Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Innovation Year-In-Review

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

It matters not that the sixth century monk - Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Short) - responsible for creating the distinction in time between B.C. and A.D. never included a year zero. We still celebrated the end of the twentieth century in 1999. And the end of this century’s first decade is marked as 2009. Although the foundation of our calendars is somewhat arbitrary if not merely imprecise, I can’t help think the passing of 2009 is a bit special. At the very least we’ll be able to start saying things like “twenty-ten” to refer to the current year, thus saving hundreds of millions of vocalized syllables (“twenty-nine”, because it’s a number in its own right, just confused people). In light of this monumental verbal conservation effort, I can’t resist taking a quick look back at some of the things illuminated this past year.

Raise a Glass and Some Cash
To date BuyABeerCompany.com (featured in the 12/08/09 FEI post The Biggest Beer Run Ever) has commitments of over $80 million. It will be interesting to see if or how close the venture gets to the $300 million needed to purchase Pabst Brewing Company. What will be even more interesting is whether a more traditional buyer will come forward when the crowdsourcing initiative falls short and whether this suitor figures out how to utilize the crowdsourcing commitments already secured. The $80 million in crowdsourcing funds could effectively lower the actual purchase price to $220 million (or less if more money is pledged). My understanding is that there are no rights associated with the crowdsourcing money – only a promise to provide an amount of beer equal to each pledge. A traditional bidder could get a reduced purchase price on Pabst Brewing Company and merely have to “repay” the funds in beer. Nice.

A CEO’s Decade of Innovation
In a 4/07/09 FEI post titled Innovation Jobs I highlighted the innovation efforts of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The particular point I attempted to make was Jobs consistency over time as it relates to innovation. In an accolade bestowed on him just recently that reinforces this idea, Fortune Magazine named Steve Jobs its CEO of the Decade.

Giddy Over Glee
After viewing the pilot episode before the show made its regular season debut this fall, I commented on the musical interpretations included in the FOX television program Glee in a 6/09/09 FEI post titled Everything Old Is New Again. For millions of viewers over the last few months, Glee has become a somewhat guilty pleasure. If you enjoy classic rock and fairly predictable campy television with an attitude, you can’t help fall for Glee. It’s become a runaway hit for FOX and has spawned two disks of music, a dvd offering, and an unrelated television vocal competition called the “Sing-Off”. In addition to the now immortal rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, my personal favorite is probably the cast of Glee’s version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”.

Man’s Greatest Inventions
In its December 17, 2009 “Our Annual Year” edition, under a front page heading that said “Innovations: Man’s Greatest Inventions”, the satirical newspaper the Onion identified several historical breakthroughs, including: the Inclined Plane, the Printing Press, God, and Easy Cheese. In its description of Easy Cheese, the paper wrote “A pioneering aerosol-powered food-delivery system that made it possible for people to discharge high-velocity streams of cheese directly into their mouths, usually from a prone or inverted position.” Anyone have a cracker?

In Memoriam
On August 12, 2009 the world lost a true innovator and musician whose impact on modern music is likely not to be equaled anytime soon. Les Paul, the virtuoso guitarist and inventor who created the solid-body electric guitar and numerous recording studio innovations, changed the course of 20th-century popular music. Of his many innovations, his most influential came in 1940 (or ’41, the exact date isn’t known). Seeking to create electronically sustained notes on a guitar, Les Paul attached strings and two pickups to a wooden board with a guitar neck. Dubbed “the log”, whose works were often concealed inside a more conventional looking guitar to make the instrument appear more traditional, it became if not the first solid-body electric guitar, certainly the most influential. Thank you, Les Paul. Rock on.

Goodbye Two-thousand and nine. Hello Twenty-ten.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays from the Front End of Innovation

We're taking some much needed time off from our coverage of innovation to celebrate the season with our loved ones. We want to sincerely thank you for your readership, your comments and your participation.

Here are our top posts from 2009:
Ten Places to Find New Product Ideas
Innovation at Walt Disney Company
Value Innovation: Improving the Buyer Utility Map

We'll be back in January with more coverage.

We wish you Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

America's Strongest Beer

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Due to legal restrictions, the product discussed in this post is not offered in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, or West Virginia. I don’t think this precludes anyone from reading about it though.

In contrast to the egalitarian nature of the BuyABeerCompany crowdsourcing initiative I wrote about a couple weeks ago, I turn my attention this week to another fermented delight with seemingly more elitist overtones – Samuel Adams Utopias™. I must admit I haven’t been able to justify the $150 per bottle suggested retail selling price (nor the inflated actual selling price of $200 plus by most accounts) and thus have not had the pleasure of tasting this particular offering. I wondered therefore for a brief moment whether I should abandon this post. Perhaps I’m not qualified to comment on a product I’ve not experienced. But then I realized I’m not really espousing the gustatory virtues of the libation itself, but rather some of the unique elements of innovation behind the offering. Tom Wolfe didn’t drink the Kool-Aid (or at least he claims not to have done so all that often). Stephen King never killed anybody (as far as I know). And Stephenie Meyer never drank anyone’s blood. This post really isn’t any different. And I will make my observational comments quick. So here goes. Down the hatch I say.

The Boston Beer Company, and its founder Jim Koch in particular, have been pushing the boundaries of product innovation in the beer industry for some time. Different ingredients, different flavors, different levels of alcohol. In a market in which alcohol by volume percentages hover at about five percent, the Boston Beer Company has pushed this standard to new heights.

About 20 years ago Samuel Adams introduced a beer – the company’s second beer I believe after its original Boston Lager – called Double Bock. This beer - a strong, malty beer based on German Doppelbocks - raised the alcohol by volume (a.b.v.) to 9.5 percent. For anyone looking for an extra little alcoholic oomph in their beer, this seemed respectable enough. But the brewery’s first truly experimental beer, the one that started its innovative Extreme Beer tradition (in 1994), was a ruddy black beer called Triple Bock that has drawn comparisons to other more “refined” beverages. To some, Triple Bock, with an 18 percent a.b.v., tastes more like a spirit.

At the turn of the century, Boston Beer upped the a.b.v. ante again with its Millennium Ale, a rich, oaky malt with 20 percent a.b.v.

And most recently, introduced first in 2001 and appearing every other year since, is Samuel Adams Utopias™. The newest incarnation of this offering, unveiled just a month or two ago, tops out at 27 percent a.b.v. Wow.

Alcohol by volume isn’t the end-all, be-all of beer. I don’t want to create the impression that this is all that’s important. But in a world where the objective of many brewers is simply to mass-produce watered down alcoholic beverages that maintain a head, a.b.v. represents a tangible representation of the breweing process and the overall measurement of quality and innovation. And it’s not as if the Extreme Beers sidestep taste. They each have a unique flavor – from vanilla, citrus, oak, nut, spice, chocolate, and other robust flavors.

With its complexity and sweet, malty flavor, I venture to guess you’ll not likely find a more flavorful beer than the Extreme Beer Utopias. But don’t be surprised when given an opportunity to drink it if you don’t think it actually tastes like beer. It’s not carbonated and is meant to be served at room temperature like an after-dinner drink. Some liken it to a deep, rich vintage Port, fine Cognac, or aged Sherry. The prestigious Wine Enthusiast Magazine has even given Utopias its highest recommendation (November, 2003 edition).

At what point might you stop calling it the most innovative beer around, and simply give it its own category name?

Sir Thomas More, in his most famous literary work Utopia, made a distinction between true pleasure, which arises from care of the mind and body, and false pleasure derived from status and appearance. Somehow I can’t help think Jim Koch and his team have created a beer that transcends these definitions. The Extreme Beer Utopias is both of mind and body, and status and appearance (not necessarily in a bad way). At $150 (suggested retail) and a limited 15,000 bottle supply, the average Joe Six-pack won’t be raising a glass anytime soon I imagine. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy this beer if you’re able. Even if you like drinking alone. Kick back and enjoy an after-dinner beer.

If you’ve procrastinated this long and are still looking for a holiday gift for the über beer-lover in your life, might I suggest you check out Ebay in hopes you can snag a bottle of the 2009 edition of Utopias beer. Maybe you can have it sent overnight. Or perhaps you can use it as a conversation starter with friends at your New Year’s Eve party.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eight Financial Innovations to Believe In

CBS Money Watch reporter Eric Schurenberg talks about the financial innovations of past, present and future. He writes that although we've seen significant development in financial innovation, its been far from stellar. Schurenberg sees the following eight as the best innovations in recent years.

Credit and debit cards: They’re a little like fire: Risky in the wrong hands, but overall a great advance for civilization.

Mortgage-backed securities: They put more money for home loans into circulation and lowered rates for homeowners. It wasn’t until Wall Street further bundled them into CDOs and bankers abandoned all lending standards that they became the enablers of the housing crisis.

The money market fund: Okay, maybe the money market fund has been over-engineered to seem safer than it really is. But by unlocking market interest rates to ordinary savers, money funds freed us from being monopolized by banks.

The index mutual fund: The index fund brought low cost investing and the best academic thinking about markets to the ordinary person. Here on CBS MoneyWatch.com, Nathan Hale eloquently explains why index funds are something to be thankful for.

The 401(k): Until employers pushed it to replace traditional pensions as the foundation of the U.S. retirement system–a role it was never designed to play–the 401(k) was a clever and elegant way to democratize benefits that had been limited to top executives.

The ETF: I like the ETF, when used as a low-cost alternative to index mutual funds, but like most financial innovations, Wall Street has done its best to turn it toxic. The latest variations are no more than invitations to gamble on narrow market sectors, and can trade at wide discounts and spreads, totally negating the benefits of low cost.

The target-date retirement fund: Yes, they lost money in the crash, but what didn’t? Their basic idea is sound. Over the course of most people’s career, they’ll do far more good than harm.

What other financial innovations have there been that we can "believe" in? Is Schurenberg missing a few? What innovations can we look forward to in the future?

Learn more: Eight Financial Innovations to Believe In

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FEI Europe 2010 Keynote Profile: Josephine Green, Senior Director Trends & Strategy, Philips Design

Josephine Green was appointed Senior Director of Trends and Strategy at Philips Design in 1997. She was responsible for research into Society, Cultures and People and pioneered the Strategic Futures™ Program that helps companies and organizations think about and implement a human focused approach to innovation and growth.

Regarding socio-cultural research, a subject on which she speaks regularly and is a widelyrecognized authority, she says; “While technology has undoubtedly improved peoples lives, it also has the potential to complicate and diminish them. That is
why we're building up our knowledge and insights on society and cultures and our engagement with users and stakeholders in order to better ensure that our
solutions are relevant and meaningful to the individual, the culture and society as a whole.”

Her passion is now in promoting new thinking and new knowledge in the specific field of Social Foresight and Innovation. Her advocacy in this area is based on the belief that we need different ways of thinking, being and doing if we are to live well, prosper and safeguard the future. “We must not only re-invent our social industries such as health and education but also our lifestyles and even the very growth models on which they are based.” She promotes working in this emerging social space both as an opportunity and a necessity and sees the new technologies as an important enabler towards more social and sustainable solutions for the 21st century.

Here's a clip of Josephine Green speaking about changes to organizations that can make them more sustainable.



Josephine Green will be speaking at this year's Front End of Innovation Europe Conference in Amsterdam this coming Feburary. Don't miss your chance to see her!


Bio Courtesy of Philips Design

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Twelve Days of Innovation (a song)

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

The Twelve Days of Innovation

On the first day of innovation our Venture Capitalist gave to me
A valuation for our exit strategy

On the second day of innovation our Investment Bankers gave to me
Two IPO alternatives

On the third day of innovation our Board gave to me
Three hundred thousand stock options

On the fourth day of innovation an industry guru gave to me
A four hour motivational seminar

On the fifth day of innovation our Product Developers gave to me
A five step Stage-Gate® process

On the sixth day of innovation our CMO gave to me
Six killer features and benefits

On the seventh day of innovation the Government gave to me
Seven tax incentives

On the eighth day of innovation Analysts gave to me
Magic Quadrant status

On the ninth day of innovation Reviewers gave to me
a Nine-star product rating

On the tenth day of innovation the Media gave to me
Ten days of free publicity

On the eleventh day of innovation Power Users gave to me
Eleven repeat purchases

On the twelfth day of innovation our Customers gave to me
Twelve new product ideas

Eleven repeat purchases
Ten days of free publicity
A nine-star product rating
Magic Quadrant status
Seven tax incentives
Six killer features and benefits
A five step Stage-Gate® process
A four hour motivational seminar
Three hundred thousand stock options
Two IPO alternatives
and
A valuation for our exit strategy

Happy Holidays. Merry Innovation!

Friday, December 11, 2009

How open innovation could reinvigorate the pharmaceutical industry with fresh R&D opportunities

Thomas Senderovitz recently wrote an editorial entitled "How open innovation could reinvigorate the pharmaceutical industry with fresh R&D opportunities." Read the article here.

He brings up several interesting observations about the current state of innovation in the Pharmaceutical market:
-Pharma innovation is often divided into therapeutic innovation and pharmacological innovation
-The cost of bringing new medicines to patients has increased dramatically over recent decades, while productivity has declined
-The pharmaceutical industry has done little to innovate their business model


The article also states:
The best innovative activity occurs when everyone - researchers, companies, government and nongovernment organizations - work together to ensure that new ideas reach public, but are appropriately regulated and efficiently delivered to those who need them.

What are your comments on this? Does the Pharma industry need to change their model? Should more players than just the Pharma companies and CROs work together to create new ideas and bring them to the public?

Mr. Senderovitz will be a keynote speaker at Partnerships in Clinical Trials 2010. For more information, visit the 19th Annual Partnerships in Clinical Trails Webpage.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Boldly going where no one has developed a business before

Spaceship2 Rutan Branson "If the development of air travel was the responsibility of NASA, we'd still be traveling from city to city staring at the [back] end of an oxen." This was a quote from Burt Rutan, whom I met at the Front End of Innovation Conference a couple of years ago.

While it's all too common to complain about the government, Rutan is a guy who does something about it. You'll recall that he was part of the team that won the Ansari X prize, a $10 million award going to the first privately-funded craft that could go into space twice in the course of a week.

Nice to win the prize, but he and Richard Branson (of Virgin companies fame) are developing their technology (see SpaceShipTwo in photo above) into a business, where for the introductory price of $200,000, you can get training and then go into space.

The key is that it's not just a re-hash of existing space technology, which is around 40 - 50 years old. This is a complete reimagining of how to do escape the atmosphere that is simpler, cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly. At least that's what Richard Branson says. As you watch the video, think about these questions:

What problems did they solve?
What paradigms did they break?
What assumptions did they question?
What new solutions did they develop?
How might they have overcome skepticism?

Here's the video news release from Virgin Galactic featuring Rutan and Branson touting their system. Pretty cool:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NYT: In India, Anxiety Over the Slow Pace of Innovation

The New York Times reports today that there is growing anxiety over the pace of innovation throughout India's multiple business sectors. Western companies may look to India as a cheaper alternative for customer service and software; however, Indians worry that they have not created enough innovation on their own to compete with larger foreign companies.


Reporter, Vikas Bajaj writes,"Even as the rest of the world has come to admire, envy and fear India’s outsourcing business and its technological prowess, many Indians are disappointed that the country has not quickly moved up to more ambitious and lucrative work from answering phones or writing software. Why, they worry, hasn’t India produced a Google or an Apple?"

Bajaj notes that innovation may be difficult to measure, but those in the academic world who study innovation say that India has all of the right elements to truly compete and succeed with more innovative ventures.

What do you think?

Learn more: In India, Anxiety Over the Slow Pace of Innovation

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Biggest Beer Run Ever

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

If you’ve got an extra $300 million lying around and are interested in owning your own beer company, there’s no need for you to get in on this action. Given the IRS has been unable to find a buyer for the Pabst Brewing Company since it went up for sale in 2000 however, I figure none of us have that kind of discretionary dough or we simply have no desire to own our own beer company outright. Although some of us may dream of being soaked in beer, we’d have no idea how, let alone the initiative, to operate an actual brewing company. But for anyone that’s ever scrounged in the their pockets for enough loose change to buy one more cold one, or collected money at a gathering of friends to make a late night beer run, today may be your lucky day. For as little as the price of a bottle of beer, you could be part “owner” of a beer company.

BuyABeerCompany.com presents the average Joe Six Pack with a somewhat unique opportunity. The 165-year-old Pabst Brewing Co., the third-largest beer company in the US (going by 2008 sales), is up for sale for a mere $300 million. Hollywood-based Forza Migliozzi and New York's The Ad Store have formed a venture to ask (legal-age) fans of Pabst's 25 brands to pledge between $5 and $250,000 each towards acquisition of the company. Money will only be accepted if the full purchase amount is reached, at which point all contributors will get "a crowdsourced certificate of ownership as well as enough beer to match their pledge".

The only somewhat equivalent endeavor to the BuyABeerCompany initiative that comes readily to mind is the formation and initial stock sale for what would become The Green Bay Packers Corporation, owners of the Green Bay Packers football team. After a somewhat tumultuous start, that included what looked like an inevitable bankruptcy, the Green Bay Packers - with the help of A. B. Turnbull, publisher of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, grocery man Lee Joannes, attorney Gerald Clifford, and Dr. W. Webber Kelly - became essentially what might be considered the first “crowdsourced” organization. In August 1923, these local Green Bay merchants raised $5,000 by selling 1,000 shares for $5 apiece, with a stipulation that the purchaser also had to buy at least six season tickets.

Since this 1923 meeting, the Green Bay Packers have had three additional stock sales, the most recent of which in 1997 raised tens of millions of dollars. Currently a total of 4,750,937 shares are owned by 112,120 stockholders – none of whom receives any dividend on the initial investment.

The size and scope of the BuyABeerCompany crowdsourcing venture monetarily dwarfs the humble beginnings of the Green Bay Packers. And because there’s no “local” community to rally around, it will be interesting to see whether enough funds can be secured. This may in fact simply turn out to be one big public relations opportunity for the ad agencies involved. Thus far it appears over $18 million has been pledged.

If you’ve been wondering however what to get your friend “who has everything” for Christmas, perhaps consider some Pabst. Or maybe this is simply your chance to share a beer (company) with millions of your closest friends. Crowdsourcing can be innovative. And certainly BuyABeerCompany is the most ambitious crowdsourcing endeavor I’ve ever seen.

What should be America's focus for innovation?

David Brooks recently contributed an op-ed piece to the New York Times about the current state of America and how the future of the country relies on innovation. The economy is the largest in the world, and managed to grow 63% from 1991 to 2009.

He's set out a few simple things that can help America find they way to continued growth through innovation:

- Push hard to fulfill the Obama administration’s education reforms
- Pay for basic research
- Rebuild the nation’s infrastructure
- Find a fiscal exit strategy
- Gradually address global imbalances
- Loosen the so-called H-1B visa quotas to attract skilled immigrants
- Encourage regional innovation clusters
- Lower the corporate tax rate so it matches international norms
- Don’t make labor markets rigid.

What do you think about these guidelines? Do you disagree with any of them? Innovative regional clusters would be really important. Innovative ideas from California would be radically different from ideas coming from Minnesota. But both areas can contribute significant ideas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Free Web Seminar this Wednesday - New Research Study: Do Consumers Prefer Private Label? A Look Into Consumer Attitudes About Private Label

Date/Time: Wed, Dec 9, 2009 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Do consumers know the difference between national brands and store brands? Do they care? How do they describe private label compared to national brands? Does this differ across categories? How about across markets?

Private label and store brands are having an impact on many consumer purchases today, both in the US and Europe. And within these markets the definition of private label compared to national brands varies according to category and retailer.

When is a brand important? What makes a national brand different? Do consumers feel the same way about brands today as they did a year ago? Why or why not?

Showcasing BuzzBack’s unique portfolio of award-winning online research techniques, this webinar will highlight new consumer research conducted in the US and UK about purchasing behavior and attitudes associated with private label versus national consumer brands. The study will present ways to identify consumer behavior and attitudes about shopping via an online survey.

As you listen in, you will learn:
• What drives consumer purchases of private label brands and why
• Consumer perceptions and attitudes about private label compared to national brands
• Types of people who purchase private label compared to national brands

Featured Speaker
Brendan Light, SVP, Research and Development, BuzzBack Market Research

Register: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/781266785
Mention priority code MWS0020BLOG

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Target, Google, Coca-Cola, BMW, American Express, TomTom all have one thing in common

They will be speaking at the 2010 Front End of Innovation Conference Series..Here's your exclusive sneak peek at the FEI USA 2010 Program!

Take a look at the preliminary brochure below. Keynotes to date include James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, and Steven Johnson, social critic and author of The Invention of Air, Robin Chase, Founding CEO, Zipcar and GoLoco, Teresa Amabile, Professor, Harvard Business School, and William Setliff, Vice President, Marketing, Target. And that’s just the beginning…View the preliminary program.

FEI US Homepage

Lock in 2009 Rates! Register for FEI US, mention code XFEIBLOGDEC to save $700 off the standard & onsite rate

FEI Europe is only a few months away and we’d like to remind you of the great companies speaking at our upcoming Conference in Amsterdam. BMW, GE Money, Philips Design, Barry Callebaut AG, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, Braun/Oral B, Nokia, Heineken, 3M, Dow Corning, and Glaxosmithkline are just a few – over 40+ industry experts will be presenting. Make sure to check out the full speaker list and brochure below for a complete listing.

Europe Full Speaker List

FEI Europe Brochure

We’re offering discount pricing to our blog readers so if you’re planning to attend either conference make sure to mention priority code XFEIBLOGDEC when registering to receive €200 Discount for FEI Europe which Expires December 11th and a $700 discount for FEI US this May!

FEI Europe Homepage

Register for FEI Europe, mention code XFEIBLOGDEC to Save €200 off the standard & onsite rate

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Has mobile innovation come to an end?

Galen Gruman of InfoWorld asks this question as we grapple with the capabilities of smart phones. After the introduction of the iPhone, other mobile phone makers have stepped up and created competitors--but is this the end of innovation for the smart phone? Gruman writes, "there's been an ever-increasing number of competitors, but nothing fundamentally game-changing. Apple continues to refine the iPhone and iPod Touch, adding capabilities such as a compass, Exchange e-mail support, and video capture -- but the last round of devices didn't pioneer anything significant. Both Palm and Google delivered their own iPhone-inspired OSes (WebOS and Android, respectively), but did nothing significant beyond adding (very welcome) support for multiple simultaneous apps to what the iPhone had already brought to the table."

We encourage you to read the article in its entirety to more fully understand Gruman's point.

Has mobile innovation come to an end?


So what do you think? Have smart phones stopped being innovative? Are we waiting for the next game changer? Will it come?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Innovation Hangover

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

The season of holiday office parties is upon us. People will be out of the office or generally not doing traditional work in December for a variety of reasons. Personal days are being used to attend children’s Christmas pageants. Family vacations are being taken. There may be a frenzy for many sales organizations in companies throughout the world to make year-end numbers, but how much actual product and service innovation takes place during this festive time? I wonder.

Although completely unscientific and inherently flawed for a variety of reasons, I took a quick look at overall monthly patent filings (depicted at uspto.gov) over the last few years to see whether December activity was any different than other months throughout each year. Patent filings aren’t necessarily a good indicator for the timing of actual innovation and rather simply the timing of legal work associated with innovation, but I thought it might be interesting to check it out anyway.

From a comparison standpoint, 2009 obviously isn’t applicable because December has yet to occur. And although I can’t say for certain how complete the online information is, it appears there’s a lag in the reporting process. The number of filings for 2008 for instance, compared with previous years, seems to be lacking substantially. 2007 and 2006 however, seem complete enough to talk credibly about their numbers.

The numbers associated with patent filings based on Application Dates for the years 2007 and 2006 don’t really seem surprising. In both years the number of filings in December were substantially below each year’s overall average. December 2007 filings seem to be about 37% below the yearly average. And December 2006 filings appear to be about 14% below the yearly average. The only other month with fewer filings in each year was November. Perhaps the holiday innovation milieu actually starts in anticipation of the tryptophan kicking in.

Go back a few more years however and these year-end differences essentially disappear. December 2005 patent filings based on Application Date essentially equal that year’s monthly average. And in 2004, December filings were actually above that year’s monthly average by about 9%. Perhaps the reporting lag is longer than it appears. Perhaps there are other factors at play. Perhaps patent filings do not in any meaningful way reflect actual innovation activity. In any case I can’t help continue to wonder how the holidays affect innovation.

As you’re sipping some eggnog or chumming it up with co-workers at a holiday celebration this season, know that innovation does not go on holiday. Somewhere, someone is dreaming up the next big thing no matter what time of year it is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black and Blue Friday

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“While the exact incident that occurred on December 3 may not happen again, the continued potential for similar crowd problems remains. Since the tragedy in Cincinnati, other serious problems resulting in injury and death have occurred elsewhere at a variety of events – sporting, entertainment, religious, etc. The contrast in occasions, crowds, and sites emphatically underscores the point that, regardless of the attraction, when large assemblages of people gather effective crowd management is essential for minimizing or preventing crowd disorders.”
- Taken from the foreword of Crowd Management, Report of the Task Force on Crowd Control and Safety, submitted to Sylvester Murray, City Manager of Cincinnati, Ohio July 8, 1980

Last week I got up early and stood outside a Target store in Minneapolis waiting for the store to open. By the time I arrived a line of about 150 people had already formed. By the time the store opened an hour and half later, I’d estimate at least 350 were in line waiting to get in. And this wasn’t an isolated phenomenon. The same scene could be witnessed at other Target stores throughout the Twin Cities that same morning.

This wasn’t a dress rehearsal for the after Thanksgiving Day rush. Target employees were not practicing how best to handle the deal-seeking crowds that will arrive later this week. There were no Black Friday specials to be had this day. Rather, this day marked the release of Cities 97 Sampler Vol. 21, a musical collection of live performances from popular artists such as Jason Mraz, Ingrid Michaelson, Rob Thomas (originally of Matchbox 20 fame), and others recorded at Studio C of radio station Cities 97.1 FM in Minneapolis. As the CD title suggests, this is the 21st year such a disk has been released. Proceeds from its sale ($700,000 this year alone, $8 million all time) are donated to various Minnesota charities. Pretty impressive considering the pressing was limited to 30,000 disks this year.

I’ve not personally witnessed scenes in other cities, but I know similar disks are produced by radio stations throughout the country – KBCO in Denver comes to mind. And I know KCRW in Los Angeles and WBCN in Boston have released disks as well, but perhaps not always specifically for local charities.

The atmosphere outside Target last week was pretty docile. Perhaps it was a function of “Minnesota nice”. Perhaps, after 21 years, everyone simply knew the routine. Perhaps it was because everyone sought the same single item. There would be no running throughout the store attempting to quickly grab multiple things. Whatever the reason, the scene was decidedly different than what often happens at various retailers at the start of Black Friday.

Pushing.

Shoving.

Yelling.

Screaming.

These are moments not necessarily filled with holiday cheer.

Last year, in a scene a bit reminiscent of the tragedy that occurred at the December 3, 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati (where 11 concert goers lost there lives), a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as thousands of people rushed through the doors at the opening of the store in Valley Stream, NY. Even the rescue workers responding to this particular scene were reportedly continually bumped and jostled as they attempted to provide aid.

The crowd at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart a year ago like that at the Cincinnati Who concert, was not likely a violent and riotous crowd. It was a crowd though. A description from the Crowd Management report submitted by the Task Force on Crowd Control and Safety that was formed after the Who concert tragedy in ‘79, probably sums it up best:

“The term stampede has been inaccurately associated with that tragedy. A more insightful description came from pedestrian planner John J. Fruin, Ph.D. who referred to the December 3 incident as a craze, “where no apparent danger is perceived (by members of a group) but (where) the group is given direction…by an induced sense of urgency.” Regardless of how the tragedy is labeled, the senseless deaths and injuries are a painful lesson in the necessity for thoroughly planned and implemented safety procedures for events that attract large crowds.”

Large crowds. Induced sense of urgency. Hmmm.

Sounds like Black Friday to me.

I wonder whether Wal-Mart officials or other retailers have read the full Crowd Management report.

The final lines from the foreword of this report are telling. “Neither this report nor its recommendations can change the events of December 3. They might, however, help to prevent us from reliving them.”

Sometimes innovation simply means learning from the past.

Is Your Company Brave Enough for Business Model Innovation?

Mark W. Johnson of the Harvard Business asks this important question in his piece published today.

Johnson writes, as we come out of the Great Recession facing the possibility of permanently lower demand in the credit-deflated West and look for growth to the millions of nonconsumers in India, China, and the rest of the developing world...That is, every company needs to ask itself: Can I reap those opportunities with my current business model?

We encourage you to read Johnson's piece in its entirety. Also, can you take the plunge and revamp your business model to reflect the current economic climate?

Is Your Company Brave Enough for Business Model Innovation?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Social Critic and Technologist Steven B Johnson to Keynote at FEI US

Steven B Johnson
Author, The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map
Contributor to Time, Wired, and Discover

Steven’s writings have influenced everything from the way political campaigns use the Internet, to cutting-edge ideas in urban planning, to the battle against 21st-century terrorism. Newsweek named him one of the “Fifty People Who Matter Most on the Internet”, having co-created the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby-Award-winning community site, Plastic.com, and most recently the hyper-local media site outside.in.

Both social critic and technologist, Steven has a genius for mapping the future, has consistently been ahead of the curve predicting and explaining the real-world impact of cutting-edge developments in science, technology and media explaining why they’re immediately relevant to both personal life and business.

Here's the Time cover article in which Steven B Johnson speaks about Twitter and Innovation.

Steven B Johnson will be speaking at this year's Front End of Innovation Conference in May 3-5 2010 at the Boston World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel. Don't miss your chance to see him!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Global Innovation Survey shows US bias, which harms innovation efforts

Which to you is more important for innovation, a) math & computer science or b) creative problem-solving?

The November 23, 2009 issue of Newsweek shares the results of the Newsweek-Intel Global Innovation Survey, and it showed some startling differences between perceptions of people in different countries. One statistic that jumped off the page at me was the disparity between what American and Chinese parents say are the most important skills their children will need to drive innovation. The American parents said it was "Math and Computer Sciences" (52% versus 9% of Chinese parents). The Chinese parents said it was "Creative Approaches to Problem-Solving" (45% versus 18% of American parents). Slide1




This struck a chord, because in America, too many blue-ribbon panels on innovation, made up of governement and/or business leaders focus on math & computer science as THE cure-all for innovation. But that is simply not enough. Math & computer sciences, as important as they are (and as much as we need to improve these skills in the US), are only a subset of creative problem-solving/creative process skills.

Slide2 There is an overlap of the two, where math & computer science are more than creative problem-solving (2+2=4 is an example of non-innovation), yet still requiring creative problem-solving for difficult challenges (how to design and develop a smart electrical grid, or how to ensure that the electrical system and gasoline engine work together smoothly in a hybrid vehicle, are two examples). And there are creative problem-solving challenges that do not require math and/or computer sciences (creating new business models, developing new flavored products, or creating a more distribution channel). Yes, math & computer sciences may be useful tools for this, but they are only a portion of the complete tool box (in addition to marketing, finance, manufacturing, customer service, etc.).

Slide3 If we take it to the next level, we see that innovation encompasses more than just creative problem-solving (for example, the launch of a new product that easily fits into a company's production, distribution, and brand portfolio doesn't require much problem-solving once the product itself is developed). And there is certainly math & science that are required for innovation, but there are still areas outside of math & science that have nothing to do with innovation (like how to program a computer to boot up a new software program, for example).

Let me be clear: math & computer science skills are critical for innovation, but they're not the only thing! They are necessary, but not sufficient.

Likewise, creative approaches to problem-solving are necessary yet not sufficient either. Slide 4 However, creative problem-solving is a skill set that relates more broadly than just math and science, and since it can be used in math & science, and beyond, I believe that it is a skillset that is more essential to driving innovation than just math & computer science.

Innovation doesn't happen without creative thinking and creative problem-solving. So if you want to drive innovation in your organization, it is critical to make sure that your people have -- in addition to math & computer science -- skills for creative thinking and creative problem-solving. These skills apply to math and computer sciences, plus marketing, finance, manufacturing, customer service, and so many more areas that drive your business.

No matter in what country you live, work, and innovate, make sure you and your team have creative problem-solving skills that they can apply to any innovation challenges they face.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

MillerCoors Gives $500,000 for Freshwater Innovation Lab

Discovery World's water education programs are set to receive $500,000 from MillerCoors to fund a Freshwater Innovation Lab. The Associated Press reports that the lab will feature a micro-scale brewery that will focus on the beer production process and water's role in brewing.

It will also highlight water chemistry, microbiology and organisms, properties of water and water-based business and technology opportunities.

Museum President Joel Brennan says Discovery World already has adult classes on brewing, where people can brew and bottle their own beer.
The lab is expected to open in next spring.

What do you think of MillerCoor's foray into the water sustainability sphere? Are we to hear of more brewers following suit?




Wednesday, November 18, 2009

FEI Europe Track Spotlight: Avoid Commoditization

This week we're focusing on the Avoid Commoditization track, which will help your company move beyond product innovation.

Spotting opportunities for growth through Business Model and Service Innovation is critical for long term sustainability. Innovation is not only for products, it’s required throughout the entire Value Chain. And, these initiatives must start through the Front End.

This track will specifically focus on value innovation, how to make your entire organization more cost effective as well as how to avoid commoditization through services and new business models.

Some of the companies speaking on this track include Tom Tom, Dow Corning, Ericsson, and INSEAD just to name a few. Make sure to download the brochure for a complete run-down on topics covered. Hope to see you at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Amsterdam this February!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Individual vs. Organizational Innovation Motivation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

"Motivation: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon."
- message included on a Demotivators® poster from Despair, Inc.

Given my somewhat wry and ironic sense of humor, someone must have thought a few years back I'd enjoy a Demotivators calendar from Despair, Inc. I must admit I found it a bit humorous.

For those unfamiliar with Demotivators, they're essentially the facetious antithesis of Successories posters - those framed leadership and motivation prints found on corporate walls throughout the world. (The Demotivators actually remind me a bit of the recurring Saturday Night Live bit "Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy.")

Both Demotivators and Successories prints include a colorful picture and an insightful saying meant to represent the overall topic of the piece - such as Teamwork, Inspiration, Leadership, Attitude, etc. Although similar in style and appearance, the messages themselves are dicotomous at best. Take for instance, the message associated with Teamwork.

Successories print (accompanied by picture of a rowing team working together on water)
"Teamwork: Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

Demotivators print (accompanied by picture of snowball rolling down a snowy hill)
"Teamwork: A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction."

or how about Success?

Successories print (accompanied by picture of morning rays of light shimmering through some trees)
"Success: Some people dream of success...while others wake up and work hard at it."

Demotivators print (accompanied by picture of a quarterback being pummeled by a defensive football player)
"Success: Some people dream of success, while other people live to crush those dreams."

It's probably fair to say that simply reading the Demotivators messages probably doesn't do the humor justice. The punchline is mostly created by the downtrodden saying juxtaposed with the inspirational-looking glossy photo on each print. It's ironic. It makes me chuckle.

Having been given the Demotivators calendar a few years back, I must now be on their mailing list. Just in time for the holidays, I recently received their new catalog. Inside I noticed some new prints, one of which was Innovation.

Demotivators print (accompanied by picture of human hand and robotic hand shaking. The robotic hand looks like it came right out of the 1927 film Metropolis.)
"Innovation: If it can make your job easier, it can probably make it irrelevant."

Seeing this message made me begin to wonder what differences might exist between the motivations of an overall organization as it relates to innovation and the motiviatons of the individuals that make up those organizations. Everyday we see ads, read articles, read books, and generally absorb the goodtidings messages and promotions of innovation initiatives throughout the corporate world. But what of the people in the trenches? What of those that aren't readily in the public eye? Ideally their motivations would align with the goals and objectives of the overall organization. Ideally everyone is motivated to innovate. But are they?

I know there are opportunities throughout organizations for anyone and everyone to be innovative in their own way, however small their role might be. But does everyone in an organization want to be innovative? Might they have motivations for not being so?

I haven't yet formulated any insightful responses to these questions. I'm just sort of wondering out loud at this point. I do find such questions intriguing though. And perhaps I'll ponder some more and return to this topic at another time.

In closing I'll leave you with one more Demotivators saying. Given the medum, I found this simply too ironic to resist.

"Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Newsweek: The Decline of Western Innovation

Daniel McGinn's article in Newsweek discusses how America has been the loser in innovation and what can be done to keep the country from falling further behind.


McGinn writes that after a Newsweek poll they discovered that on some issues there is widespread agreement: two thirds of respondents believe innovation will be more important than ever to the U.S. economy over the next 30 years. But the survey shows some striking contrasts as well. Eighty-one percent of Chinese believe the U.S. is staying ahead of China on innovation; only 41 percent of Americans agree. To find the next big breakthrough, Americans are focused on improving math and science education, while Chinese are more concerned about developing creative problem-solving and business skills.

Take a look at the Newsweek results and let us know what you think.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Richard Branson, Chairman & Founder of Virgin Group on Customer Influenced Innovation

Here's a video interview I recently came across from BusinessWeek in which best-selling author & entrepreneur Seth Godin asks Virgin Group Founder & Chairman Richard Branson whether he finds innovation coming directly from his customers. Watch the minute and a half clip below. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boston Universities fuel innovation

In an article at Boston.com, Business Update credits universities with the ability to promote Massachusetts as the most patents per higher education institution. It doubles the next state. Boston also hosts more start up companies created by university research. Read more about Boston's accomplishments here.


The Front End of Innovation conference also takes place in Boston. It will take place May 3-5 at the Boston World Trade Center. In addition to universities being a huge source of innovation and ideas, do you find that conferences can prove to be an innovation epicenter too?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FEI Europe Keynote Speaker: Scott Anthony

Today we'll be profiling FEI Europe keynote speaker Scott Anthony, Managing director of Innosight Ventures and author of three books on innovation.

Scott is the Managing Director of Innosight Ventures. He previously was the President of Innosight's consulting arm where he worked with Fortune 500 and start-up companies in industries such as media (print and broadcast), consumer products, investment banking, transportation and logistics, healthcare, medical devices, software, petrochemicals, and communications equipment.

Scott is a judge in the Wall Street Journal's 2009 Innovation Awards. He is a faculty member of the Leadership, Innovation, and Growth Program at GE Crotonville. Scott is also a member of the Board of Directors of Media General.

Scott has written three books on innovation: Seeing What’s Next with Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business Press, 2004), The Innovator’s Guide to Growth with Mark Johnson, Joe Sinfield, and Elizabeth Altman (Harvard Business Press, 2008), and The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times (Harvard Business Press, June 2009). He has written articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Sloan Management Review, Advertising Age, Marketing Management and Chief Executive, is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Online and serves as the editorial director of Strategy & Innovation.

Here's a YouTube clip of Scott Anthony introducing the concept of disruptive innovation.



Make sure not to miss his keynote session Seizing the Silver Lining at the Front End of Innovation Europe Conference in Amsterdam this February 8-10. Remember if you’re planning to attend the conference make sure to mention priority code FEINOVBLOG when registering to receive €300 Discount which Expires This Friday! Hope to see you all there!


Bio courtesy of Innosight Ventures.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the Mood

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song?”
- William Miller [played by Patrick Fugit] interviewing Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond [played by Billy Crudup] from the Cameron Crowe written and directed film Almost Famous

Among musicians and other artists, the notion that mood and attitude can have an affect on one’s creative output is a generally accepted truism.

Picasso’s “Blue” period.

Alanis Morisette’s album Jagged Little Pill.

Virtually every poem written by Emily Dickinson.

Countless other examples.

All were affected by mood, attitude, and intellectual dissonance.

These are the elements that fuel art.

A number of years ago a relatively obscure musical duo called Billy Pilgrim (who got some radio play with their song Sweet Louisiana Sound and whom I always referred to as the Indigo Guys because of their sound similarities to the Indigo Girls) put out an even more obscure album entitled Billy In The Time Machine. (For all those closet music genealogists out there, Billy Pilgrim was comprised of Kristian Bush, now one half of the mega country duo Sugarland, and Andrew Hyra, brother of actress Meg Ryan). The album was a limited success, yet was particularly interesting to me because of the approach taken by the group during its recording. Billy Pilgrim decided they would only work on the recording if all participants were in good spirits. Only good moods were allowed. If anyone had a bummer of a day, was a bit gloomy, or otherwise mentally preoccupied with something other than sunny days, they’d avoid the recording studio. As you might expect, the album took a long time to complete. Years.

(As an aside - because of its delay, I can’t help wonder whether Axl Rose set down some variation of these parameters while working on the Guns ‘N’ Roses release Chinese Democracy.)

Moods, good and bad, affect art.

But what of innovation?

From what well do good ideas spring?

And under what mental circumstances should we evaluate our ideas?

Common sense (as well as research) suggests positive moods promote creativity, flexibility, and cooperation - all the workings of a solid idea development system. And although negative moods, as is the case in the world of art, can produce inspired innovative works, we generally equate positive demeanor with creativity and innovation.

But innovation is a process. And at various points along its arc, a little negativity isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Recent research by psychology professor Joseph Forgas at the University of New South Wales suggests negative moods might have intellectual benefit. The study, published under the title Think Negative! in the November/December edition of Australasian Science journal, showed that people in a negative mood were often more critical of, and paid more attention to, their surroundings than happier people. Happier people were more likely to believe anything they were told. “Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking paying greater attention to the external world,” Forgas wrote.

But why might this matter for innovation?

Although perhaps counterintuitive, because no one wants to promote cantankerous attitudes at the office or be around generally grumpy people, the study suggests to me that perhaps we should use good moods to generate innovative ideas, yet harness bad moods to evaluate them.

How many times have you emerged from a Stage-Gate® meeting (or some other project evaluation session) aggravated and cranky? How often do your meetings get prolonged and increasingly unproductive because decisions go unmade? I can’t imagine you went into the meeting with such a bad attitude. There’s typically a certain level of excitement and optimism before most meetings. Hope springs eternal. Today, you think, will be the day you give the green light to your next great innovation.

But…

“Positive mood is not universally desirable: people in negative mood are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions and are better at producing high-quality, effective persuasive messages,” Forgas wrote.

So consider this. The next time you go into a Stage-Gate® meeting, go in already cranky and frustrated. Perhaps you'll make better decisions and the meeting will be a bit more productive. Perhaps you’ll emerge a much happier person.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What is a truly innovative business?

Morgan Witzel of the Los Angeles Times recently looked at the book "The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage" by Roger Martin, the Dean of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. In this book, he states that the key to success is design thinking, and taking all of the creative talents of your team and sending them towards one goal. Businesses, for the most part, have been relying on two models: the analytical and the intuitive. Martin then spends the book focusing on why it is important to harness both models. Do you harness your innovation analytically or intuitively? Do you think your innovation could grow if you combined them? Read the full article here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

President Obama on Innovation and Sustainable Growth

Being that it's a Friday we'll keep a light post today. Here's a video from when President Barack Obama visited Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY back in September in which he lays out his vision for innovation, growth, and quality jobs. Take some time to check out the video below. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Innovations in the online search industry

The Silicon Valley Mercury News has broken down the recent innovations taking place in the search engine industry. With Bing and Microsoft gaining ground slightly on Google, Google could soon face their first real challenge as the search leader. Search is now an important function of people's use of the internet, and is currently the #2 activity for users, behind using email. New innovations in the industry include Microsoft announcing that Twitter updates will be available in real time with their searches and Google followed up with improving their music searching functions, allowing users to go straight to the songs. Read the full article here.

From the stance of a internet user, I think that the Microsoft/Google/Yahoo challenge is great. We, as surfers of the internet, have the chance to benefit from this healthy competition. We can utilize search capabilities to improve our performances and gain the knowledge that we need to know faster. What do you think will be the next big turn in search innovation?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NACCM 2009: Two-Way Invention: Co-generating New Products and Services with Your Customers Through Ongoing Dialogues Online

Here's an interesting post on customer-driven innovation from our live coverage at the NACCM event in Phoenix. Make sure to subscribe to their feed if you haven't yet already to receive live updates.


In today’s presentation, Sami Hero, Vice President of Global Web Strategy at LexisNexis shared his company’s approach towards social media engagement and its evolution. LexisNexis built their web strategy over the past several years. In 2007, they launched their Web 2.0 initiatives and engaged in sporadic blogging, building focus groups and using Net Promoter Scores to gather feedback from their customers. In 2008, their focus was on building solutions and services for customer problems and creating 17 customer communities. Growth continued in 2009 as they developed global websites and grew customer communities to 30+. LexisNexis continued to grow its customer engagement in 2010 by adding mobile applications, building deeper customer relationships, and making it a common practice to listen.

Customer-driven innovation needs to be measured says Hero. It takes special talent…find them in your organization and “let them loose”. Age doesn’t matter, skill set does. When asked what skill sets are most important, Hero said that people with excitement, those that display strong writing skills, and those who are passionate about customer engagement make the best choices for managing customer conversations.

LexisNexis actively listens to its customers and users through their website. Hero sees the value in these community sites as customers tend to go back to the main website. When at the main site, customers typically end up buying something. This cross promotion has significant value to an organization says Hero. He cautions us, however, in that if you aren’t giving good content, your community will die. Invest the resources to keep the customer conversations alive.

FEI Europe Track Spotlight: Generate Partnerships

We'll be alternating between speaker profiles and track spotlights from the event every Wednesday leading up to FEI Europe. This week we're focusing on the Generate Partnerships track, which will help make open innovation & external collaboration work.

Moving beyond the fundamentals- you will discover specific tools and techniques that make open innovation and partnerships really work for your organization. Though Open Innovation (OI) can be a difficult process to manage, creating an organizational structure that supports OI can unlock several opportunities for your organization. New for 2010 – in an interactive panel hear how companies are overcoming Intellectual Property challenges. Plus a new sessions on working with venture companies to build future growth as well as a session on metrics and measure that drive OI success.

Some of the companies speaking on this track include Logitech, GlaxoSmithKline, Heineken, Nestlé Co, J&J, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem just to name a few. Make sure to download the brochure for a complete run-down on topics covered. Hope to see you in Amsterdam in February!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Putting Someone Else In TOMS Shoes

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

I believe that you can do good by doing well.”
Blake Mycoskie - Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS Shoes

Chances are you’ve already read or heard about this company. Perhaps it was a story in Time magazine, a feature in People, or one of another dozen or so articles in prominent magazines or newspapers across the country during the past couple years. Or maybe you saw the “More Bars In More Places” AT&T television advertising spot earlier this year. It was kind of a cool spot. But even if you’ve heard about this company, their story is worth telling again. Their approach to business is totally Gonzo Innovation.

A couple years after taking third in the 2002 reality television show The Amazing Race II, entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie returned to one of his favorite destinations from the show – Argentina. While there, visiting a remote village, Blake was struck by the number of barefoot children who were unable to afford the basic footwear worn by most locals. In that moment, seeing that many of these children had infected cuts on their feet and wondering what he might be able to do about it, Blake Mycoskie had an epiphany. In that moment, the underlying “One for One” premise of TOMS Shoes was born. And in May 2006, after developing a more commercially viable version of the alpargatas (simple roped soled shoes) worn throughout Argentina by everyone from farmers to polo players, TOMS Shoes became a reality.

Later that first year, made possible because of caring TOMS customers, Blake with a group of family, friends, and staff, returned to Argentina to distribute its first 10,000 pairs of shoes. As of August 2009, TOMS has given over 150,000 pairs of shoes to children in need throughout the world, with plans to give over 300,000 pairs in 2009.

Wow.

From the company website:
“TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about.”

TOMS (short for Shoes for Tomorrow) is everything Gonzo.

It is infused with passion

It is filled with purpose.

It’s efforts are experiential.

It’s team is committed.

For a consumer, shopping with TOMS equals giving. The company’s “One for One” business model has transformed customers into benefactors. And in doing so, TOMS has created a truly sustainable gonzo business that isn’t dependent on fundraising for support. Pretty amazing.

Perhaps you should consider putting someone else in TOMS shoes this holiday season.
_____________

TOMS shoes are available at department stores and specialty shops throughout the U.S. Find a retailer or purchase online at http://www.tomsshoes.com/.

[This entry was posted simultaneously on gonzoinnovation.com]

Monday, November 2, 2009

What works in the West might not work in the East: ensuring the integrity of the ETS

Why some EU Member States need to restrict carbon trading

EU member states cannot avoid taking different approaches to the implementation of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) if the integrity of the system is to be sustained. What works in the West might not work in the East.

There are questions whether new measures by the Lithuanian government to restrict the use of cash gained through the carbon sales in the second phase of the scheme are in line with the spirit of the EU ETS to provide a flexible mechanism and cash incentive for the companies for the reduction of carbon dioxide across the block.

The idea of emissions trading was to provide a flexible mechanism to stimulate environmental progress in our most polluting industrial sectors. Lithuania takes the view that in order to preserve the integrity of the ETS in fighting climate change, governments must implement legislation that would underpin and reinforce the rules on carbon trading, but also lay a foundation for sustainable development of a country, particularly in the face of economic downturn. Every country has a specific economic and social background that requires differentiated approaches in steering a state towards a sustainable economy. It means that EU regulation will have to be adjusted to the requirements of individual members.

Voluntary investments towards pollution reduction can be expected among the EU ETS operators in developed member states, such as Netherlands, in part because of the exposure to international competition, caring for the company brand as well as public checks and balances ensure operators investing in ‘cleaning up’. But other countries without these ‘drivers’ cannot engineer a laissez-faire move towards carbon reductions and a greener economy. In these cases regulation can and must fill in the void to surge financing of economy greening.

Lithuania is facing closure of the Ignalina Nuclear Power plant in 2009 and subsequently moving towards dirtier and more carbon intensive fuels in the coming years. Still, Lithuanian companies are able to sell allowances they didn’t need - in turn making profits but passing CO2 costs on to consumers. It happened at a grand scale during the ETS phase 1, when companies were making up to €35 million in profits and no investments towards pollution reduction, transforming industry or cleaning up production processes, which could have eased the need for additional allowances in the future.

The existing surplus of permits if not managed properly is failing the “polluter-pays principle” as it represents “hot air” in the system. To avoid permits being bought and used without any effort towards emissions reductions having taken place, some governments especially amongst the new member states will have to take a more active role.

Thus article 5 of the Climate Change Financial Mechanisms Act, which sets a duty upon the operators to use the proceeds from the permits trade exclusively for the environmental projects, has been introduced in Lithuania. Under the new law, companies sustain a level of discretion which projects to spend the carbon revenue on: from implementing best available practices to environmental programmes that can be rolled out on a wide scale. The new regulation applies only until 2013, when centralized allocation of emissions allowances is proposed by EU authority and the auctioning share as opposed to free allocation is envisaged to be bigger. But in response to dialogue with the European Commission over the contested national allocation plan and the need for the government to promote the transformation of industry to minimise the impact of ever decreasing free allowances, the Lithuanian government felt such regulation is necessary.

It will help to sustain the integrity of EU ETS, promote sustainable development, and to protect the public from hefty energy prices that will be inflated by the need of extra EUAs in the face of changing energy sources in Lithuania and cut of free allocations.Indeed such legislation is being considered by other new member states in the Czech Republic and Poland, which are both reported to be considering placing restrictions on how revenue raised from selling EUAs is spent in the third phase of the scheme.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Internet Addresses May Soon Have Non-Latin Script

The language used for internet addresses may soon expand from Latin script to non-Latin script enabling more people around the globe to use the internet in their native language. This week in Seoul the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which is the non-profit group that oversees domain names will meet to discuss implementing non-Latin alphabets into assigned names and numbers. The BBC reports that this could potentially open up the Web to more people around the world as addresses could be in alphabets such as Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Hindi and Cyrillic.


Hear more on the subject in this special BBC podcast.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FEI Europe 2010 Keynote Speaker Profile: Adrian van Hooydonk, Director Design, BMW Group

Every Wednesday leading up to the event we will be profiling a new keynote speaker for the Front End of Innovation Europe 2010 Conference in Amsterdam. Today, we're profiling the Director of Design for the BMW Group, Adrian van Hooydonk.

Adrian van Hooydonk is a Dutch car designer currently working as BMW's Chief of Design. Before assuming the position in 2006, he was the President of BMW's Designworks USA studio in California eventually becoming the protege of controversial designer (and former BMW CoD) Chris Bangle, who has since become the Director of Design for the entire BMW group (including its subsidiaries Mini and Rolls-Royce. He studied at Delft University of Technology in Holland, and later at the Art Center Europe in Vevey, Switzerland, until 1992.

As the Director of Design for BMW he oversaw many projects including this BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Vehicle. Take a look below!



Make sure not to miss Adrian's session at FEI Europe The Future Sustainability and The Joy of Mobility and BMW's LIVE unveiling of their new concept car! Hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Show, Don't Tell

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

A classic mantra for fiction writers is the adage “Show, don’t tell.” In storytelling this basically means a writer should write in a manner that allows a reader to experience the story through character actions, words, and thoughts rather than simply through the narrator’s exposition and summarization. By showing rather than telling, readers can discover for themselves the underlying meaning and depth of a narrative. And although it can take more effort and time, showing brings a story to life in a way that simply telling cannot.

The same mantra can be applied to marketing and product development. Whether we recognize it or not, we are all storytellers. We are trying to capture the hearts, minds, and bodies of our customers through engaging narratives. This might take the form of traditional messaging and advertising, or through product innovation that takes customers on some sort of new journey. As such, we should strive to show, not tell.

I was perusing my November 2009 issue of Wired magazine this past week in an effort to stay abreast of everything Wired magazine publisher Howard S. Mittman calls “new and innovative in the world.” In addition to reading the interesting articles and checking out the product reviews, I found myself looking fairly closely this month at the various product advertisements throughout the magazine. I do this from time to time. Superbowl ads only come around once a year, and sometimes I simply need a little fix of current messaging and branding tactics.

As I visually accumulated more and more ads from this month’s Wired, I began to notice something. Perhaps it was a new phenomenon. Perhaps not. I don’t remember seeing it before though in such abundance. It seems advertisers are increasingly using the word “innovation” or “innovative” in the text of their ads. From energy, to cars, to computers, to clothing. Anything can be innovative. And advertisers want us to know it.

By definition, the word innovative basically means “new and different.” I suspect many advertisers though are looking beyond this simple definition and are hoping to capitalize on other generally accepted associations of the word – cool, cutting-edge, quality, industry-leading, forward-thinking, etc. Innovative isn’t inherently good however. An innovative product or service could just as easily be untested, unreliable, or gimmicky rather than cool and cutting-edge.

I personally am most interested in whether something meets my needs, resolves a problem, or otherwise satisfies me in some way. I don’t really care whether you call the product innovative or not. And I certainly don’t want to be told that a product is innovative – at least not by the manufacturer or its advertising agency. The word innovative should be reserved for product reviews or informative stories by third party observers not intent on trumpeting their own horn.

I can appreciate the inherent difficulty and limitations that exist in print advertising. Not a lot of space. No moving parts. No sound. The challenge to select the perfect words and present the perfect image is great. I still want companies to at least make an attempt to show how and why a product is right for me though. I don’t want to be told it’s innovative. To do so seems a bit shallow, or even disingenuous, or at the very least lazy. “Innovative” has unfortunately become a catch-all word meant to represent all that is good. Forgive me though if I don’t take at face-value the words printed in an ad or included in a press release.

Maybe I’m wrong. But if you keep telling us and not showing us how new and different your products are, the word innovative will get tired, not wired, real fast.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Innovation means squat without sweat

Brad Spirrison of The Chicago Sun-Times writes that it's difficult enough in white hot economies for innovators like Michael Wielgat, who has recently invented the life-saving Hero Pipe for firefighters, to introduce new ways of doing things. A recession can give detractors another reason to throw cold water on untested techniques. Sometimes the only way to get through to anyone is by being a pest.

In his piece, Spirrison discusses inventors who never took "no" for an answer and who have successfully marketed their inventions. For their stories, please visit the article.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Five Technologies That Could Change Everything

The Wall Street Journal reports this week that next few decades, the world will need to wean itself from dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce greenhouse gases. Current technology will take us only so far; major breakthroughs are required. So the writer, Michael Totty offers up these five technologies:

  • SPACE-BASED SOLAR POWER
  • ADVANCED CAR BATTERIES
  • UTILITY STORAGE
  • CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE
  • NEXT-GENERATION BIOFUELS

We've discussed a few of these on this very blog, but we'd like to get your input. Is Tolly's tally an accurate account of what we may see in the future? What is he missing?

Five Technologies That Could Change Everything

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ideas That Go Up In Smoke

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” - from the poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake

From the comments and messages I received following last week’s post “And The Nobel Winner Is...” it’s clear the divide concerning the perceived worthiness of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is fairly large. Many people it appears either believe anything and everything concerning the president is worthy of a celebration throughout the universe ala Return of the Jedi when the Galactic Empire was destroyed. Or they believe Arizona State University still shouldn’t award an honorary degree to our Commander-In-Chief. It seems the political associations of this year’s prize prevented some from digesting the overarching message of last week’s post. Simply put, peace requires collaboration.

It’s a new week now. And with my natural apolitical tendencies fully restored I have chosen to tackle a decidedly lighter, if not simply airier topic. I’ll do my best to stay off the politics.

Have you ever had a great idea when you’re really, really tired?

Have you ever had a great idea after getting really, really drunk? [If you’re still wondering, the matching BFF tattoos you and your friends got while in Cancun a few years ago don’t count as a great idea.]

Have you ever had a great idea after getting totally baked?

Or rather, do you have a vague recollection of having had a great idea after getting baked? And are now trying to recapture that fleeting thought?

If so, perhaps you should try highDEAS.com.

It's positioned as the site to share “the best ideas (while you’re high)”.

It’s a place where you can “Submit highDEA (before you forget)”.

The site is obviously a bit of a farce and should be taken tongue-in-cheek. But the site itself, however absurd you think it might be, is actually fairly clever. It does provide a solution to a problem. And although from a practical, business standpoint, you’ll not find much inspiration or useful thought nuggets in its web pages, some of the stuff is kind of funny when you think about it. Then again, most of it is pretty juvenile and stupid.

A few of the more realistic highDEAS that made me think a little extra if only for a moment included:
Flavored glue
Bras with pockets
Bag in bag (a second compartment in a bag of sunflower seeds used for spitting out shells)

But such tangible, lucid posts are few and far between. The most interesting post I found though was a bit surprising. It wasn’t really an idea but rather a diatribe wake-up rant from one pothead to his less than motivated brethren.

sasquatch.oil writes: Get Off Your Ass And Live
“To the lazy folk, Get your sh%t together. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE smoking Ganj as much as anyone else (like everyday), and I understand that at times you get unmotivated (as do I), but don’t live the stereotypical PotHead life. Sitting on the couch. Sleeping the day away. Eating yourself out of house and home. No job.

Smoke your grass and go on an Adventure! Explore! Stay in good company and please be safe. The World is a Beautiful place, but she can also be a Bit#h.”

For anyone that’s ever had a great idea, or sadly many great ideas, and never done anything with them, I say Get Off Your Ass And Innovate. Mark Twain once wrote “a person who won’t read has no advantage over one that can’t read.” The same is true with innovation. Do something with your ideas.

It’s late now and I’m a bit tired. But I’ve sort of got the munchies.

One final pondering before I sign off though.

What kind of innovations might Bill Clinton have come up with had he inhaled?

Sorry. I couldn’t resist a final puff of politics.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Innovation Action Lags Talking by 35% - New Research

By Dan Keldsen - Co-founder and Principal at Information Architected

In a recent study of over 180 companies, Information Architected Inc. (IAI) found that while most organizations view innovation as critical to their success, less than half of respondents are proactively DOING innovation.

Highlights:

84% view innovation as critical, yet only 49% have put in place any formal process to manage innovation

68% of the surveyed organizations’ management believes that innovation should be managed as a corporate asset and process, yet only 49% have any form of executive management presiding over innovation.

The difference between theory and reality was also stunning in the application of technology to manage and magnify innovation.

Although innovation management is NOT about technology, it can certainly be fine-tuned and enhanced through the application of technology.

In fact, 56% of the individuals surveyed stated that it is imperative that an organization deliberately leverage technology in order to maximize the value of innovation management. Yet 35% stated that there was a lack of effective collaboration and communication technologies within their organization.

Other key findings include:

  • When asked to identify the criticality of several components to innovation management, corporate culture surfaced as number 1, with 71% stating it was absolutely critical.
  • The majority (61%) of respondents stated that serendipity (accidental or coincidental innovation) was the least critical component of innovation management.
  • 82% felt that innovation did not have to be disruptive in order to have significant impact.

IAI will publish a whitepaper that details all the findings of the study later this month, and hold a no-cost webinar to discuss the findings on Thursday, October 29 at 2pm ET (-5 GMT).

To register for the webinar and receive notification when the whitepaper is released go to:

Register for the 2009 Innovation Management Whitepaper and Webinar

About the Survey

This IAI Innovation Management survey was conducted during the second quarter of 2009, and was administered through an online survey instrument. A total of 180 business professionals participated in the survey, representing a full array of vertical industries and company sizes. (Demographics can be provided.)

Partial underwriting of this Survey was provided by:

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