort of 3-D mouse to a connected screen or headset, which shows a first-person view of a 3-D interface—whether Hyve3D, some Oculus Rift game, or even a 3-D operating system.” The process works by turning the mouse cursor into an avatar that’s also invisible in a 3-D world. The rest of the article features highlights and video clips of what this will look like in real form. Fascinating right?

Hey all you one-man business owners! Today is a great day because it’s Friday. Well that, and because Fast Company released an article discussing 5 great apps that will revolutionize the way you do business and are also free. The five apps listed include Simplenote, GoToMeeting,, Postfity, and Tiny Scanner. From syncing your notes across multiple platforms to having an app that manages all of your social media accounts, this article highlights the usefulness of these 5 free apps and how each individual one can help you manage your business better and more efficiently. Tapping into the resources of these 5 apps is an excellent way to save money while also building a stronger and more efficient business. Interested in learning how each of these individual apps functions? Read the full article at Fast Company.

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at 

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