Monday, November 23, 2015

FUSE 2016 Full Program Just Announced

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. The FUSE 2016 program is here! Download the FUSE 2016 Brochure for full program details:

FUSE 2016 Miami
Designing Brands with Purpose
April 4-6, 2016
Nobu Eden Roc
Miami, FL
Visit the website:

The pressure to build meaningful connections with your consumers has never been greater.  Brands built on trust, empathy and purpose are thriving in our new economy. Join us and discover FUSE 2016: celebrating a new synergy of brand strategy and activation, design, culture and trends to build better brands that change the world.

Exclusive Savings – Use code FUSE16BL for a $100 discount when you register:

We hope to see you in Miami this spring!

The FUSE Team

Friday, November 20, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 11/16/15 - 11/20/15

As the flu season hits and people begin taking antibiotics, many people are trying to come up with innovative ways to also restore the good bacteria that antibiotics can wipe out. In a fascinating article put out by Fast Company this week, the idea of banking or harvesting the healthy microbiome through their human stools is discussed. The idea here, is then when the microbiome is needed, it can be transplanted back in. According to the article, a nonprofit called “OpenBiome” are heading up these efforts and surprisingly, are having success. “It may sound a little unappetizing, but it's already happening. OpenBiome is pioneering this process, albeit for a more limited set of circumstances. In the last few years, with the FDA's tacit approval, doctors have successfully used microbiome transplants (often called fecal matter transplants or FMTs) to cure otherwise untreatable infections of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria called C.diff. In more than 90% of cases, repopulating patients’ guts with a donor’s healthy microbiome had cured them—even after all drugs failed.” OpenBiome has provided 7,000 safe transplants to patients and just piloted a new service called PersonalBiome. This service will allow patients who are vulnerable to C.diff infections to proactively store their own microbiome. A perhaps unappetizing innovation, however, seems to be very creative and helpful in restoring your body’s good bacteria. But…an honest question, would you try it?

Ever since I was little I always hated taking my temperature. I always worried the thermometer wasn’t sitting right or, if checking it via mouth, that it would be affected by the cold drink I had just drank. But we live in the future folks. Now, according to a Fast Company article, there is such thing as a temperature reading sticker for babies. That’s right. Not only are you able to tell the temperature of a sick one, but they are able to wear a cool sticker for it! The sticker is called The Fever Scout and is priced currently at $59. “It’s a reusable sticker that you apply to your baby’s torso to constantly monitor his temperature. Via Bluetooth and an accompanying app, it will send a trend graph of temperature updates to your phone, and even wake you in the middle of the night if a fever gets too high.” This cool new piece of technology comes from a company called Vivalnk that also enlisted NewDealDesign, the firm behind the Fitbit. The article also goes into quite a bit of detail on how the product was designed and how the design of the finished product eases the mind of parent with a sick child. “…the worst case scenario for The Fever Scout would be that, instead of being a device that can worry for a parent, it became a conduit to amplify their concerns with more data points.” I highly recommend reading the entire article, as it is a fascinating technological innovation and provides interesting insight as to how it these innovative pieces are designed.

I consider myself a pretty politically engaged person, so it comes as no surprise that an article about a tinder-like voting app caught my eye. Fast Company this week, wrote about the app called, “Voter” which essentially matches people and their political views up with the candidate with the best fit. “The Voter app invites users to answer eight yes or no questions about key issues, such as whether to legalize marijuana, keep same-sex marriage legal, and repeal Obamacare. These questions will help users figure out what political party or candidate best represents them.” Initially I thought, “Wow, this is great. People who don’t have the time to read up on candidates can still be somewhat educated.” However, after thinking about it a little more I’m a bit concerned that this innovative app may have a reverse effect and rather discourage people from actually reading up on candidates and their views in the news. It’s easy to have an app that says “Candidate X supports Y” but as we’ve learned from recent elections, candidates can say one thing and vote a different way. Being able to reveal all of these complexities in one app in order to match an individual’s views will definitely be difficult if not impossible. I highly encourage readers to read this article though, as it is an interesting innovation in the way of voting.

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 

Friday, November 13, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 11/9/15 - 11/13/15

Who knew that innovation could come in the form of the TV Land dramedy Younger. In a Fast Company article this week, the crew of the TV Land show was interviewed at the Innovation Festival and what we discovered was, the cast of the show are real innovative agents. The show, based on a 40-year-old who is struggling to pass as a 26-year-old, also features actress Hilary Duff who, in the interview, explains how even at her age she feels worn down due to the pressures of social media. “She admitted to having moments where she felt like she was taking on too much. ‘I understand the importance of [social media],’ she said. ‘You have to be a brand to stay relevant. But you have to ask yourself, How much do you want to share? How much time do you devote to it? How many selfies can you post? It’s exhausting.’” The major point that came out of this interview was that aging is perhaps not the biggest problem for actresses nowadays. Rather, the push and pull of stresses to fit into a certain mold on social media has worn many of them down. It was very refreshing to hear this take and see it as a form of change and innovative thinking within the film industry. 

This week Fast Company wrote a piece on “How Microsoft Created a New Xbox Experience” with their release of the new Xbox One. In the past, fans have often criticized the Xbox One for having too convoluted a dashboard system that buries the core functions. According to the article, with the launch of their new Xbox One, the company wants to change this by adding a simplifying the menu system. The Partner Group Program Manager for Xbox One, Richard Irving stated, “’we always wanted to reduce the number of steps to at least half. In some cases, we have gone from seven steps to one step…’” One major change with this new system is with its social function. “In the past, if you wanted to see which friends were online playing, if you were in a game, you would have to press the Xbox button to go in the dashboard….Now, no matter whichever page you are at on the main dashboard pages, clicking to the left while at the top brings up the guide, where the friends list is the first icon and automatically expanded.” The article also discusses the design, the testing process, and the initial final product. A very interesting read on the innovation development of Xbox if I do say so myself. 

Robots are taking over the world. Ok, well maybe not the world. But in an article this week put out by Fast Company, there is a robot device that can crawl under the floorboards in a home and deliver insulation. “Developed in London, the Q-Bot goes under the floorboards, where it scans the area and then delivers an insulating foam. The process is both easier and cheaper than pulling up the floorboards, and has an energy-saving benefit.” According to the article, the company reportedly saves households $300 a year on heating and cooling costs after the work has been completed. The creators of the robot also say that this robot won’t necessarily put people out of jobs. Rather, these robots can enable workers to conduct their jobs more efficiently. “’There's nothing wrong with human labor but, if you look at any other industry, they've empowered the workers…the robot can survey and spray an area automatically. But it can't drive the van to the site. It can't open the front door of the house,’” says CEO Matthew Holloway. I think this is actually quite a brilliant design and innovative creation. Usually I’m pretty skeptical about robots but this invention seems to be extremely useful and full proof. Check out the full article here

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 

Friday, November 6, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 11/2/15 - 11/6/15

If you thought being able to pay with your phone was snazzy and cool, just you wait! This week, Fast Company wrote a piece on the ability to pay for products with “smart jewelry.” According to the article, a smart jewelry company by the name of Ringly just announced its partnership with MasterCard which will allow consumers to pay for their items with the simple “tap of a ring.” Here is how it will work: “Users will upload their credit cards to their Ringly app, which will allow them to pay by tapping their ring on a smart payment terminal. ‘People will be able to use their rings anywhere that they can currently pay with Apple Pay or with a chip card,’ [CEO Christina] d’Avingnon says.” This is a really big move in the way of following the trends of innovation in payments to be more hands on (no pun intended). These rings, being sold at and other retailers, can pair with various phones and are controlled using to iPhone or Android app. Interested in buying one? New styles are starting at $195 each.

Museums are great for rainy days right? However, what about visiting a museum on a rainy day without having to even go outside? According to an article on Fast Company this week, The Guggenheim has just launched its first online exhibit. Troy Therrian, who is the curator of architecture and digital initiatives at the museum, believes that museums should be rethinking the architecture and the way the exhibitions are designed. “’A lot of museums have gone the way of introducing more gadgets and gizmos into their exhibitions so that people can experience [the technology] firsthand, but that doesn’t give you a sense of the effect of those things," says Therrien. ‘It’s too direct, and it's not interpretive enough. The idea for the Åzone Futures Market was to create something that would itself display the dynamics of the way that technology is controlling parts of our lives.’” In this way, the digital exhibit, called “Azone Futures Market”, isn’t solely about technology; the exhibit IS the technology. Another important difference between the physical exhibit and Azone is that Azone does not have an end date. I think this is a completely unique and innovative idea for museums to perhaps model after. 

I always grew up fascinated with the film industry, and not because I wanted to be like the people in the films. I was captured by motion pictures because it amazed me how one two hour long video could engross and inspire so many people around the world. I thought that hadn’t crossed my mind at the time was, how many of the scripts don’t make it to the big screen. In an article this week on Fast Company, author Adam L. Penenberg explains the struggle of getting a screenplay to the big screens and how being innovative helped him accomplish what he set out to do. According to the article, Penenberg set out to create a demo film with screenwriter Andrew Dreshner, who actually agreed to write the script for free because they didn’t have the funds. “After Andrew watched dozens of clips of beatboxing on YouTube, some of which had upwards of 50 million views, he recognized the potential in a movie that dove into this art and culture and which came, we believed, with a built-in market.” The story goes, once Andrew signed on and wrote the script, they needed potential investors to fund the project. This search yielded zero results so with a little bit of innovation… the team was able to raise $200,000 to kick start the production. What was the move? Andrew proposed making the movie a low budget indie film and gain more traction with that particular audience. Read more about this project and its twists and turns here

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, November 4, 2015

The Hearts and Minds of Unicorns

The Hearts and Minds of Unicorns

A BEI 2015 Talk By Porter Gale, Former VP of Virgin America

Porter started with a few questions, “Is it easy or hard to innovate in your company?” “Can you recognize unicorns?”

Then she asked, what is a unicorn? Biggest mistake is that people are looking at things that are too obvious when innovating. It takes a special person to see potential, to notice a unicorn., Lyft, HINT water, and others were highlighted.

Questions for culture: What is the tonality of the culture? Do you know what your company stands for?

Innovation is happening at a rate of acceleration that is unimaginable.

After getting a pink slip at an ad agency, Porter landed a job at Virgin America.

“Create an airline that people love,” this simple mantra from the founding CEO drove the company’s action, processes, decisions, and people choices.

The CEO had a deep love of aviation. He tested products at home in his garage.

Virgin changes the interior experience of a plane by focusing on lighting and material for seats. A purple light created a better mood for all parties. Food-on-demand solved the old problem of the cart blocking the bathroom.

Virgin also created WIFI on planes in 2008. It was a $100,000 per plane to outfit the technology. Virgin had 28 planes at the time. Their goal was to launch this feature before JetBlue.

The moments of experience themselves became the best advertising.

Failure was also an important and deep learning at Virgin American. Virgin America started a Reality Show called Fly Girls. It got CEO sign off. When Porter asked the crowd who had seen the show, not one hand was raised. Again, a failure, “a disaster.”

Here’s what was learned. If the risks are communicated upfront, the company will support you.

Question for crowd: Who can you bring on the innovation journey with you?

“Because we were lean, I asked my team to capture stories. Our mantra became travel with your headphones off.” We got to know our customers and each other.  Because of social networks, we are down to 3.2 degrees from everyone else.

As a final test, consider three core values for your company. At Apple, it is Simple, Useful, Beautiful. What are the three things from your organization that you really value? Can you distill it down to three things?

Lastly, remember that fighting mediocrity is an inside job. What are you fighting against? Can you do this fight on an individual and business level?

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.

Overlooking the Obvious: Why Innovation Fails

Overlooking the Obvious: Why Innovation Fails

A BEI presentation by Scott Jenkins, SVP of Innovation and Product Development, Deckers

Scott began this talk insisting on blend work and play. His journey into “the sin of corporate innovation” happened eight years ago.

At an early age Scott became fascinated with running shoes. He met an inventor in 1978, when he was 18. For eight years, he tried to sell an innovation. He was rejected 94 times by every leading athletic CEO.

He asks, “how do corporations judge good ideas?” How do ideas get killed?”

Finally, they licensed the technology to Rekbok and it was a mega-seller. Persistence was key.

His journey took him to the Pentagon, selling a safety innovation, then he joined Deckers.

He bases his philosophy off of his mother’s wisdom: “Look for the good.”

He foreshadows, “it’s people and culture that make change.”

Then, he jokes, showing several hundred innovation funnels that are meaningless, saying “process is necessary but not sufficient to drive innovation.”

But it is not the process that drives innovation. What gets in the way are people who make decisions—and the courage lacking to make such decisions. The over-reliance of process, proof, and security stymie the process.

Corporate executives want to create a “bloodless surgery,” and that is now how innovation works.

He quoted Wilber Wright: “no bird ever soared at a calm.” Likewise, no innovation soars in a calm.”

Scott switched to a few success stories. The first was Uggs, which Deckers bought for 10mm. As Ugg’s grew, they were using all of the available sheepskin they could get their hands on. Prices were rising. But, there was an orthodoxy that Uggs had to made of sheepskin.

They created a product called Uggpure, with wool inside, but a different material on the outside. Then, they tested it with 100 of their customers. They could not tell a difference in the product. Therefore, costs went down, for the company and the customer, while creating a lighter footprint on planet Earth. They saved the company 70mm a year.

By debunking the orthodoxy, it was a win for the company, the customer, and the planet.

Hoka running shoes was Scott’s other example. The insight was that “people choose comfort over discomfort.” The idea was revolutionary, given the barefoot running craze happening at the time. They had to bet that running trends would change away from the minimal style and bet on they consumer three-to-five years from now.

The CEO said to Scott, “No one at this organization can stop you by saying no.” This golden ticket empowered Scott to build the fastest growing running shoe in North America.

So, what truly empowers innovation? (Not process) People. Heart. Character. The courage to lead as innovation officers. Courage is key.

To reward this trait, Deckers gives out an Innovation Courage Award to key innovators in its organization. On the back of the coin it reads:
·      Positive Change
·      Into the New
·      Passion
·      Humble
·      Open
·      Persistence
·      Find the Pain
·      Look for the Good

These eight mantras guide the innovation process at Deckers. These awards are given to people in every department who live out and practice these values.

The core value is courage, “it takes courage to persist, speak up, follow your passion, be a game changer.” What the award does is show that the company appreciates risk taking and bold action, both of which are core elements for meaningful innovation.

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, October 30, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 10/26/15 - 10/30/15

Growing up there were always those kids who would to refuse to drink water unless it had some sort of flavor enhancer. Now, those kids are getting just what they need! According to a Fast Company article, a new product called, “The Right Cup” solves this problem by wafting flavor aromas as you drink, tricking your brain into thinking you’re drinking more than just water. “The design is dead simple. It’s a plastic cup with a liner that emits fruity aromas straight from its plastic. You don’t need to add any other substances. You just fill up the cup and drink.” The article explains that the reason this works is due to the fact that the majority of what we taste is through what we smell with our noses. The tongue has only 5 tastes that it is receptive to: salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami. This is another reason why whenever we’re sick and our noses are plugged, taste is hardly there. The Right Cup is definitely a very innovative and unique invention and markets to a specific group of people who, up till now, have had to buy enhanced water. I will be interested to see where this product goes from here. 

Remember when I wrote about the presidential debate and it being broadcast in VR (virtual reality)? Well according to an article on Fast Company, the NBA’s tried using VR this last week and, they’re words not mine, it was “a lot more compelling.” The article states that after 18 months of privately testing VR on NBA games, the NBA finally decided to unleash it on the night of the opening game between the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans. Also mentioned, is the fact that this was the first professional sporting event to have been live streamed to the public. In comparing it to the presidential debates, the writer expresses that, “watching that debate was interesting, for about three minutes, after which it was no longer a novel experience. That was mainly, I believe, because of the camera placement, and because something about a debate doesn’t lend itself to VR. At least not yet. And that’s coming from a presidential politics junkie.” I wholeheartedly agree with this reasoning. A presidential debate in VR does not nearly have as much action and pace as a sporting match. This is where I believe the NBA game has a leg up on the debate. Did any of you happen to catch the NBA game?

Working in an office can get “crumby” am I right? Between staring at this bright orb of light for eight hours and having fluorescent lights beat down on you all day, life at the office can get mundane. Not to mention the chairs that I know we ALL slouch in. But what if you could change at least one part of this uncomfortable environment? What if…rather than sitting in these uncomfortable work chairs we were able to sit in a chair that has a sitting, standing, and….wait for it…lying down position! Get your finger out of your ear, you heard correctly. In an article this week on Fast Company, a new product called the “Altwork Station” allows you to work efficiently in all three of these positions. “At the push of a button, the desk can tweak the position of everything or fully shift back into sitting or standing. As the back moves, the monitor moves with your eyes, the desk moves with your hands, and the back headrest shifts slightly in or out to best support your head.” According to the co-Founder of the station, Che Voigt, “’you can make one of two choices: you can say you're going to sit in this uncomfortable position because it's more protective of your body. Or, I think we can go the other route, which is, how about we just let people work the way they want to?’" This piece of furniture innovation and design is also unique because it was designed by aerospace engineers. Think you want one? Starting price is at, $3,900, so step on up!

This week, Fast Company wrote an article on IBM’s announcement of acquiring the digital and data assets of the Weather Company. This is a very bold and unexpected move for the company, however it can be seen as an innovation move. According to the article, The Weather Company’s “data sets—which impact everything from the aerospace sector to insurance companies and retailers—could help create new use cases for Watson, IBM's artificial intelligence platform.” In this respect, IBM is most interested in the Weather Company’s in-house forecasting team called WSI. This team works to make sophisticated projections for well-heeled governmental and corporate clients based on weather data. “WSI could offer a new client base for Watson-related initiatives, and help boost IBM’s reputation as a provider of analytics solutions.” IBM’s strong move toward this kind of innovation is a very interesting step for the organization and it will be important to follow new developments that come from this in the coming years.

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, October 29, 2015

How to Create a Culture Where You Can Capitalize on Innovation

Creating a Commercialization Culture:
How to Create a Culture Where You Can Capitalize on Innovation

A BEI presentation by Jay Morgan, VP Global Innovation Bayer Consumer Care

Jay Morgan shared his story of how Merck Consumer Care (now Bayer Consumer Care) began its innovation journey.

The story takes place in Memphis, TN. It begins in 2011. It began with struggle and a question: What are the barriers to innovation in you business that are keeping you from producing the desired results?

In 2011, things were “pretty good, but not seeing great growth.” We got a new CEO who had a very big vision. She wanted the double the size of the business in five years.

Because we were not going to get double the people or double the budget, we had to think in new ways. Value engineering and being more efficient wouldn’t double growth.

Fist, we studied the situation. In Pharma style, we visited other more innovative companies and made a journey of discovery.

The patterns of behavior and culture at these companies ran counter to our pattern. We lacked both ideas and execution—it was a cultural problem. We weren’t getting the results we wanted.

We broke the study into two camps: Incremental Cultures and Innovation Cultures. After a look into the mirror: we confessed we were an incremental culture and needed to change.

The innovation companies had a bias for action, shared work-in-progress, deep collaboration, and shared workspace.

Even the way Insights are gathered and shared are different at Incremental and Innovative companies. At Innovation companies, we go out into the context of the market itself, having in depth and meaningful conversation with consumers.

The frame of the opportunity expands beyond new product development into every touch point in the brand experience: digital, communication, claims, packaging, shopping experience, or a business model innovation.

We developed a five-point plan for changing the culture:
·      Learn by doing (three projects in one year, as a prototype)
·      Start small ($50k budget)
·      Work on tools and culture (Design Thinking; One table, no offices)
·      Work in more cycles (Memphis Innovation Bootcamp)
·      Get help (bring in the Southern Growth Studio to do the projects with us instead of for us)

We also co-founded the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp with Merck, Michael Graber of the Southern Growth Studio, Dr. Brian Janz, and a few others to share this toolkit and creative a broader culture of the Memphis community. In Memphis, we took innovators and applied to social challenges that benefited the Memphis community. We mastered the material by teaching in in several cycles of the Bootcamp.

Key learning for success: Engage the whole company. Form a Realization team—of key players that will help you realize the concept in the market. Debrief everything. Create revenue-based metrics.

The key take-away was don’t wait for leadership to fix the culture. Start. Just start. Start small. Share the results, then scale with each success.

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.

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