Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Ice Cream Texture on the Way

In a recent post at, they shed light on a new innovation from Cargill. The new Lygomme FZ615 is a new ice cream producing machine that allows for the gummy texture of candy to be recreated in ice cream to give the ice cream a chewy, creamy texture. In addition, this new creation makes the ice cream have a smoother texture and feels warmer to the mouth. This machine is a new addition to Cargill’s Texturizing Solutions Portfolio.

Florian Baylerlein, the marketing director for Cargill Texturizing Solutions, believes that this could bring in a new era of innovation for ice cream. In recent years, the ice cream market has grown and matured, making it easier for Cargill to target their products. Instead of markets such as children and adults, the ice cream market has now expanded to include frozen yogurts, healthy ice cream, and various premium levels of ice cream.

Other recent ice cream innovation includes a non-toxic anti-freeze in order to preserve the flavor by preventing ice cream crystals from forming on top of frozen foods. The antifreeze would be tasteless and made from a gelatin protein. This protein is from a cow’s hide, called damodaran. This was found after previous attempts of genetic modification from substances in Antarctic fish. Details are here at MSNBC.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Incremental Innovation: True Innovation?

Jeff Nolans’s latest article Incrementalism and “The New Thing” shows us how many startups are slowly succeeding by making incremental changes to what is already out there, instead of disruptive innovation. But, is making incremental improvements just a temporary fad? Will this latest trend last?

At this point, I agree with Tom Foremski from ZDNet. Tom explains on this follow up post to Jeff’s article that innovation must be disruptive, or else there is little chance for survival. An example he gives is the continuing minimum improvements made to web 2.0 technology. Surely, we have all seen different beta versions of applications, but is it genuinely innovative? My answer is no.

Silicon Valley has long been a center of true innovation, but with over 10,000 new startups building off the success of previous companies, it makes it that much harder to innovate. What new trends will emerge from Silicon Valley in the upcoming months?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Are you using Open Innovation?

Steven Shapiro mention’s on his latest post that he has outsourced the design of the new logo for 24/7 Innovation to an open innovation site called This is becoming more and more common as entrepreneurs are turning to other parties to aid in the innovative process.

Steven, like many other innovative thinkers out there are “I’ll know it when I see it” type guys. In other words, they know exactly what they want, but have a hard time getting their point across to professional designers. seems to be a true open innovation website, whereas you can post a synopsis of what you need, and about a day or two later designs will come pouring in tailored to your specifications. What keeps this process innovative is that decide on the final solution, and not the price of the initial design work itself.

Steven shared his example of open innovation, but what are some other examples of open innovation that your company has experienced?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Unconventional Innovation at Amazon

In a recent Business Week article, they interview John Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Amazon is known for its constant innovation and for how they pursued through difficult times, such as after the .com bubble burst and when their stocks were down to $6 after September 11. How’d they make it through the tough times? They continued to innovate.

I found that John Bezos had several great points throughout the article:

--There is no bad time to innovate, but you must keep your innovation focused on what your customers want. If you’re innovating for something they don’t want, they there’s no reason to be innovating.

--You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you innovate. Since you are presenting totally new ideas that no one knows about, then there’s going to be some skepticism.

--Amazon has done their best not to become “skills” focused. If a company relies on their skills inside the company, and refuses to reach out when they know they can’ t do anything, their innovation will be hampered.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Silver Bullet for Group Collaboration over Distance?

No Silver Bullet for Group Collaboration over Distance?

Lots of organizations have to deal with the challenge of implementing standard work and best practices over physical distances. With sales offices, distribution centers, and manufacturing locations scattered across the country, what's the best way to get people who know their stuff to collaborate on process improvement - and then take that knowledge back to their home office?

While wrestling with this challenge, one executive I know preemptively ruled out videoconferencing. It's a common suggestion, but the general feeling was that it's just not useful, has never proven itself in practice.

I happened to agree with the idea that videoconferencing wouldn't help in this situation. The team was talking about productivity improvements for an assembly process - workstation layout and hands-on participation was required to effectively work out the wasted movements. However, when defending the No Webcams position to some gadget freaks around the table, we came up with a/the fundamental flaw with remote video: it lacks spontaneity.

Historically, videoconferencing was set up in specific rooms that had to be reserved in advance. For higher quality connections, equipment is expensive, and the expense had to be pre-approved. Advances in digital cameras brought devices mounted on desktops, but this tied you to that specific location. Today's nifty notebooks have built-in cameras, but these can be tough to use with a group of people (crowding around).

Yes it's possible to use videoconferencing, but the physical limitations tend to quickly dim the excitement of all but the most diehard tech fans. In practice, local process improvement teams would just walk over to the workstation in question, skull out the best way to do something, and take a break for some coffee by the time we had the webcam hooked up ...

Lack of spontaneity is probably why the vast majority of PowerPoints are delivered with printed decks, and not overhead projectors. It's still more time efficient to quickly print off a few copies than it is to chase down a projector, lug it and your notebook computer into a conference room, get everything hooked together, and try to remember how to switch to the external monitor. (Hmmm, good thing they added all those cool slide transition effects ...)

Truth is, having paper copies isn't all that bad. Some folks like to take notes on their handouts and file them away for future reference. The medium of communication has its own utility, a sort of residual value that most people understand how to use. The same is true for fancy collaborative technology like videoconferencing. The magic is in the actual conversation, but that can get lost in the struggle to get the technology working before you can actually use it.

Does this mean that collaboration technology is doomed to failure? Of course not - knowledge capture and reuse, and differences in physical location and time zones, are still problems for organizations that rely on the "old way of doing things". You just need to pick your tools judiciously, and build up to the fancy stuff over time.

  • Wiki's will not work if people don't already have an interest / desire / skill / method for creating documentation. Wikis solve distribution and access problems, but they don't make people suddenly want to write.

  • Blogs will not work if people don't already have the need to communicate while competing for people's attention. Blogs solve time and distance chanllenges and facilitate simple Q&A, but they don't automagically endow authors with reader empathy.

  • Collaboration Spaces will not work if people don't already have the need to share documents and edit them within a group. Collaboration Spaces solve version control and tracking hassles, but they don't help groups create impactful documents where none existed before.

We needed to see productivity improvements in component assembly within 60 days, so flying a couple of key people around the country was a small price to pay for the quality of work that we got. We took a small step forward - getting process experts to a different location, to put faces to names, and empathize over common challenges, experience the satisfaction of defining a workable solution - and experience the joy of business travel. Maybe next time we could look into videoconferencing, because interpersonal relationships and understanding of the power of shared best practice has already been established.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Innovation at Pixar

The McKinsey Quarterly recently profiled (Registration required) innovation at Pixar, in the eyes of director Brad Bird. Brad Bird joined Pixar in 2000, shortly after Pixar saw tremendous success with Toy Story.

When asked what type of people are best for innovation, Bird responded that involved people make for better innovation. Contrary to common thought, not just happy people but involved people. Bird observed that if you have something invested in the project, ideas are more likely to be better and more streamlined thought process.

Another key process to innovation at Pixar was the collaboration between the different groups. Bird found it difficult at first to harmonize the work between so many different departments when creating a film. So how did he do it? He gathered everyone together in the same room, and tore apart their work. After pushing artists to the edge, he had a breakthrough:

For two months, I pushed and analyzed each person’s work in front of everybody. And they didn’t speak up. One day, I did my thing, and one of the guys sighed. I shouted, “What was that?” And he said, “Nothing man, it’s OK.” And I said, “No, you sighed. Clearly, you disagree with something I did there. Show me what you’re thinking. I might not have it right. You might. Show me.” So he came up, and I handed him the dry-erase marker. He erased what I did. Then he did something different and explained why he thought it ought to be that way. I said, “That’s better than what I did. Great.” Everybody saw that he didn’t get his head chopped off. And our learning curve went straight up. By the end of the film, that animation team was much stronger than at the beginning, because we had all learned from each other’s strengths. But it took two months for people to feel safe enough to speak up.

I encourage you to read the article here. It gave me a fresh new perspective on innovation at one of the most well known places for doing it, Pixar.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Speaker Profile: Dean Kamen

This week, we’re profiling Dean Kamen, who will be presenting the keynote presentation “An Evening with Dean Kamen and FIRST Robots,” at the Front End of Innovation Conference May 19th through 21st at the Boston World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel.

Dean Kamen has been an inventor his entire life. His first invention, made in his childhood home basement on Long Island was a device for providing light to the displays in museums. Next was the automatic syringe followed by the portable, wearable dialysis machine, making the quality of life for many who suffer from the problems much better. Kamen holds over 440 patents both in the United States and abroad

Today, Dean is the founder and president of Deka, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, a research and development corporation focused on bringing radical ideas into life. Dean is also the founder of FIRST. Founded in 1989, First is an organization that focuses on children learning and being challenged in the field of technology and innovation. Each year, the program works with 37,000 high school students, pairs them up with corporate professionals, and then they are challenged with engineering design programs that will help them develop a love for technological innovation at a young age.

Kamen still focuses on inventions in the healthcare field, all contribution to helping people live better lives. Some of his recent inventions include the INDEPENDENCE IBOT Mobility System® and the Segway Human Transporter ®. As seen in his interview with Steven Colbert below, he’s been working with the government recently in order to complete a technology that will allow US Soldiers to jump up to the top of a five story building in seconds. (Sources: MIT, IdeaFinder, Wikipedia).

Here’s a video of Dean discussing his inventions with Steven Colbert:

Here’s access to a video at MIT that gives Dean’s biography:

We hope you will join us for Dean Kamen’s presentation. Before the presentation, his robots will be on display so you can see yourself what incredible inventions Dean is coming up with to help the US population. We hope to see you at the Front End of Innovation Conference May 19th through the 21st in Boston!

We’ve now completed profiling our key note speakers for the Front End of Innovation Conference in May.

If you wanted to take a moment and review the other keynote speakers, they are:

Speaker Profile: A. G. Lafley
Speaker Profile: Peter Guber
Speaker Profile: Gunter Pauli
Speaker Profile: Janine Benyus
Speaker Profile: Deborah Ancona
Speaker Profile: Ray Kurzweil

Is Technological Innovation a Fundamentally Scary Thing?

Guest post by Venkatesh G. Rao, Researcher at Xerox and writer of the innovation blog

How do you think technological innovation is perceived? We in the business of innovation often think of our work in uniformly positive terms. It is almost an axiom for us that even with the fundamental dynamics of innovation being that of creative-destruction, innovation overall is good for society as a whole, besides being fun for us.

A little thought shows that we are outliers. The world at large is ambivalent at best, or distrustful or even phobic at worst, when it comes to the wonders of technology. It turns out that we are able to delude ourselves that the world at large loves us because we conflate the perception of science with the perception of technology. It turns out that the former is largely viewed and presented in a positive light by the arbiters of popular culture, while the latter is not. The distinction is particularly stark when you consider movies. Consider this excerpt from an editorial in Nature, from 22nd June, 2006, titled "The Mad Technologist," which teases out this very subtle distinction:

"We find that pure scientists are often treated kindly by film-makers, who have portrayed them sympathetically, as brooding mathematicians (A Beautiful Mind) and heroic archaeologists (Raiders of the Lost Ark). It is technology that movie-makers seem to fear. Even the best-loved science-fiction films have a distinctly ambivalent take on it. Blade Runner features a genetic designer without empathy for his creations, who end up killing him. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, computers turn against humans, and Star Wars has us rooting for the side that relies on spiritual power over that which prefers technology, exemplified by the Death Star."

There is plenty of other evidence, ranging from the Matrix movies to the metaphoric classic of the nuclear age Godzilla, to the Terminator movies. My favorite example is Real Genius, where Val Kilmer plays a physics prodigy who figures how to make a powerful chemical laser, and then foils an attempt by his evil thesis supervisor and his engineer lackey to use a special mirror to turn the laser into a military weapon. One memorable scene shows Val Kilmer celebrating with his friends after figuring out the physics and getting the laser to work. A friend asks, "what are we going to do with it now?" to which Val Kilmer's character replies, "we'll let the engineers figure that out!"

Such perceptions may fade in the next decade, as the most technology-friendly generation enters the workplace, or perhaps they won't -- perhaps technology is, by its very nature, something humans view, at a primal level, as something alien and something to be feared. What do you think?

Infected with Inventoritis

A colleague, Tatsuya Nakagawa, CEO of Atomic Creative, recently forwarded me a copy of his e-Book, Overcoming Inventoritis, The Silent Killer of Innovation, which I’ve had the pleasure to read over this past week. There's a great deal of information here, looking at how inventors, product marketers, investors, and R&D personnel can often loose sight of their actual goals because of the passion for the actual new product offering that can easily consume them.

In this book, it clearly describes how passionate innovators can loose sight of the market they are trying to introduce their product or innovation to. Such a disconnect leads to disastrous results. The book goes into great detail of renowned inventors and innovators whose ideas were tremendous but still failed commercially because they did not fill a specific market need.

The book is filled with case studies and examples of how companies that the public at large may consider highly innovative, in fact are not, simply because their focus, energy and resources are spent primarily on the engineering process rather than developing a market strategy that considers up front a specific need of the market they are trying to reach.

Imagine that? Finding out what people want or need and developing that product or offering. Or even coming up with a marketing strategy that convinces folks they may want or need a product even if they in fact do not. Yes that point seems duplicitous, but in fact what this means is that if you have an idea that you are prepared to invest so much time, energy and money into, you must have some idea of how the market will respond BEFORE you begin developing the product.
Coming from a web development background I can think of a long list of web sites that offered services and functionality that just didn’t meet a market need or effectively convince the market of their value. Even though they offered cutting edge capability that even in today’s Internet were remarkably advanced in comparison, in the end they failed to position themselves in a way that convinced their market of the need to use these sites. But in the end, it’s failure that can help inoculate you to the worst of inventoritis.

UPDATE: I had sent information on the book in a seperate email to colleagues of our LinkedIn Group, and I specifically pointed out a qoute that was in the book:

In his 1930 book, ‘Edison As I Know Him,’ legendary car maker Henry Ford, a close friend of Edison, described inventoritis without giving it a name. Ford described an inventor as one who “frequently wastes his time and his money trying to extend his invention to uses for which it is not at all suitable.”

I got great feedback from the members including this one I thought I would share. It's from Rob Madonna:

This is an interesting premise but I am not certain that Mr. Ford's quote is entirely representative of invention today. Creative product design professionals have come up with new approaches to discovering new functionalities with existing products. An approach called "emergence research" explores the functionality of products that seemingly have no obvious connection. Take, for example a mobile phone and a device that tests insulin levels. Two very functional products -- one to communicate and the other important for those who are diabetic. LG Electronics researched how these products could work together and the result was product innovation. "EMERGING" from this exercise was a new product that married the functionalities of two devices one for mobile communication device and the other to conduct a blood test. The new product using existing functionality in one device can test insulin level in peoples' blood and communicate the results to a health professional/physician. So -- here are two products that when combined, a new functionality exists. My point is, today Mr. Ford's quote, while insightful might also be limited and relative to its time. Suitability therefore, takes on new meaning in this case.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stretching Your User Interface Design Muscles

Stretching Your User Interface Design Muscles

A follow up to my previous post on innovation in user interface design:

  • If you want to keep up with cutting edge thinking on technology - in a very approachable, effective format - ReadWriteWeb is a must for your feed reader. I'm constantly amazed by the number of solid articles they generate every week. Here's one from a few weeks ago with a series of video examples of imaginative thinking about user input:

  • Another ReadWriteWeb article, and this one relates well to the Stephen Anderson presentation I linked to before. It talks about user interactions (web forms) that empathize with and engage the person working with the site. Excellent examples of usability "in the wild":

  • (via Aggregated Intelligence) A very effective way of designing any interaction with data (web form, application dialog box, even a paper report) is by prototyping. I have long favored MS Excel for working out database designs and report layouts; it's very simple way for end users to capture what they want to see, quickly rearranging and adjusting until it is just right. For on-screen dialogs, try PowerPoint; the second link below takes you to a "toolkit" of GUI components that let you work up sample screens / user interactions very quickly, using the comfortable environment of PowerPoint. Another option might be Visio - I've used versions of that package that included shape templates with lots of user interface widgets. Bottom line - it's a lot easier to sketch something out than to have to actually build something "real".

  • Also from the first article above ... if you don't think there's a difference between corporate IT UI and the consumer Internet - does this ring true for you?

    Previously ...
  • If you want to be more than a programmer, stop programming (April 8, 2005)

  • Sometimes analogies work amazingly well ... (July 14, 2005)

  • Fighting with MS Access and version incompatibility (September 26, 2005)

  • Three Best TLAs of all time, the hegemony of Excel, and the Intuitive Front End (August 12, 2006)

  • Excel vs. RDBMS: Choosing the Technology, Winning the Arguments (March 11, 2007)

  • The Innovation Generation and User Interfaces (April 9, 2008)

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    Innovation in Video Games

    It’s amazing to see the how video games have slowly transitioned within the past twenty years. When Atari and Nintendo came out in the mid 80’s, no one realized its full potential. Nowadays, a Playstation 3 has more computing power than a Pentium IV processor. Let’s take a look at what innovative games and technology this industry has to offer us this year.

    This latest CNet article mentions how 2008 is the year of gaming. So far it seems as if this statement is true. Entertainment giants have released great hits like “Grand Theft Auto IV” and “Gran Turismo 5”. Companies like Viacom have begun to open their creative minds by offering innovative titles and opening new worlds. Where else can a person will the Super Bowl, kill monsters, or fly spaceships? The NY Times describes the Sims as one of the longest running franchises in video game history. What attributes to this is its ability to stand out by exploring a person’s fantasy life. The Sims gives its users a human element by attaching a face, but it still able to create a surreal atmosphere for its gamers.

    Where will innovation take video games in this new year? Will games continue to break barriers by offering online capabilities, or will we see a sudden surge of offline game like The Sims?

    A.G. Lafley, Innovating at Procter and Gamble

    CNBC has recently posted an interview with A.G. Lafley on their video website. Lafley discusses innovations that have changed Proctor and Gamble such as the Swiffer and the Gillette Fusion Razor.

    PG CEO on Innovation
    PG CEO on Innovation

    We’re excited to have the CEO of Proctor and Gamble as one of the keynote speakers at the Front End of Innovation conference May 19 through 21 in Boston. For more information on A.G. Lafley, check out his speaker profile here. Also, this week at Nassbaum On Design, he wrote a post on Lafley’s new book Game Changer.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Speedo Innovates

    At the summer Olympics in Athens in 2004, Speedo’s latest suit, the Flatskin FSII was worn 46 times when a swimmer won a metal. So what did Speedo do when the Athens Olympics were over? They returned to their AquaLab and began to innovate to make the next suit for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As this article says in Business Week, Speedo released the LZR Racer in February, which has already begun to break swim records when worn by competitors.

    Over the past four years, the Aqualab Team, comprised of garment engineers, material experts and product developers, tested the form and composition of over sixty fabrics. They’ve even discovered that bonded fabric can work for some swimmers.

    The swimsuit industry competition is fierce. Along with Speedo, Adidas, Arena and TYR all make swimming suits for competitive situations. This summer, at the 2008 Olympics, we’ll see who has done the best job in the innovation category as swimmers take to the pool for the real test.

    The Future in a Crowd's Wisdom

    This post was provided by Ari Popper, President, BrainJuicer NA,

    This past week, an article in the NYTimes: Betting on the Odds, by Steve Lohr, caught our eye.

    The article reveals interesting developments:

    "Fortune 500 companies are using prediction markets to improve forecasting, reduce risk and accelerate innovation by tapping into the collective wisdom of the work force...For years, public prediction markets have been used for politics, like the Iowa Electronic Markets and Intrade, where buyers and sellers bet on which candidate will win a particular race. And there are prediction markets where people place bets on news events (Hubdub, among others), video game sales (simExchange) or movie box-office receipts (Hollywood Stock Exchange)."

    James Surowiki's fantastic book The Wisdom of Crowds inspired us to create an award winning market research methodology for concept screening that embraces and leverages the "wisdom of crowds".

    Companies gain real value in the "fuzzy front end" of the innovation funnel when they employ this methodology with consumers. Traditional methodologies for concept screening in the front end of innovation can deliver less than expository results for what is often a costly and time consuming investment. We conduct "predictive market" studies with consumers to help marketers, innovation and NPD teams unlock and inject "wisdom of crowds" into their decision making processes. With such a high percentage of new products failing, predictive markets are proving to be a remarkable way for companies to proceed confidently and quickly at the Front End to accelerate and improve their innovation process.

    We are thrilled to see predictive markets methodologies gaining traction. We look forward to continue stimulating dialog at the Front End of Innovation Conference about this exciting approach to concept screening.

    Posted by Ari Popper, President, BrainJuicer NA,

    President North America
    +1 818 919 0278

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Speaker Profile: Ray Kurzweil

    This week, we’re taking a look at one of today’s most successful inventors, Ray Kuzweil. Ray will be joining us at the PDMA/IIR sponsored Front End of Innovation Conference May 19th through the 22nd at the Boston World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel. Kurzweil will be presenting the keynote address “The Acceleration of Technology in the 21st Century: The Impact on Business, the Economy and Society.”

    Ray Kurzweil is known as one of today’s brightest inventors, and even been hailed as today’s Thomas Edison (Source). He has won numerous awards and one of the most prestigious being the National Medial of Technology in 1999. In 2002, he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame. He has five books The Singularity is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology, The Age of Spiritual Machines : When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever, 10% Solution for a Healthy Life : How to Reduce Fat in Your Diet and Eliminate Virtually All Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer, and The Age of Intellectual Machines.

    Some of the inventions Ray is known for are a reading machine for the blind, a CCD Flashbed Scanner, and the electronic synthesizer (Wikipedia). Ray’s personal website, KurzweilAI.Net, is a site dedicated to keeping the scientific would up to date with the newest information in the scientific world.

    One of the most innovative ideas Ray is known for is his quest to find immortality. He believes that we are within the grasps of technology, but we have to first understand the full engineering of both our human body and brain. There is a great interview with Ray on that topic at What is Enlightenment Magazine. You can also read a collection of Ray’s essays here.

    We invite you to come see this world class innovator at our conference. We hope you can join us for the Ray Kruzweil keynote speech on May 21st at the Front End of Innovation Conference. Next week, we’ll profile Dean Kamen, who is known for his extensive work with robots that work to increase the standard of living for many Americans.

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Have problems wrapping gifts? Hallmark has new solution for you: Adhesive Gift Wrap

    Hallmark has discovered that people prefere self-wrapped presents are often better to receive than a pre-wrapped gift. But what about those people who have a hard time perfectly wrapping that special gift?

    Their latest innovation is adhesive gift wrap. The roll of wrapping paper is like any other but with the added benefit of an adhesive underside, so no tape is needed (Much like a sticky note). Another benefit besides no need of tape is that it will now be easier to wrap gifts that are not in the shape of a box (for your bowling ball or fishing pole!).

    The paper works by attaching itself firmly to the outside of the present, yet when it is unwrapped, there is no residue left on the gift. This wrapping paper is available only at Hallmark Stores.

    Sources: PR News Wire, Oh Gizmo!

    Competitions Spark Innovation

    Fostering new product development and seeking a potential source of insight can be quite tricky. Innovators must constantly find new means to bring out their creative brainchild, so how does TopCoder Inc. do it?

    TopCoder has a unique method to bring forth new software and applications to the table. This article on Global Best Practices discusses how this company hosts a “submit the best software code” competition on its website. The winning coder receives a cash prize, and is solely judged on its quality and the time spent to create the code.

    Winning codes are later perfected by TopCoder’s application team, and is later launched out to the public. Companies should look into hosting competitions as an innovative way to inspire the generation of creative concepts. Not only does this process save the company a lot of money, it also reduces unnecessary “brainstorming” time from new product development teams. What are some competitions your company presents to encourage cutting-edge breakthrough in your industry?

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Dundalk: Innovating to be sustainable

    In a New York Times article, they’ve shed light on Ireland’s initiative to turn natural elements into energy that can one day power all of Ireland. Dundalk is the spearhead of the energy project, testing ways Ireland can reduce its reliability on fossil fuels. As a result, they are constantly innovating to find new ways to power their town in other ways than electricity. It is hoped that is area of development, “The Sustainable Energy Zone,” will start as a local sustainability project and the project will grow to provide insite to power different regions around the city, and possibly one day, a national coverage of Ireland. The project is supported by Sustainable Energy Ireland.

    The area is set up to support 30,000 people and has a variety of different things, such as a school house, a hospital, a hotel and other things can run off this sustainable energy. With this project, and others Sustainable Energy Ireland plans to have at least 20% of the renewable energy running businesses. A lot of the energy comes from wind, as Ireland has strong winds on the western coast.

    This initiative, along with two others in Austria and Switzerland are focusing on generating energy from natural sources while creating little waste. The webpage for Sustainable Energy Ireland is here. Also, pictured above, is what the development looks like.

    The Innovation Generation and User Interfaces

    The Innovation Generation and User Interfaces

    I don't intend for all my posts about Millennials joining the workforce to be anti-youth. There are some significantly good things this new generation can bring to established organizations - ways of thinking that foster innovation and forward-progress in how organizations use information.

    For example, let's talk about user interfaces (UI). I'm not an old man, but I remember the advent of IBM's Common User Access standard. DOS-based computers and early GUIs introduced UI variety, and the resulting lack of consistency took part of the blame for systems that were hard to learn (and therefore hard to use). CUA promised consistency, greater productivity and information effectiveness.

    Fast forward to the modern Internet era, and it's clear that "common user access" is no longer a baseline requirement for effective use of information. Cutting edge web sites pride themselves on their innovative, engaging, and unique front ends. Every website you see is different, yet it doesn't take people much time to figure out how to order a book on Amazon, browse for peripherals at CDW, or bid on stuff on eBay. These are mainstream Internet users I'm talking about; the tech-savvy are just the ones coming up with a new and different clown suits** for the same old services.

      **And by 'clown-suit' I mean 'innovative dynamic XMLSocket/AHAH/AJAX-based exploitative web 2.0 social mashup,' of course. (props to findmemp3)

    However ... isn't it interesting that those mainstream Internet users, productively surfing at home, are the same folks in your office complaining about difficult-to-use ERP systems? In this world, UI consistency is not an issue (okay, except when an acquisition is folded inelegantly into another framework). The challenge is with system designers and developers that lack an understanding of what makes a user interface effective and engaging - something that most longtime corporate system developers have never really been trained in.

    Not that the newbies (sorry, Millenials) coming in to our IT departments automatically know how to design an effective interface - they are just more open to it, and they understand it better when they see it. Admittedly, "I know it when I see it" is hard to describe and extremely hard to train. However, now I must link to one of the few presentations I've ever been able to get a lot out of without having the presenter present to me ...

    Now, I certainly can't explain Kano Modeling and the more theoretical stuff, but it really starts to click on slide 15 when he showed a hierarchy of needs for user interaction. The slides lay out basic ideas that resonate, and terrific examples that you can recognize from your daily travels through the Internet. These applications speak to you, not at you, and make the act of using them a pleasurable experience. Simple stuff like conversational error / warning / guidance messages, effective use of pictures and words, and the value of "less is more".

    I think a critical differentiator between an application accessible via the public Internet and the typical internal, corporate application is a fundamental assumption [on the Internet] that you cannot hold your user's hand through the process. The information presented, and the user's experience, has to stand on its own - because it is impossible to know who, when, and where your stuff is going to be used. This raises the bar for usability and scalability, but it's a great model to emulate for internal development in this lean economy.

    So how do you make the jump between internally-focused developer and externally-savvy innovator? I'd start with Anderson's presentation - see if it "speaks to you". I think you'll either get it (and your mind will open up), or not (and you need to burn a few hundred hours surfing websites and experiencing the difference).

    Previously ...

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    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Creativity leads to innovation

    As we all know, creativity leads to innovation. Creative environments often lead to more ideas that can encourage great “ah ha!” moments for your products. Are you having a hard time coming up with these ideas? In a recent post at The Heart of Innovation, Mitch Ditkoff posted a list of 100 ways to encourage creativity. Some are listed below:

    2. Brainstorm daily with a co-worker.
    7. Play music in your office.
    30. Read odd books -- having nothing to do with your work.
    37. Recall a time in your life when you were very creative. Feel it.
    49. Incubate (sleep on it).
    57. Ask stupid questions. Then ask some more.
    74. Laugh more, worry less.

    What’s on your list for being more creative? Did any of the things on this list pop out on your mind? My personal favorite was 4. Present your biggest challenge to a child. Sometimes, children don’t have the straightened narrow path that someone is forced to work on. With a fresh perspective, a child’s opinion may shed new light in a direction you never knew possible.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    Nokia’s Innovative Project to Improve Efficiency in the Classroom

    Our previous post mentions innovation at Blackberry, which is primarily used amongst business men and women to communicate in their hectic work schedule, but here we have come across cell phone innovation in a different market…

    In a country (South Africa) where there is so many underprivileged children, Nokia has found a way to team up with Mindset Network to create cell phones that are preloaded with educational material to help improve performance in mathematics among 10th grade students. According to this latest article, one of the most pressing educational challenges in South Africa is the need for improvement in math scores, especially among young girls.

    In a world where information is readily accessible instantly via the internet, it is good to see that cell phone giant Nokia is paving they way for innovation in the education industry. Nokia’s Micheline Ntiru says:

    "Young people are increasingly using their phones to gain knowledge via the internet, social networking and interaction with their peers, so it makes sense to introduce learning through these devices.”

    Innovation in the classroom seems to be soaring to new heights in developing countries. We’ve recently written a post on how PC’s are being integrated into desktops in Brazil to give more children access to computers. Satellite usage for instant delivery of educational information to cell phones should be just the beginning for Nokia. Innovation and creativity will help drive the birth of new technology in the classroom since education methods are constantly changing. It will be interesting to see what else companies have in store for this market…

    The Blackberry: Innovation Takes Over

    In a recent post at BusinessWeek, they sat down the CEO of Research in Motion, Mike Lazaridis, to discuss how innovation has played such a pivotal role in the way business men and women communicate in their busy work lives.

    Research and development has been a critical part of the growth of Research in Motion. It is critical to focus on the innovation and sustainability in this part of the development process. With the right environment and culture, the ability to motivate young and old minds to work together bring out the best products.

    The article also pointed out that in a time of recession (as we are currently facing now) most companies tend to cut their research and development funds. It does show for a huge part of the budget, but as with most things, the effort you put into the process will show in the end result. Companies do need to monitor the budget, but those who focus on innovation in areas that consider attention now, such as sustainability, will probably pull out of the recession faster. They’ll have more to show for at the end of the recession when they’ve innovated today for tomorrow’s customer. Blackberry has shown that success follows from focusing to tailor a product to the future. So what are you is your company going to do in it’s time of recession? Will they cut research and development or will they focus on improving their products?

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Speaker Profile: Deborah Ancona

    This week we are profiling Deborah Ancona. Deborah will be giving a keynote presentation entitled “X-Teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Execute.” Currently, Deborah is the faculty director for the MIT Leadership Center. She is also co-author of the book, X-Teams: How to Build Teams that Lead, Innovate and Succeed.

    Ancona has dedicated her professional years to determining the best way for teams to work together and produce results. She focuses on core leadership capabilities. Through her studies, she has found that teams need to incorporate both internal and external dynamics in order to reach their high performance goals. This lead to her creation of what she calls an “X-Team.” This type of team focuses on having good internal team cooperation while balancing activities with eternal interaction. Teams must learn to adapt as well as be innovative. She also focuses on the fact that the team must catch trends in the external environment. This way, new fresh ideas can be brought in from the external environment.

    Listen here to hear Deborah Ancona interviewed by Jeff Kohoe, a Harvard Business School Press editor.

    Watch Deborah Ancona on a panel at MIT entitled “Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty.”

    We hope to see you at the IIR/PDMA Front End of Innovation conference May 19th through the 21st, where you can hear innovation leader Deborah Ancona along with other top professionals from the innovation field. Next week, we’ll be profiling Ray Kurzweil, a technology expert, inventor and New York Times bestseller.

    (Sources: MIT Staff Webpage, Teams that Lead and Innovate Successfully, Teams that Lead, Innovate and Succeed, Sloan Review)

    The Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation

    This article is posted on behalf of Susan Griffin at BrianJuicer. She can be contacted at

    While we are all thinking seriously about all the business implications of innovation processes, we thought we would add a post with some anecdotal "juice", perhaps apropos of nothing, but some fun food for thought.

    This weekend in the New York Times there is a very interesting article about the recent renovation of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and the grand opening of Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation.

    Anyone who has ever visited this wonderful little gem in the Berkshires recognizes what the Times article describes as a "curiosity closet".

    It is a mini version of places like the American Museum of Natural History in New York, or the British Museum in London (where a recent exhibit called Enlightenment brought out hundreds of books, works of art and decoration, and artifacts, demonstrating how collectors in the 18th century classified and viewed the world by their collections).

    The Berkshire Museum is the kind of natural history museum of the distant past that assembled all kinds of things from the natural world (typically in musty old cabinets with everything from mummies to mineral collections to taxidermied birds and butterflies pinned to boards, to local flora and fauna and art works).

    As a kid for me, this was the kind of place that presented the natural world, the arts and the sciences, in a way that prompted wonder and inspiration.

    In conjunction with a multi million dollar renovation program, the Museum has opened the Hall of Innovation to highlight "local innovators". The Times article takes issue with some of the selections, and the lack of depth in the discussion of the process of innovation. The innovators honored include:

    - Zenas Marshall Crane is given his due for turning the family-owned paper mill, Crane & Company, into a business of national importance by patenting bank note paper marked with identifying fibers in 1844

    - Cyrus W. Field, who succeeded in laying a trans-Atlantic cable in 1866

    - the minor figure Clarence J. Bousquet, a local businessman who created nighttime skiing in 1935.

    The article ponders: So what is the innovation?

    My reaction is that these individuals (back in a time before we expressed innovation this way) were authentically reacting to a recognition of a perceived "consumer insight".

    Ask any rabid skier if nighttime skiing was an authentic innovation and they would say "Hell, yes!".

    I guess we would say at BrainJuicer that in the eyes of a consumer, if a product or service expresses a fresh truth that resonates with a perceived need, it is potentially an innovation.

    But more than that, at a time when consumers increasingly demand the opportunity to co-create and participate in new product development and innovation, we applaud the opening of the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, and exhibits like Enlightenment at the British Museum, for their potential to delight and inspire.

    (For those of you attending Front End of Innovation in Boston in May, the Berkshires is a terrific pastoral weekend destination at the far western edge of Massachusetts, and maybe a visit to the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation is in order! )

    posted by Susan Griffin,

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    The Innovation Generation - Communication Styles

    The Innovation Generation - Communication Styles

    There've been many articles in recent weeks about the tech-savvy Millennials and their impact on future work. I concede, even welcome the changes that business will need to introduce in response to these new expectations, but I don't see the massive change that some writers seem to think is inevitable. The world will not change to accommodate the Millennials, but relevant and effective new working styles will definitely be adopted where they make business sense.

    I will certainly agree that communication styles will change. For example, there will be a greater reliance on (and expectations of) instant and ubiquitous connections - with people, information and technology. IM is already on the way out, and texting is the way to go; my high-school-aged daughters think nothing of racking up thousands of text mails every month.

    Unfortunately, this kind of freewheeling message content is going to run headlong into the litigious real-world. Many companies are still struggling over records retention standards and expectations. Public companies will need to maintain some control over messages that could contain proprietary or inside information. Corporate survival and protection from liability are clearly not on the minds of students as they post embarrassing pictures on Facebook pages, and even adults get trapped by unfortunate text messages that come back to haunt them.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge believer in alternative messaging styles and flexible collaboration. I've managed and/or participated on multiple "collaborative" teams - people from different companies, zip codes, time zones and countries. Separation by time and space has been a business challenge for years, but you could set up a shared FTP folder, or swap e-mails about projects, as long as I've been working. The teams that succeeded understood the differences between working across the hall and working across town, and moderated their communication styles accordingly, using the best tools available.

    The value the Millennials bring is a de facto openness to collaboration tools. To them it's not something new that they need to learn; they expect the rest of us to already be there. Their rude awakening will come when they need to invest some change management time getting us "old folks" to catch up to their fast twitch messaging style; they won't be able to pass us by because we've got the organizational and process knowledge. (that's why we're on the team, right?)

    Previously ...

    Note: Hello to all FEI readers! Jennifer has graciously invited me to add posts to this blog ... I'll typically be cross-posting with cazh1 ... please subscribe to both feeds! - jpmacl

    Innovation with IT at Coca Cola

    In a recent interview at TechWeb, Coca Cola’s Chief Information Officer Jean-Michelle Arès discussed the innovations taking place in their IT department. With such a large customer base, they are innovating in their IT department to better communicate within the company and also with their customers. Coca Cola products are distributed in over 200 countries and also have 300 bottling partners through out the world. Up-to-date tools are critical to keep this world wide operation running.

    I think that for being one of the biggest beverage distributors in the world, and having such a long distribution chain (Coca Cola -> Distributor -> Retailer -> Consumer), they’re making key innovations in order to connect with the customers and find out what works for their company as well as their customers.

    Thursday, April 3, 2008

    Food Innovation in growing markets

    At The Times in India, they’ve recently written an article on the fast paced innovation that takes place in the food and beverage industry. With India quickly becoming one of the world’s largest emerging markets, food retailers there have to keep up with the demand of new products in their market. With a growing urban market along with one of the largest populations in the world, innovation in retail is fast pace, and new innovative ideas must be quick to market.

    The goal of the food and beverage industry stores is to not only attract new customers, but keep repeat customers coming back. In India, the food and beverage industry has grown 35% each of the past few years, and with the fast growing urban population continually growing, it’s expected to grow 40% this year.

    Innovation is quick in this segment. There’s no time to test, they have to put an item on the market and then determine the rate of success. In addition to research and development (usually 1% of the annual revenue), other measures are being taken to appeal to this target market. At Blue Foods, they brought an Italian chef to India to authenticate the Italian taste to Indians flavors. The Indian population represents one of the fastest growing markets today. How are companies going to catch the attention of the people? Many of the global food chains are already in India. Are you ready to innovate your way into the Indian market?

    Finding Innovation

    Old-age brands like Britannica have literally been eliminated within a couple of years due to the introduction of the internet. Those are just a few examples Greg Fisher mentions on his presentation entitled “Managing for Innovation”. Greg goes in depth on how 4 companies P & G, Discovery, Google, and IDEO have managed to raise the bar in innovation with four different management philosophies and four different innovation models. These four companies embody the words “entrepreneurial spirit”. This presentation is a good refresher on this concept. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Replay Those Pesky Computer Crashes

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could just avoid computer crashes altogether? Just last week, my computer crashed three times! Let’s think realistically here, computer crashes are not going away, but at least now we can replay it and see what caused the crash.

    According to this latest NY Times article, software engineers Jonathan Lindo and Jeffrey Daudel have figured out a product Replay Solutions that have those exact capabilities. How does one come up with such an idea? Jonathan Lindo remembers:

    “We were spending almost all of our time not fixing the issues, but trying to get to the point where we could just see the issue, and we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just TiVo this and replay it?”

    Innovation by analogy, what the NY Times defines this concept as, is a very powerful strategic tool. A quick comparison to a completely unrelated aspect created this breakthrough in technological advancement in software applications. Just think of other ways in which innovation by analogy has fostered new product development. This white paper written by Dipl. Wi.-Ing Katharina Schild, Prof. Dr. Cornelius Herstatt, and Dr. Christian Lüthje gives us an example of how this strategy can improve systematic inventing:

    “Analogies can trigger breakthrough ideas in new product development. Numerous examples demonstrate that substantial innovations often result from transferring problem solutions from one industry or domain to another. For instance, the designers of the new running shoe generation of Nike, “Nike SHOX”, use the same suspension concept like the technologies applied for Formula 1 racing cars, or the biological Lotus-effect led to the development of various self-cleaning surfaces.”

    So whether it comes to computer crashes or new ideas for running shoes, innovation by analogy is a compelling strategy which should be adopted by your new product development teams. What are other examples that your organization have used to spark those creative juices?

    Manage your way into innovation

    If you’re a manager it’s your responsibility to foster a creative environment for your employees to begin to think of innovative ideas. In a recent post at The Heart of Innovation, they discuss the role the manager must take on in order to foster creativity in their department. Once a sense of creativity is found, fresh ideas and new innovation will follow.

    Employees must feel empowered. Finding a way to make employees feel like they are empowered and can have fresh an idea is the way to increase creativity throughout the department. Once they feel like they may have the opportunity to make a difference, they will begin to come up with new ideas. Fostering a sense of openness and creativity is the only way for employees to feel like they will be able to make a difference. Give your employees the power to come up with new ideas. Some may be horrible, only one great idea is needed to strike gold.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Innovation in the Airline Industry

    What is left to do when you own one of the most successful airlines in the United States? According to this article in the NY Times, Jet Blue founder David Neeleman has started up a new Brazilian airline that will offer the same bargain prices Jet Blue does. Mr. Neeleman is a Brazilian national, so it was only a matter of time that he branch out his successful strategy in booming global markets.

    David has also invited the Brazilian population to suggest a name for the airline on Voce Escollhe site, which simply means you choose. The person who suggests the winning name receives free lifetime air travel. Now how’s that for an innovative way to get a name chosen!

    Currently, domestic airline travel in Brazil is costly. There will be direct competition from other Brazilian airlines such as Gol and Tam. Will David’s new airline startup hold up in this growing market in Brazil?

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