Monday, August 31, 2009

The Triple Bottom LIne of Eco-Innovation Speaker Profile: Anup Jacob, Virgin Green Fund

Anup Jacob
Founding Partner
Virgin Green Fund

Anup Jacob is a Partner of Virgin Green Fund and a member of its Investment Committee. Prior to founding VGF with his partners Shai Weiss and Evan Lovell, Anup was an investment professional with TPG and a partner in TPG’s Aqua Fund, which focused on growth capital investments in the water and renewable energy sectors.

Anup serves on the Board of Solyndra, a solar company based in California. He previously served on the board of Jain Irrigation Systems. He has also served as a CFO of various portfolio companies and has chaired several audit and strategic committees.

Anup started his career at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in New York and India in the Global Power and Merchant Banking groups.

Anup is involved in several children’s charities and environmental charities in India and the US and is a national judge for the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year for Energy and Mining Awards. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago.

Anup's bio courtesy of Virgin Green Fund

Don’t miss Anup’s session The Green Economy: An Investor's Perspective at Eco-Innovation this October 19 – 21 at La Jolla, CA!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Health Care Innovation Through the Reform

With the huge debate taking place on the benefits of health care reform, innovation in healthcare is too often clouded or overlooked. This post in BusinessWeek discusses how GE Healthcare Performance Systems, a consulting group with GE, helped revolutionize ORs at the Moffit Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa.

The hospital was in deep trouble before GE came along. New surgeons were not able to schedule time in the operating room because more senior surgeons carefully guarded those times. This in turn caused only 13% of all scheduled operations to start on time, which led to fewer operations and forced nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgeons to work overtime regularly.

We recently posted on how outsourcing innovation can bring in fresh perspectives and allows companies to save countless time, energy, and money. GE is just another example that proves this point. Here's what they the healthcare innovation consultants did to reorganize the OR.

1. A smart hospital room with cameras overlooking patient falls was built using a facial recognition system created by GE Security.
2. GE streamlined sterilization equipment needed for surgeries to cut prep time.
3. Implemented new routines for nurses so that they could take on more tasks

Unfortunately, inefficiency runs through most of the US hospitals. A recent report by the researchers behind the Dartmouth Atlas describes our health care systems as, "disorganized, poorly coordinated, and inefficient care."

Taking a broader look at things, other industries are suffering from inefficiency as well, it's not just healthcare. Businesses must constantly seek new ways of improving efficient processes in order to stay in the forefront of innovation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Innovation Immersion Speaker Profile: Bob Fishman, CEO, Ausra

Bob Fishman

Fishman brings to Ausra more than 30 years of experience in large scale power projects. Prior to Ausra, he managed Calpine's 25,000-megawatt portfolio of clean, efficient and reliable natural gas-fired and geothermal power plants. He also managed Calpine's development and construction programs, engineering, and safety, health and environmental activities. Before joining Calpine in 2001, Fishman was president of PB Power, Inc. where he managed power project engineering services for more than 6,000 megawatts of gas-turbine and renewable energy projects. A former chief engineer in the U.S. Navy, Fishman holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, a master's and engineer's degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Century Aluminum Company.

Bio Courtesy of

Don’t miss Bob’s presentation What Recession? Live CEO Interviews with YOUR Tweets! At the Innovation Immersion Conference.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Complimentary Web Seminar: Make Money and Do Good: How to Profit from Your Most Sustainable Solutions in the Fastest Growing Regions of the World

Is it possible to save the planet by paving it?
Can a good box help feed a growing population?
Will prescription drug packages make patients healthier?

Discover the answers in three revealing case studies that demonstrate proven strategies for “making money and doing good.” Bruce Thomas will talk about MWV’s sustainable innovations such as Evotherm (a warm-paving product that reduces air emissions), Shellpak (an adherence package for prescription drugs), and fresh produce packaging (designed to increase agricultural exports from Brazil).

In the course of these case studies, Thomas will shed light on the growing opportunity for innovators to provide sustainable solutions that meet the economic, social and environmental challenges of governments and consumers in emerging markets – as well as here at home.

Learn more as Bruce shares first-hand experiences that will show you how to:
• Design sustainable products specifically for emerging markets
• Determine which products “play well” in other countries
• Talk to government leaders and get them to listen
• Address the burning needs of consumers around the world

About the speaker
Bruce Thomas, Senior Vice President, Global Market Strategy and Emerging Markets, MWV Corporation

Bruce Thomas, is a leading voice on the challenges and opportunities associated with business development in emerging markets. In his role as chief strategist for MWV’s global market development, he leads several initiatives aimed at delivering profitable growth through innovation and expansion in key emerging markets such as China, India and Eastern Europe.

Code: M2190W3BLOG

This web seminar was brought to you by:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thinking "About-the-Box"

C. Engdahl

The Big E of Big E Toys

[In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit right up front that this post includes an example of a product that I personally developed.]

It’s perhaps become a cliché (or at least a well-weathered phrase) to say that we strive as individuals and organizations to think “outside-the-box”. Despite the overuse of this phrase, this still seems to be the ultimate goal for innovative endeavors. It’s as if inside-the-box is blasé or lacking in some fashion. But that’s not really why I write today. Instead of “outside-the-box”, I was actually thinking recently “about-the-box” – literally. I was thinking about packaging.

Fred Richards of Interbrand in Cincinnati, writing recently in the 08.17.2009 issue of Brandweek said “Packaging is the capstone of brand expression. All of the touch point messages that are leading, convincing or driving the consumer to consider a particular product at shelf are forming a perception of that product’s brand promise and delivery even before the consumer has purchased or tried it. The brand’s package seals or kills the deal.”

So true.

The ultimate influencer come decision time is the packaging itself.

When I was play testing my charades-based game Stumblebum® prior to its introduction a few years back, I remember an incident that got me to do some additional thinking about the packaging for this game. I won’t describe in detail here the premise of Stumblebum. Let’s just say that it’s referred to as “A Hilarious Game of Charades” with an accompanying tag line that reads “It’s so fun, you may actually fall down laughing!”

During a session on the night in question, a player was acting out some words while standing on one leg (at times hopping to keep her balance) and with one hand on her head. It was indeed a hilarious sight to see. In this particular case, the already tipsy participant from the libations that accompanied this game night, had her back to a set of stairs leading down.

If you can envision this scene in your head, you sort of see where this is going.

Fortunately the woman in question did not take the nasty fall I had worried she might. In fact she probably was never in any real danger. I was the only 100% sober person in the room though, and being the creator of the game and attempting to absorb any and everything I could about the playing experience that evening, I was probably hypersensitive to all that was going on. Needless to say, that particular incident prompted me to add a “disclaimer” to the Stumblebum game packaging.

You see them all the time - disclaimers and warnings on over-the-counter medications, cleaning products, automobiles, power equipment, microwaveable foods, etc. For external use only; use only as directed; keep out of the hands of children; don’t feed after midnight [I felt compelled here to include this somewhat obscure Gremlins reference]; do not take while pregnant. You name it, it seems as though everything has a warning or disclaimer associated with it. But I wasn’t about to put concerning language like this on my board game. I did figure though I could have a little fun with a disclaimer. I mean really, isn’t fun what board games are truly all about?

Here’s what I settled on. You can find this on the top of the Stumblebum box.

Disclaimer: players assume responsibility for the fun and mayhem that can occur while playing this game. Careless or reckless play could result in injury or personal embarrassment. Injuries incurred during play are the sole responsibility of participants. Players should not attempt to operate heavy equipment while playing this game. Pregnant women should take special precautions to avoid falling and rolling on the ground. People with asthma or other respiratory difficulties should think twice before engaging in this or any other activity that results in uncontrollable laughter. Don’t smoke. The creator of this game assumes each player will use common sense and understand his or her own tolerance for personal enjoyment. Have Fun. Play Responsibly.

I’ve been fortunate to have sold a relatively fair number of Stumblebum games over the last few years. And every time I reprint the game I typically make some sort of small aesthetic alteration to the game box. The size and shape of the box has remained the same. But the look has evolved over the years.

Just prior to the most recent incarnation of Stumblebum, I began thinking about how healthy laughter and fun can be in a person’s life. As the saying goes, he who laughs lasts. I decided I wanted to incorporate this premise on the game box somehow. I ultimately latched onto the idea and phrase “Emotional Nutrition”. And once I did, the packaging concept materialized rather quickly. I lifted a standard visual requirement of virtually all packaged foods and added it to my board game. See for yourself.

Despite its visual similarity to packaged foods, the development of the Emotional Nutrition label required creativity. It wasn’t a lay-up, but I knew I was onto something. Whether the thinking was inside or outside-the-box, is up to you to decide I guess. There’s a certain simplicity though, or perhaps cleverness, that is very satisfying for me. To look across industries to create a fresh take on something so familiar was quite gratifying.

In the book The Big Moo (not written by but rather) edited by Seth Godin, the anonymous writer of the chapter entitled “The Power of Dumb Ideas” writes “Imitation Across Industries Is More Efficient and Effective Than Blue Sky Creativity and Innovation…Appropriating existing marketing concepts is cheaper—and certainly quicker to implement—than developing new ones. The secret is bringing a great idea from another market or industry to your market or your industry.”

The next big thing for your industry might already exist in another. Be open to this possibility. Sometimes innovation isn’t about inventing the wheel. Sometimes it’s about putting wheels on something that never had them before.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Seeing your innovation come to life

At, John Caddell recently wrote about his experience of using one of the innovations he had a major hand in creating.

He made this statement about the in-air wifi he recently had a hand in creating:

And one illustration of it is the delight you get when you realize the product is being used by real people. In fact, this feeling may be the biggest rush in innovation.

Do you agree with this statement? Has there ever been a time when you've seen your innovation used by the public?

Friday, August 21, 2009

IBM Bets on Brazilian Innovation reports that IBM is setting up shop in Brazil announcing on Aug. 18 a new initiative to stimulate the development of the country's technology sector. To kick off the effort, IBM is hosting its first-ever forum for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in São Paulo along with FINEP, the Brazilian government agency that finances technology development. The daylong event will bring together more than 100 investors and dozens of new companies looking for investment and business advice.


Humberto Matsuda, founding partner with Performa Investimentos, a new Brazilian venture capital firm, says the IBM forum is a significant event for his country. "We are very excited to see how IBM will become a player in this industry," says Matsuda, who is closing an $8 million fund, with 40% of its capital coming from FINEP. "It is a very significant event, given the size of the players."

Will we see other technology giants headed to Brazil in the coming years?

IBM Bets on Brazilian Innovation

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Creating an Innovation Culture

The Tata Group is well known for their innovative products such as the $2,000 Tata Nano car as well as many others. This post on BusinessWeek shares with us their strategy on how the 117-year old Indian powerhouse has continued to innovate time after time.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has created the Tata Group Innovation Forum (TGIF) which consists of a 12 member panel including top CEOs from some of the independently run companies as well as other senior executives. This is one of the ways the group shares and inspires best practices. Leaders also focused on implementing and knowing how to move forward with ideas, no matter if it was a disruptive idea or an incremental one. Knowing whom to go with ideas is very crucial. Managers within TCS are properly trained on how to direct an employee's ideas.

The company also trains its employees to think creatively and to always keep improvement on their minds. The company dedicated 5 hours of the employee's work week for personal time, which includes developing a skill or an idea.

What's your company doing to keep an innovation culture alive?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Strategy - Down from the Clouds

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

stormcloudArguably there is no important time than NOW to ensure that your organization has an innovation strategy.

After all, without a strategy, how are you going to making the changes to your business that you need to make, in order to survive the economic storm, and (if you move quickly and intelligently) to be well positioned to blow past your competition as the economy improves?

But strategy isn't enough...

More, at the full article "Strategy - Down from the Clouds."

Innovation: Not a "one size fits all" strategy

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a piece about their recent studies on innovation, and looked at the different approaches companies take to improving innovation in their companies. They looked at four specific ways companies can improve their innovation: recruiting and cultivating human capital, spending on internal research and development, engaging in strategic alliances, and acquiring technology ventures. They found that hiring innovative minds was the best road to innovation, as companies better retained control over intellectual property and also produced a steady flow of future innovations. For more on the best ways to innovate, read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Long & Winding Roadmap to Woodstock 50

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

How far into the future do you plan?

I wasn’t yet born when a few hundred thousand people descended on Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York in the summer of 1969. Yet despite not having experienced the 3 Days of Peace & Music myself, I can appreciate the significant impact the event has had historically on music in particular and on our culture in general. Rolling Stone magazine called it one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.

I’m currently operating under the assumption that there will be some sort of Woodstock 50 celebration. And I realized four or five years ago that my eldest child, my daughter, would be 21 in the summer of 2019. Just in time for the 50th anniversary. I have no idea whether she’ll have interest in going. But as a father, despite the fact that I understand she’ll be an adult by that point, it’s difficult for me to imagine that “my little girl” would be trouncing around on her own at such an event.

If it works out, I think it might be fun to attend Woodstock 50. I know recreating the spirit of the 1969 original is obviously not exactly possible. I’m under no delusions. But hopefully a 2019 event will transcend the corporate marketing malaise that was Woodstock ’94 and ’99. One can only hope.

Looking ahead to Woodstock 50 got me thinking more generally about planning and road-mapping activities used in business.

On a personal level, I don’t typically look ahead 15 years as was the case when I first starting thinking about 2019. It is somewhat easy to think about Woodstock 50 though because it represents a specific point in time. And the opportunity is well defined. An equivalent business world example that comes readily to mind is all the prep work that went into Y2K. The passing of the millennium was a known, fixed point in time. And everybody knew computer clocks needed to be reset. I’m not suggesting the Y2K issue was easy to resolve. It was simplified however by the fact that the issue was well defined and the timeframe was fixed.

Most plans and roadmaps aren’t typically based on known, future points in time though. Nor are they usually as basic as deciding whether or not to attend an event like Woodstock 50 and simply convincing your kids to attend with you (although this might be easier said than done).

What does your roadmap look like? Or more precisely, what do your roadmaps look like?

If you’re NASA planning a trip to Mars, I figure your roadmaps get pretty complicated pretty fast. Different technologies and politics to consider, not to mention all those other roadmaps to consider – Astrobiology roadmaps, Solar System Exploration roadmaps, Heliophysics roadmaps, etc. The effort I imagine is decades in the making.

If you’re Google attempting to digitize the world, or another technology company facing a rapidly evolving landscape, I figure your roadmaps get pretty complicated pretty fast. Different technologies and politics to consider, not to mention the myriad of competitors nipping at your heels.

Whether you’re Boeing, or GM, or General Mills, or Home Depot, or Coca-Cola, or The Gap, or Topps, or Dreamworks, or virtually any other company, I figure your roadmaps can get pretty complicated pretty fast. The trick I suppose is reconciliation and coordination amongst your various roadmaps – strategic roadmaps, product roadmaps, technology roadmaps, marketing roadmaps, etc. Not to mention those of your suppliers. Your success will be based on your ability to manage and govern all these elements simultaneously.

Do you have the resources and tools to do this effectively?

How far into the future do you plan?

My own personal roadmap on the way to 2019 will likely take a variety of different turns. I don’t imagine though the decision to attend Woodstock 50 will be overly complicated. At the very least though, before I’m allowed to accompany my daughter (or rather tag along) to Woodstock 50, I suppose I’ll have to convince her in the next few years that her old man is cool enough (or at least simply not too embarrassing) to drive her and her friends to the mall.

World's most innovative companies

Business Week recently took a look at the most innovative companies of 2009. Just a few of the companies making the list are Target at #49, Iberdrola at #39, Walt Disney at #21, Procter and Gamble at #12, and Apple at #1.

What are some of your most innovative companies of 2009? Are there any big innovations you expect to come out of the rest of 2009?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Outsourcing Innovation Makes More Sense Now than Ever

Companies have been forced to make cutbacks in various departments and sectors due to the economic crisis, but this article in Business Week highlights how companies and Sepracor and Boeing are actually investing more money in retaining innovation consultants. Dev Patnaik, who spoke at this year's Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston, mentioned "Some [clients] were hit hard and are hunkering down. But crisis is a great opportunity. If it will take years to show results, [they] might as well start now."

Outsourced innovation provides companies with fresh perspectives and allows them to save countless time, energy, and money in industry research. What are some other examples of companies that decided to invest instead of cutback on outsourced innovation?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Innovation Web Seminar Series: McDonald's Eco-Innovation Approach to Sustainable Supply Chain Management

Here is the latest free web seminar from our innovation series which is taking place on Wednesday, September 16 from 2:00-3:00pm EDT. It is being led by Bob Langert, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, McDonald’s. Here's a brief description of the web seminar:

Learn from Bob Langert, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility about McDonald’s eco-innovation journey, specifically highlighting their current focus on sustainable supply chain management practices. Bob delivers:

• Lessons learned from various NGO/academic collaborations
• Experiences with what has worked and not worked
• Tips about communicating internally and externally

Bob joined McDonald’s in 1983, with management positions in logistics and packaging purchasing in the 80s; and responsibilities for environment, energy management, animal welfare, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities, emerging issues’ management, and, most recently, social responsibility in the 90’s through today. His current responsibilities with McDonald’s include:

• Social responsibility efforts, including McDonald’s social responsibility reporting
• Global environmental management systems and issues
• Global supply chain issues (e.g., sustainable agriculture, biotechnology, animal agricultural and animal welfare programs)
• Issues management
• Part of McDonald’s “Balanced, Active Lifestyles” team

Register here:

This web seminar is brought to you by:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review - "Not Everybody Gets a Trophy"

I just finished reading Not Everybody Gets a Trophy

This is one of the best books on the topic of Gen Y that I have read. Bruce Tulgan steps away from the usual assumptions about this young generation, preferring instead to address unique aspects as possible strengths. He does not recommend that established notion of "praise them" but argues that respectfully teaching them about the real world is much more effective. Tulgan also covers, in great detail management/leadership and techniques to help guide Gen Y's at work.

Many of the suggestions are great for any new employee of any age, but clearly are focused on the needs of Gen Y. The topics include general descriptors of the generation, ways to bound with them, ways to train them and bring them up to speed at work, getting them to care about customer service, teaching and retaining them, and finally how to turn Gen Y's into leaders.

Tulgan does point out that this is a high maintenance generation, but also points out their strengths. They will bring work/life balance to the workplace. They live diversity and equity. They want to learn and do a good job. They want to innovate and bring creative ideas to the table. In other words, they want to be an asset to their employer if they are treated well. This is a useful and applicable book that any manager should read.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interview with Cisco: Making Innovation Work in a Downturn

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

In this latest podcast, IAM Talking with Carlos Dominguez, Senior Vice President in Cisco’s Office of the Chairman of the Board and CEO.

Carlos has worked at Cisco for 17 years in a variety of roles, and advocates for the broad and creative use of technologies that are transforming how companies do business, creating distinct competitive advantages and new business models for those who adopt them.

Dominguez says that video, Web 2.0 applications and the increasing use of social networks, at home and at work, are at the heart of the collaboration revolution that is helping companies use the power of collective intelligence to produce revolutionary ideas for new products, better customer service and greater cost reductions.

For those who attended the FEI Boston show in May this year, you might recognize that is directly an area that I was covering in my presentation "Do you have the strength for Innovation in a 2.0 World?" (details and bonus content available)

It was a sincere pleasure of speaking at length with Carlos, and for my part, I believe we had a stunning array of innovation and collaboration-related tangents that emerged, which I believe are well worth paying attention to. Not your average interview, by any stretch.

A sampling of the highlights until we have a transcription ready:

Social networking and open innovation:
How did Journey find the next replacement singer after languishing for years with the missing voice of Steve Perry (lead singer) in the late 80s? YouTube and social networking located a replacement singer from... well, you'll have to listen to find out.

Virtual meetings and worlds:
Cisco is not immune from the worldwide dip in the economy, has taken steps to ban all large scale travel for their sales meetings, executive meetings - at a 10x cost reduction (minimally), and with no perceived decrease in the richness or validity of the outcomes. What is the role of telepresence? Gaming as a competitive driver for salespeople? Take a listen.

To paraphrase Carlos, "most great innovations are killed within organizations... as they are threats to the existing business... and the Cisco culture is specifically built and tested to prevent potential ideas from being killed"

Cisco has a requirement for executives and managers each quarter, or at the least, yearly, to indicate exactly what they are doing within their business unit to Innovate (BIG I in my vernacular or "disruptive innovation" to some) versus innovate (small i or improvememt) within their areas. How does this compare with YOUR organization?

What is Cisco doing themselves, internally, to innovate in the health and wellness of it's own employees as well as their families? and what has the impact of that investment been?

And much, much more in this slightly more than 30 minute interview. We had some issues with Skype introducing noise into the system, but keep your ears open for some fantastic points on the state of Innovation within Cisco, Cisco's customers, and what Carlos' experiences in seeing and working with some of the most cutting-edge technologies available, make possible.

Find the IAM Talking Interview with Cisco: Making Innovation Work in a Downturn at

Any and all feedback welcomed - and if you have an innovation story that needs to be shared, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Carlos can be found as @carlosdominguez, and as always, I'm @dankeldsen.

Archived Web Seminar: Transforming Yourself and Your Team: How Your Innovation Project Team can Leverage Diverse Thinking Styles & Enhance Creativity

For those of you who missed yesterday's webinar presented by Dave Labno of Innovationedge and Mary Ellen Vicksta of Kimberly Clark, here's your chance to view it at your own leisure! The webinar was brought to you by the Innovation Immersion Conference, so if you're planning to attend don't forget to mention WEBINONE2009 for 15% off the standard registration.

Watch the archive webinar

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ESPN Fans Not Fans of Social Media Policy

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“He says he understands I have a wonderful collection of contacts in the business press, as if I picked them up like interesting seashells on some remote postcard beach. Yeah, I said. I’ve run into a bunch of writers, what about it? And this was his opportunity to rhapsodize on the subject of the Fourth Estate and the marvelous things I could do for The Company with those connections. I had assumed this was among the (to be honest, rather mysterious) reasons IBM had hired me in the first place, so none of this came as any surprise. The stunner was what came next: that I was never, ever, under any circumstances to speak with any of these journalists again without, a) direct permission from himself, or b) someone official listening in on another line. And with that he folded his napkin, gave me a winning smile and a little punch in the arm and disappeared into the bowels of whatever organization this company can lay claim to in the misty senility of its twilight years.
Wow, I thought. That’s really f*#@ed.”
- from the BOMBAST TRANSCRIPTS, Rants and Screeds of RageBoy®, by Christopher Locke

Had it been a company like State Farm Insurance, General Motors, IBM, or you name it virtually any other company, the backlash probably wouldn’t have been so pronounced. But this was ESPN. The word “fan” after all is short for fanatic.

Perhaps you already heard what happened. Perhaps not. It was about a week ago. And on the internet, or more specifically in the world of social media I’d say this story has essentially already blown away. Given some of my own comments though just a couple weeks ago in a post entitled “Social Media is Beyond Cool,” in which I suggest some social media backlash may be forthcoming, I can’t resist commenting.

Without getting bogged down in details, and in the spirit of Sportscenter, here are the highlights of what transpired:
1) ESPN publishes social media policy for employees
2) Someone other than an employee gets wind of it
3) Ranters and ravers start commenting online
4) Uproar and debate ensues
5) ESPN responds

At its core, the policy basically stipulates that ESPN employees can’t use personal Twitter, Facebook, and similar accounts to post sports related content. In the grand scheme of things, the policy actually makes a lot of sense and isn’t really any different than the policies of other corporations. It’s pretty much standard stuff. And perhaps this is the problem. Perhaps as sports fans we expect more from ESPN, rather than just standard stuff. We want the ESPN social media policy to be like their “Top Plays.” In one word, awesome.

[You can read the social media guidelines in their entirety at the end of this post.]

Whether the policy was reasonable or not, uproar ensued. These are fanatics as you know. Some of the discussion can be found within this ongoing thread at Mashable. My personal favorite:

  • Bob Taylor 08/05/2009 06:01 AM
    I guess the part that bothers me the most is this: "ESPN Digital Media is currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously..."In other words. they are indeed bent on a "push" strategy of robotic content feeds that are monolithic in tone and have no human personality. ESPN has the right to choose this strategy of course, but they like so many other commercial enterprises, will soon find out that in the social media space, we don't play like that. It's about the humans people.

Like a major league catcher attempting to avoid a bench clearing brawl by preventing a bean-ball victim from rushing the mound, ESPN to its credit did respond. They in fact addressed it on-air.

ESPN’s social media policy I believe is reasonable. It’s clean and thus likely avoids much of the gray area and confrontations between the personal and professional space of its on-air and online talent that could develop if it weren’t so. And I imagine the policy and underlying strategy will evolve over time. Or at least I would hope so. I’m guessing the 143,000 or so Twitter followers of ESPN and the other almost 98,000 Twitter SportsCenter followers hope so too.

Reasonable? Yes. Innovative? Honestly, not really.

How social is social media anyway? Or more importantly how social will social media be in the future? I can’t help but wonder. It is after all “about the humans people.” Will our interaction be automatronic, humanoid-like, or simply human? With so much online and automation technology at our disposal, I find it ironic that the most innovative strategy to online media may in fact be the one with a personal touch.

Instead of the Physics club, here I’ll apply the words of the Breakfast Club character John Bender to social media - “’s kind of social. Demented and sad, but social.” And so it is. Long live John Hughes. Thanks for sharing your talent with all of us.

ESPN Social Media Policy

ESPN regards social networks such as message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter as important new forms of content. As such, we expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. This applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content. ESPN Digital Media is currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously on,, Page 2, ESPN Profile pages and other similar pages across our web site and mobile platforms. The plan is to fully deploy these modules this fall.

Specific Guidelines
- Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted
- Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head
- ESPN.COM may choose to post sports related social media content
- If opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms
- The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content
- Assume at all times you are representing ESPN
- If you wouldn't say it on the air or write it in your column, don't tweet it Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans
- Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven't been posted or produced, interviews you've conducted, or any future coverage plans.
- Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors
- Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN's employee policies and editorial guidelines
- Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared
- Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.

Innovations in online travel

TravelTech recently looked at an industry where the customers noticing the lack of innovation taking place in the space. The article notes that customers are nothing their concern for the lack of innovation in the industry, particularly with Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline. It has lead to many customers returning to travel agents to book their trips. However, they do note that the industry is in its mature stages, and there are a few upstarts including Uptake and Triporati.

What other industries have you seen where the customers are looking for more innovation?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quiznos Drives Innovation Through Flex-Plan

Quiznos has developed an innovation strategy that is set to appeal to customers and the bottom line of franchise owners. Citing economic challenges, Quizno's CEO, Rick Schaden presented the Flex-Plan strategy recently to shareholders of the sandwich franchise.

According to the press release, "Quiznos’ Flex Plan allows for simultaneous development of many different products, varying based on price point and balancing consumer taste with product cost. The plan is a guide for future product innovation at Quiznos, allowing the company to respond proactively to consumer feedback."

“This economy presents unique challenges, particularly as consumer confidence ebbs and flows,” said Schaden. “We knew there was a better way to address the changes that came with this economy. By preparing for eventualities, we’re taking the guesswork and delay out of product innovation and allowing for an immediate response to customer feedback. It’s better for our customers and it’s better for our franchise owners.”

What do you think of Schaden's strategy for product development and innovation? We'd like to hear your thoughts.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Canada focusing on innovation

We've discussed the importance of innovation bringing the US out of the current economic slump. Canada is also focusing on bringing new innovative ideas to the table in order to create jobs and develop the next economy they'll be facing. Two areas that have already seen success from innovation are agricultural biotechnology in Saskatchewan and investment technology in Ontario. Read the full article on Canada's focus on innovation here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Comments and Responses from our Innovation Community: Should CEOs Also Serve as Chief Innovators

Last Friday I posted on our FEI LinkedIn group a recent blog post Should CEOs also serve as Chief Innovators and we've gotten tremendous response! I'd like to thank all of our members that participated and shared some insights on that discussion thread. Here are some edited comments from our group that I wanted to share with our readers. Enjoy!

Dick Lee, President, Value Innovations, Inc. Leading authority on value innovation methodology, process and tools -

Yes, absolutely!

Some others:

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group
James Dyson, Dyson
David Liniger, REMAX/International
Herb Kelleher and now Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines

Joy Bergmann, Communications Director at Fahrenheit 212 - Having the CEO and CIO as one person is an effective way to bridge the innovation success gap that's plagued the two camps for far too long.

Richard D. Smith, President at SMITH-TRG, Trusted Business Advisor - Don't forget Fred Smith of FedEx...not a sexy as Steve Jobs or Sir. Richard but he clearly understands the need to constantly deliver value.
Then we have Bill Marriott of Marriott International. There are others...Michael Dell of Dell, focused on business model innovation and now, or I should sayagain, product/service innovation

Ken Jacobsen, Independent Computer Software Professional - Every company has 2 products... that which they innovate...and THEIR STOCK. The CEO is the PRODUCT MANAGER for the STOCK. If they do anything else, that important product will flag.

Don Coley, Dynamic and Innovative Global Product Marketing /Business Development Leader - In my opinion, the truly effective CEO must manage and fuel innovation with "bifocal vision" . Every day, with every decision attend to the realities of the current business climate and create the environment where the organization is innovating and preparing aggressively for the future.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Should Companies Pay for Innovation?

The SFGate reports that there is a trend among businesses and nonprofits to offer cash prizes in exchange for solutions for complex and seemingly unsolvable problems. For example, in 2006 Netflix offered a $1M prize to could improve the precision of its system by 10 percent.

Organizations have found contests to be a cost-effective method that allows them to tap into the vast intellectual resources outside their walls. Depending on the size of the prize, it can also generate publicity.

Companies use contests to drive innovation

Is this a good move for businesses? Should they look to contests and perks in order to fuel innovation?

We'd like to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Death to Good Ideas: a New Metric

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

I imagine some of you will not be able to relate to what I’m about to say. Oh well.

There are many companies out there that struggle to generate good ideas. Perhaps your company is one of them. Your pipeline of ideas and concepts is far from overflowing and in reality should be considered anemic at best. You’re currently looking for ways to simply generate ideas in hopes that from shear volume something good will materialize. If this is where your company finds itself – attempting to generate more good ideas - the mindset set forth here will not likely resonate with you quite yet. You’re simply in a different place at the moment. But feel free to read on if you like.

This isn’t a post about how to generate ideas, or how to recognize and vet good ideas, but rather simply a philosophical mindset (with a slightly less than obvious metric) that you may find useful as your ideation endeavors evolve.

I admittedly sometimes have way too many things going on in my head. As the founder of Big E Toys I’m a person that spends a considerable amount of time dreaming up various new games and other fun stuff. In addition to these efforts, as a consultant I have new product development and marketing work I perform for other organizations. And not to mention various writing endeavors, including blogs, books, screenplays, etc.

I don’t have an issue, either on a personal or professional level, with the number of ideas at my disposal. I actually don’t feel I have an issue either, on a personal or professional level, with the number of good ideas at my disposal. Perhaps I’m delusional, but I feel my proverbial cup of ideas runneth over.

My issue arguably lies in my inability or perhaps unwillingness to kill a good idea. Thus I sometimes get a bit bogged down.

Whether you’re a small organization, big organization, somewhere in between, or even simply an individual working on a collection of projects and ideas, your time and resources are finite. Certainly you recognize this. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t possibly develop every idea and project on your list.

Assuming you have a method for determining the quality and viability of ideas and concepts, killing off an idea that absolutely sucks shouldn’t be a problem (unless the idea of course is a pet project of a prominent C-level exec. In which case you have an entirely different problem that I won’t attempt to address here. You might simply have to accept the fact that you’re screwed.) Killing off bad ideas shouldn’t be an issue either. Killing off mediocre ideas shouldn’t be an issue either.

But herein lies the existing fundamental quandary for most organizations. Your pipeline is anemic and thus mediocre ideas get approved. There simply aren’t enough good ideas in the pipeline. You inherently recognize this as a suboptimal long-term strategic condition. And to you, the solution seems obvious. Generate more good ideas. To do this, you establish a goal to produce “x” number of new ideas in a given timeframe and you establish a few new initiatives to accomplish this objective. You also begin tracking in earnest, if you haven’t already done so, the number of ideas generated as well as the number and percentage of ideas killed. With these stated goals and process, mediocrity will be eliminated. You’re starting to feel good.

But eliminating mediocrity shouldn’t be your objective. This is where the mindset needs to change.

I’m all for tracking idea generation and kill rates. These can be interesting and telling measurements. But don’t be fooled. Your success isn’t actually dependent on your ability to generate and kill ideas. Your success is dependent on the opportunity and your ability to kill good ideas.

Start tracking kill rates for good ideas. For if you’re forced to kill good ideas, you’ll be left with something truly great.

Web Seminar: Inspire Innovative Strategies to Spark Team Creativity in a Downturn

Just a quick reminder, this web seminar is taking place next week on Tuesday August 11th from 2:00pm - 3:00pm EDT. Here are the details below.

With the pressure to get things done, we often forget that a deep understanding of your own personality allows you to more effectively connect with others. But it doesn’t stop there. That’s only one half of the equation. You also need to spend some time getting to know others on your team. This is the duality: developing another level of self-understanding so you can extend yourself outward and know others better.

The two presenters in this webinar have extensive experience working with corporate teams during the economic downturn and have shown that working this duality actually increases the efficiency and effectiveness of teams. During this webinar, we are going to share with you a brief summary of an approach to personality styles and how it’s transformed individuals and teams during this economic downturn. Our main emphasis is sharing stories of how teams used the duality of knowing self and knowing others to enhance the team. Stories will include how teams became:

  • More Efficient and effective
  • More Engaged
  • Appreciative of other's strengths
  • Appreciative of differing managerial styles
  • Better able to influence others, including key stakeholders

Featured Speakers
Mary Ellyn Vicksta, Creative Innovation Pioneer, Kimberly Clark Corporation
Dave Labno, Director, Organization and Team Effectiveness, Innovationedge

Register here:
Mention priority code G1M2118W3BLOG

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fostering a spirit of innovation is key to growth in the future

In President Obama's address to the weekly address to the nation on Saturday, he said he believed that the current economic downturn is winding down, and the key to growth in America's future is to foster a situation that encourages a spirit of innovation. His recent $787 billion stimulus package has done a lot to help numbers, but full recovery could take a few more months. In order to facilitate this innovation-driven environment, we need the best educated and highest skilled workers, a healthcare system that leads to innovation, we need to build a clean energy economy and continue to invest heavily in research and development. Read the full article here.

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