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 ├╝ber 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
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.

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