Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Goohoo Role in Innovation

The U.S. Department of Justice has been getting some feedback regarding the proposed Goohoo, Google and Yahoo, cooperative advertising agreement. Some are worried that with Google and Yahoo, the two largest search engine advertising companies coming together, it will result in a monopoly. As reported here, however, 11 members of the Northern California Congressional Delegation have written a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice citing that

"growth and innovation could be stifled," and further persuading that "The competitive and disruptive nature of the Internet makes it extraordinarily difficult for any company to dominate."

Monday, September 29, 2008

eBay Awarded for Advancing Global Entrepreneurship

In a medal ceremony at the White House, eBay was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for Advancing Global Entrepreneurship by the President, George W. Bush. This is the first time that this award has even been granted to an Internet company as was reported by MarketWatch. One of the reasons for this honor was in recognition of eBay and PayPal's approximately 70 patents, both within the U.S. and globally. As President and CEO of eBay Inc. John Donahoe acknowledged:

"Our technology is at the core of our success. EBay and PayPal together have harnessed technology in the service of people; the result is that millions have transformed their lives for the better -- building businesses, taking care of their families and becoming global entrepreneurs at the same time. That's what true innovation is all about."

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Look at Icebreaker

Do you know where the clothing you’re wearing today was made, and how it was made? If you’re wearing Icebreaker merino wool product, you can say yes if you’ve checked your Baacode number. Icebreaker, a company that produces 100% merino wool clothing from New Zealand, can tell the customer where clothing originated and the process it went through from the second it was sheared off the sheep until the time they purchased it from the store. Each article of clothing comes with its own Baacode. At their website, Icebreaker.com (pictured to the right), the customer can enter the Baacode and find which of the 120 stations the wool in their shirt or sweater is from.

Frank Spiewack, a sales operation manager at Icebreaker, and member of Front End of Innovation LinkedIn Group, brought this innovation at his company to our attention. We were fortunate enough to learn more about this company, what they stand for, and the details behind this unique customer service innovation. They clearly have focused on being innovative, all while focusing on being the top company using merino wool, creating an excellent product developed through sustainable practices, all while engineering a unique customer experience tied directly to their supply chain operations.

I had the chance to speak with Emma van Asch, the Marketing Executive at Icebreaker, about this unique product. After speaking with Emma, it’s clear that the company is passionate about purity and sustainability. Their supply chain innovation along with customer transparency is revolutionary. They have changed little since 1995 when Jerry Moon founded the company. Striving for a pure and sustainable brand, they began by building their company from the ground up, developing a supply chain that only included companies that they trusted and could ensure the quality and integrity of their product. The company’s complete control of the supply chain allows them to link their products back through every step in the chain, starting with the original station that the wool was collected at (in this screen shot you can see the Branch Creek Station for the Baacode entered), ensuring eco-friendly and sustainable processes to the end product.

Icebreaker’s innovative goals are evident in all aspects of their product development, focusing on being new as well as natural; concentrating on the relationships and ideas they’ve held as a standard for their company. Drawing inspiration from the purity of the New Zealand Alps, the original location of Moon’s sheep farm, they are motivated to create connections between old and new business practices. As part of their business goals, Icebreaker focuses on being very environment friendly, and seeks to incorporate sustainability and green innovation in order to preserve the planet and integrity of their product.

In developing the Baacode program, they set out to inform their customers in all the details about their products. Once you enter the Baacode, you can find where the station is, about the farmers at the station and information on the farm the sheep are raised on. They’ve seen a new relationship evolve with their customers as a result of the transparency of their products. Their focus is on the coexistence with nature instead of trying to impose on it; a clothing line that is gender neutral - a peaceful relationship between wool and skin.

Icebreaker presents a unique model of clothing company. They demonstrate clear respect for their customers, the environment and their business partners. Striving to stay the top supplier in Moreno wool, this company seeks to regularly innovate while developing sustainability programs to do so.

The PDF version of this article is available here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Look Inside Google’s Design Process

Helen Walters wrote a great article in BusinessWeek earlier this week that took a closer look at Google’s design process with Sundar Pichai, the company’s VP of Product Management.

A problem that has plagued organizations in the past is the disconnect between various departments. In the past, engineers would dictate what should be done according to only what was technically possible. These ideas were handed over to designers who had to make some sense of all the mess. This resulted in poor products and annoyed personnel.

Google stands out from the rest because their engineers are part of design and all of its functionalities. Pichai mentions:

“Design is integral to everything we do. We don’t say ‘here’s a feature, here’s a spec, now go and build it.’ We design it, we build a prototype and we make it real… Every pixel in Chrome represents countless discussions and people agonizing over the right decision.”

Even though their web browser Google Chrome is not yet perfected, engineers are working alongside with designers to tackle complaints and suggestions. Has your organization integrated design and functionality into one cohesive process?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Red Hat and Collaborative Innovation

Venkatesh Hariharan, Director of Corporate Affairs at Red Hat, writes on this latest post on Red Hat that the collaborative innovation movement has increased in size because of the rapid growth of the internet and open source communities. Even though collaborative innovation (which is sometimes called Open Innovation or Distributed Co-creation) has grown rapidly within the past couple of years, the concept of the open community has been around for some 15 years.

Venky reminds a couple of freedoms that Linux provided in 1991 when it released 10,000 lines of source code under the General Public License. Here they are:

  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
  4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefit
Thousands of contributors over the years have attributed to the millions of lines of source code that Linux now has! Red Hat is also no stranger to open innovation. Engineers at Red Hat work with the open source community to produce technologies for Fedora. This is something they have been doing for 15 years.

Is your company involved in open innovation projects?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Learn New Methods to Uncover Consumer Needs - A Case Study

The Front End of Innovation and BuzzBack Market Research have put together a complimentary one hour web seminar on Thursday, October 2nd from 2:00 to 3:00 EDT. Brendan Light, the SVP of Research and Product Development of BuzzBack Market Research is the featured speaker. To sure to register for this free webinar and mention priority code MWS0014BL. Here’s a brief description of the webinar:

Using a case study approach, BuzzBack will showcase its recent research on US and UK consumer attitudes to Sustainability and “Being Green,” and how unique interactive techniques were used to develop traditional quantitative data and qualitative insights in the same online research study. Examples given will show how improved digital approaches can infuse your research and help you think about online research in a new way. This approach was awarded the 2007 MRS/ASC Technology Effectiveness Award.

What you will learn by attending:

  • Understand new online research techniques to gain richer, more emotional understanding of respondents’ attitudes
  • Ways to utilize research techniques to gain more useful customer input in the early phases of product development
  • How the Internet can be used to change your research from the boring, “click-a-radio-button” survey to a respondent interaction that is much more interesting and engaging
  • Review examples of research findings from recent research on US and UK consumer attitudes towards what “being green” means to them
Register for the free web seminar by clicking on the following link:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Altec Lansing: A Fresher Image

Altec Lansing was once known for its cutting-edge innovative design products, but their recent products have been anything but innovative. An array of look-alike products and outsourced designs has nearly taken the company all the way to the bottom.

Darrin Caddes, who has recently held high-profile positions with BMW and Fiat, has gained control of the Altec brand two years ago. According to this article in Business Week, he looks forward to reviving the Altec Lansing brand through its website, brand packaging, and point of sale displays. Caddes took little time in revamping iPod dock, and putting the Altec Lansing twist on it. Instead of using high-gloss white curves that many iPod accessories sport, he decided to stay within classic Altec Lansing design. The dock will be black, and it will feature heavy-duty handles.

Will Caddes be successful in his attempts to revitalize the Altec Lansing image?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Learn from Hollywood: Innovation takes a while to catch on

In a recent article at Business Week, they give Hollywood as a great case study for innovation by pointing out that persistence and time are what it takes for companies to fully grow into their innovations.

They gave five key things that stand out in Hollywood and are important for your innovations too:
- Allies are essential -- Pixar teamed up with George Lucas in order to prove their value.
- Persistence is a virtue - It took from 1915 to 1932 for Herb Kalmus to get Hollywood to have the first color movie.
- Psych 101 - Understand those who you are innovating for. Who is the end user of your product and what can you do to appeal to them?
- Mastering the demo/feedback loop - When Texas Instruments was developing the new DLP picture system, they took each step of their innovation to Hollywood for criticism to make a better product
- Befriend the outsiders - Find less essential companies to take on your product. Avid Technology teamed up with Steven Cohen, a well known movie editor, in 1993 before winning contributing to an Academy Award for The English Patient in 1996.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Institute for Healthcare Improvement challenges change

In a recent edition of The McKinsey Quarterly, they tell how the story of one women inspired an organization that would lead to saving 10,000 lives. Sorrel King's daughter died in a hospital due to preventable errors that occurred from her care in the hospital.

Institute for Healthcare Improvement found a way to make innovating easier rather than harder on hospitals that were in their program. By simply looking at the "ergonomics," they gave hospitals ways to save lives. They focused on simple things that could help front-line nurses give simple, yet better care to their patients. This initiative saved over 10,000 lives.

The six rules they focused on were:

  • allow any staff member to call on a rapid-response team to treat patients showing signs of rapid decline
  • provide evidence-based care, including the early use of aspirin and beta-blockers, for heart attack patients
  • develop a list of steps to prevent bloodstream infections related to the use of central venous catheters
  • take simple steps, including frequent and careful hand washing, to reduce the number of surgical on-site infections
  • keep accurate records of the drugs patients take
  • take steps to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia
This organization began to provide tools and training to the hospitals that would help these six things begin to take place on a regular basis. They found new staff that would help the innovative initiatives to save lives. They began to place experienced hospitals with those just adapting the program to provide encouragement and first-hand experience. There was also a weekly conference call that served as a live forum to help share ideas of participating hospitals.

What this program found was that innovation can spread quickly, especially when those leading the organization focus on spreading the ideas to encourage change. By one woman stepping up and having a desire to teach hospital staffs how their equipment can better function, she's helped save lives. What's stopping your organization from spreading your ideas?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Syracuse's South Side Innovation Center

Recently, the Central Business Journal of New York talked about the expansion of the South Side Innovation Center. This program is hosted by the Syracuse's management school, Martin J. Whitman School of Management. The center provides a place for entrepreneurs to come together cultivate and grow businesses within the community while increasing the number of locally-owned stores in the neighborhood and creating new jobs. The program started in 2006, and has seen 16 business begin as a result of their services. They focus on giving these entrepreneurs training, support and monitor their efforts for both virtual and local businesses. At the same time, they provide the basic needs to the businesses that are starting out. They also provide a rich sense of community, providing a place for the new business owners to collaborate.

Some of the examples are: Kingdom Bus Tours, Always on Time, and FYM Logic.

We've previously discussed the importance of the presence of universities adding to the innovation process in the United States. What do you think? The promotion of collaboration and innovation is important throughout the community. Do you know of any other examples of universities taking the lead to promote innovation for their community?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The reverse effects of innovation?

Yesterday, we saw the worst decline in the US stock market since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Today, as I’ve read more about the situation, many articles are pointing their fingers towards the innovation in the space. Reena Jana at Business Week looks at the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the recent buyout of Merril to Bank of America and wonders if it’s the current effects of market innovation a few years back. The Kansas City Star ponders this: Its fundamental problem is a corrupt culture that is shaped by inflated fees and excessive compensation that bear too little relation to the risk, skills and innovation involved. We’ve addressed the issues already in a blog post here.

What do you think? Is this innovation coming back to haunt those who are abusing it or is it the cause of something else?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Logica opening innovation centers around the globe

Logica, a global IT & business services company, is opening up innovation centers throughout the world to demonstrate its knowledge helping businesses use innovative technology to change the way they operate.

There are currently two Spark Innovation Centers. The first location to open was in Lisbon, Portugal. This center focuses on energy and utilities, and showcases what innovative solutions Logica can provide for its customers. Today, a center opened up in India. This innovation center focuses on mobility services such as intelligent transportation, wireless monitoring of vehicle emissions and dynamic vehicle insurance. The next center slated to open is Amstelveen, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This center will focus on payments, according to this article at Business Standard, with more centers to come in the near future.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Americans lead the way in mobile innovation

In a recent article at Business Week, they take a look at the leadership the US displays with innovation in the mobile phone and wireless market. Two main companies are leading the surge, as Business Week credits the efforts of Google and Apple for the advancements. The innovative new products are showing a great push on the market. As of this year 16% of Americans purchasing mobile phones are buying smart phones, which is up from 6% last year. Studies also show that these phones are being used for email above anything else.

To encourage the innovative minds of their users, Apple opened up the iTunes Application Store. Here, people from all over the world have developed over 3000 innovative applications for the iPhone. This move shows that Apple is focusing on the software and content to improve their applications.

Google has been working on developing the Android software. This new software will debut in cell phones this fall. A third party site will host applications where users can download and use them, then rate them in a YouTube-like fashion.

Correction in response to your comments: Worldwide, U.S. is still behind Asia in terms of mobile innovation. In comparison to Europe, however, as Kanishka Agarwal, VP of mobile media at Nielsen stated:

"The industry needs to stop talking about the gap between the U.S. and Europe. We have caught up, and we have already passed."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

SAP in the Open Innovation Space

ZDNet recently posted that Innocentive, an open innovation market, will be partnering with SAP to help link companies who are looking to solve business problems to developers that are able to provide solutions.

For example, SAP is looking for someone to create business use of social networking within enterprise applications. The link between these two companies will surely aid in providing useful insight in this space. Perhaps the software giant has big plans for enterprise 2.0 concepts in the future. One thing is for sure, the SAP’s collaboration with Innocentive will test the progress of the open innovation community.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Helping Hand

Today I found this interesting post from IdeaFactory Blog. It discusses how innovation has been developed throughout human history by means of our hands. The concept is that through use of our hands, we enhance our thinking capabilities, and often times find solutions that may have even been hidden in our subconscious. The post summarizes it best by saying:

They are construed to the activation of the unconscious, of knowledge you would not think of. This method is supposed to leave dreary routines. Idea finding by hand activates the potential of entire groups and forms the basis of the following compression phase of the handmade ideas

Have you ever used this most easily accessible tool to help you along with your idea generation? Or do you think with the advent of computer modeling, and the ability to manipulate ideas on screen, this basic tool is falling to the wayside?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Design as an Innovation Driver

This article in Business Week explains why companies like Apple, BMW, Harley Davidson, IKEA, and Target are able to build long-lasting relationships with consumers through design.

Business Week states that all of these companies share a simple theory, treat design as more than just a finishing touch to improve a product’s aesthetics. Design should influence every aspect of the innovation spectrum including package design, customer support, web services, messaging, and several other elements. The article gives an example of how the Motorola Razr phone fell short of the iPod because of two different design strategies. The Razr was unable to capitalize on its popularity, but the iPod was able to take advantage because it launched a series of services and experiences which included the iTunes music, video, and retail outlets which expanded Apple’s business.

How has design influenced your business’s innovation practices?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Coop innovates for Swiss teens

At Fresh Takes on Innovation, Nadja looks at what one company did to reach out to the teen market. The Swiss retailer Coop has recently released a line of food 50 food products that were specifically developed for teens. While working with the company BrainStore, they assembled a team that consisted of their target audience, convince food specialists, package experts, and people from Coop. They took the results and turned it into food aimed at teens and focused on food that was uncomplicated and fun, healthy but not obvious, low priced, and trendy. Each product has a stick of cinnamon chewing gum attached. Find out more about the product here in French, Italian or German.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Innovating for a Cause

These statistics scary: 2 billion people don’t get enough to eat, 1 billion survive on less than a dollar a day, and 1.4 million children die because they lack sanitary conditions and access to clean water. There are some companies that are innovating to help decrease these numbers. This article on the Discovery Channel website lists a “Tech Top 10 list” featuring innovating products that are helping those in disadvantaged areas. Here are some of the innovations listed in the top ten.

1. LifeStraw: Thousands die daily from ingesting contaminated water. Vestergaard Frandsen, a Danish textile company, collected a raft of awards last year for their mega-filtration LifeStraw, which can turn muddy puddles into safe drinking water. The blue straw removes waterborne diseases and miniscule particles, halting the spread of illness in its dirty tracks.

2. Q-Drum: Clean water, when available in developing areas, can be excruciatingly heavy to transport. The Q-Drum, which looks like a Q, is a simple and brilliant solution at use in rural parts of Africa. The plastic donut-shaped container can hold 50 liters while rope threaded through the center enables it to roll right over the bumps. They're also stackable up to 40 high.

3. Sugarcane Charcoal: Deforestation in developing areas makes wood charcoal for fuel severely problematic. MIT students taking a course called D-Lab: Development, Design and Dissemination came up with a charcoal using begasse, plant waste from sugarcane processing. Dried begasse is burned, carbonized and pressed into briquettes that work just as well as the wood kind. The technique was put to the test in field demonstrations in India, Ghana, Brazil and Haiti.

To see the entire top ten list, click here. This picture below was taken from the Discover Channel article and show cases the LifeStraw.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Innovation Through Internal Promotion

Our colleagues over at Innovating to Win recently posted on the idea that employees throughout an organization can not contribute their best ideas if they do not believe in the company mission, opportunity, and the team. Employees from designers, to executives, to IT personnel must all realize that innovation efforts have a meaningful impact on the company. The post goes on to discuss these forms or pillars of internal promotion.

Selling Up: Building strong innovation capability requires significant on-going investment, so make sure that metrics are in place to measure the return on innovation investment and make sure that these metrics have strong visibility the with c-level executive board.

Selling Outward: Getting feedback on innovation efforts is just as important as making corporate goals visible. Share information throughout the innovation community so that employees can see the value of their work and feel inspired.

Make it Personal: Give recognition to teams that have made special innovation contributions. This shows employees that the company values innovation practices.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is innovation falling behind in the US?

In the New York Times on Monday, one more person asked a common question these days: Is innovation slowing down in the United States going to cause other countries to overtake the US as world leaders of innovation?

Judy Estrin’s new book Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy sends a warning out about the dwindling amount of innovation that could result in less ground breaking technologies and economic growth. The Time article points out that a study done in 2005 ordered by Congress says that there was 45% less federal financing for research in physical sciences in 2004 than there was in 1976. Another alarming statistic was that 93% of students in grades 5 – 8 learned science from teachers whose specialties were in a field other than science.

A few reasons for the downturn in investment in science were mentioned in the article: a decline in federal funding which has lead to ideas drying up, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are hesitant to make large investments in the current state of the economy.

However, there are positive things occurring in the fields of innovation. Both presidential candidates are placing emphasis on the importance of science in their current presidential campaigns (Read further: John McCain and Barack Obama), and there is a surge in investment on finding sources for alternative fuel.

Estrin concluded the article with this quote: “Too much of it is short-term, incremental innovation, and the roots of the tree aren’t happy.” What do you think on her stance on innovation? Should we be concerned about the current situation of innovation in the US today?

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