Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, CEO, Archetype Discoveries Worldwide

Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille
President and CEO,
Archetype Discoveries Worldwide

Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille is an internationally known expert in Archetype Discoveries and Creativity. His unique approach to marketing combines a psychiatrist's depth of analysis with a businessman's attention to practical concerns. He has written more than ten books on these topics. One of his books, Creative Communication, has become the standard reference for the French advertising industry. He is a sought-after lecturer on creativity and communication.

Dr. Rapaille's technique for market research has grown out of his work in the areas of psychiatry, psychology, and cultural anthropology. His work is an extension of the work done by many of the great scholars of the twentieth century, including Jung, Laing, Levi-Strauss, and Ruth Benedict.

Dr. Rapaille's psychiatric work and research with autistic children led him to develop a new process for understanding how children are imprinted for the first time by what he calls the Logic of Emotion, which is the code of each Cultural Archetype in the collective unconscious of a given culture.

Dr. Rapaille's world travels, a term in the diplomatic corps, and extensive marketing research on product archetypes for international corporations, have given him a fresh perspective on American business and American society. He received a Masters of Political Science, a Masters of Psychology, and a Doctorate of Medical Anthropology from the Universite De Paris - Sorbonne. He is fluent in English, French, and Spanish.

Dr. Rapaille has taught at Sorbonne University, Paris, France; St. Ignace, Antwerp, Belgium; Esade, Barcelona, Spain; INSEAD/CEDP, Fountainbleau, France; Thomas Jefferson College, Michigan State University, Michigan, USA; CPSI, New York State University, Buffalo, NY, USA; Geneva University, Switzerland; University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA; HEC/ISA (Business School), Paris et Jouy en Josas, France; Medical School UNAN, Managua, Nicaragua.

Don't miss Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille's keynote speech Innovation Is Only Successful When It Is “On Code” at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio Courtesy of Rapaille Institute

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Avoid the Pitfalls of Innovation Data Analysis

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

A few months ago, in a post titled “Innovation Needs Information” I wrote about the basic importance of information in the innovation process. Voice of Customer, competitive intel, market studies, syndicated data, and more. It’s all important. But what happens when you get emotionally attached or intellectually numb to gathered information?

One of the classic pitfalls of data analysis for any individual is the propensity to develop an emotional attachment to the information itself. For reasons not always entirely clear (or rather for reasons that might take some psychological therapy to fully explore), an individual may react or become emotionally attached in some manner to a specific set of gathered information. This is especially true if the person in question performed the actual data gathering – as might be the case with investigative phone or personal interviews. Such reactions could manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including possessiveness or denial. When attachment occurs, a couple things might happen.

First, a person may place too much importance on certain data and/or ignore other sources of information. In doing so the information gathered may be viewed as the definitive answer to a particular question. Other alternatives may not be explored. Mild versions of this phenomenon are prevalent in almost all research studies, and in most cases nothing detrimental comes of it. People simply have a propensity to take ownership of and defend work for which they are personally responsible. Passion and a sense of accountability can be good things. But when feelings of ownership become possessive, when data are potentially horded, and latent motivations cloud one’s judgment about the true nature and importance of a given set of data, this phenomenon can become problematic. Share data. Discuss conclusions.

A second pitfall is sort of the opposite of the first. It occurs when the conclusions derived from a set of data aren’t all that appealing. Perhaps data suggest public perception or market share is waning for your products. Perhaps data suggest a completely new online strategy is warranted for your organization. Rather than take appropriate action based on the findings, people may choose deliberately or unconsciously to ignore and deny certain results derived from data. They’ll choose to formulate a different set of conclusions. These alternative ideas would likely be more akin to currently held beliefs or expected results. In this scenario, mindsets and current business processes can be preserved. The status quo can live on. It’s a classic example of a company simply unwilling to face existing facts because it might require additional effort or money to change the situation.

To combat against this potential problem, people must make a distinction between information and the conclusions resulting from information. Whether one likes the actionable elements derived from a set of data should have no bearing on one’s perception of, or belief in the data itself. Information isn’t inherently invested in itself. And although the integrity of information is important and worthy of protection, avoid creating and defending delusional data analysis.

Don’t think for a moment, because of these pitfalls, that information should be avoided or ignored. That would present even bigger problems. It’s not the fault of the information. Gather, gather, gather.

Monday, March 29, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: James Surowiecki, Author, The Wisdom of Crowds

James Surowiecki
The Wisdom of Crowds

James Surowiecki is the foremost authority on how to harness the collective wisdom of your organization for competitive advantage.

He has written a well-received book on the theory and practice of The Wisdom of Crowds—Why The Many Are Smarter Than The Few And How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies And Nations.

In The Wisdom of Crowds, Jim describes systematic ways to organize and aggregate the intelligence available in your organization in order to arrive at superior decisions—often better than those that individuals would make, even if they are ‘experts’.

The book and Jim’s presentations based on the book are full of insights into how groups operate that are invaluable to business leaders. He also offers practical methods, tailored to his audience, for leveraging people and technology to learn what you need to know and make decisions that really serve the organization’s goals.

Jim writes a twice-monthly financial column for The New Yorker that is typically pegged to current events and incorporates the kind of insights from economics, sociology, and business history that make The Wisdom of Crowds so valuable.

He has written for a broad range of other publications on a wide variety of topics. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal and other major publications. He wrote "The Bottom Line" column for New York magazine, and was a contributing editor at Fortune.

Don't miss James Surowiecki's keynote speech Success through Synergy:The Wisdom of Crowds at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio Courtesy of Leigh Bureau

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Art of Consumer Empathy Part I

In Pursuit of Actionable Consumer Intimacy
As marketers, we seek not just knowledge, but deeper, more personal consumer understanding that better equips us to impact our brand growth trajectory. We are therefore on a continual quest for approaches that bring us closer to our consumers through conversation and observation, to sip from the same glass so to speak. Our eagerness to unravel the desires, motivators, barriers, and white spaces of consumer attitudes and behaviors is reflected in our adoption of psychographics in the seventies, our reliance on qualitative tools in the eighties, an almost cult-like pursuit of ethnography in the nineties, and our love affair with online social communities more recently.

While these techniques can unearth insight and improve our understanding, changing the playing field in our favor for innovation requires another important factor be present in the organization: consumer empathy. Consumer understanding makes us more knowledgeable brand stewards; consumer empathy makes us more sensitive to the nuances of consumer motivations, exposing opportunities we might otherwise overlook. Empathy can improve the relevance and success rates of our innovation and grant us sustainable competitive advantage.

What is Consumer Empathy?
Consumer empathy requires three interlocking capabilities, including the ability to:

  • recognize
  • internalize and identify with, and
  • act upon

…the feelings, concerns, challenges, and impulses of consumers. Consumers need us to address their plight, not just feel their pain.

Recognize: In theory, the probing techniques we apply to the front end of innovation are designed to reveal the insight below the surface, and we often believe “we’ll know it when we hear it/see it.” But when the important insight emerges, will you be able to distinguish it through the noise? Without empathy, your efforts may surface a powerful insight that remains undetected, never able to deliver a result for your consumer or your business.

Watch closely and you may recognize a pattern in the shadows. Listen carefully, sometimes a consumer elegantly articulates the big idea in a single phrase that can be compelling to the organization. For example, when 16-year-old Gary claimed that “toast is too complicated” he managed to capture the essence of snacking simplicity for teens that we were missing. Throughout development, we asked ourselves: would this be easier than toast for Gary?

Internalize/Identify With: To truly identify with your consumer means you now own their concerns and needs as your own. You feel their pain, their problems nag you without mercy. Ideally, you have not just listened and observed, but experienced your consumers’ challenges. For example, the arthritis simulation gloves developed by Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) enable companies such as Kraft to accurately experience and identify with the limitations of our aging population first hand.

Act Upon: Consumer empathy doesn’t end once we’ve identified - and identified with - the consumer problem or need. Empathy is not just the emotional side of connecting with consumers, it demands a behavioral response on our part. The commitment, skills and willingness to invest resources to act upon the learning are what separates consumer understanding from its ultimate business result. It is distressing to watch a competitor launch an innovative new product that pre-emptively reaps the benefits of a compelling insight your own company learned but ignored.

Absent the interlocking capabilities of recognition, internalization, and action that drive consumer empathy, a wall remains between marketer and consumer. That wall constrains our impetus to change things on their behalf, limits our creativity and inventiveness in defining and solving the underlying consumer problems, and results in consumer understanding that falls short of innovation impact.

Check back soon for Part II of this topic, including tips to know whether your organization has consumer empathy, and suggestions for how to start establishing stronger consumer empathy throughout your organization.

source: Food & Beverage Matters Blog

Developing metrics for innovation

Blogging Innovation wrote a recent article about another way to develop an ROI method for innovation. They point out that in order to develop the metrics for determining the success of your innovation, what factors do you want to drive your ROI? After this is determined, look at what qualitative and quantitative factors can contribute to your metrics.

What are some of the qualitative and quantitative factors that you use to measure your ROI? Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Innovations in Market Research with Dr. Howard Moskowitz and Steven Onufrey

You may not recognize the name but Dr. Howard Moskowitz has changed the way you eat. Back in the 1970s when Diet Pepsi asked him to create the perfect sweetness for the soft drink, thereby making the perfect Diet Pepsi Moskowitz went to work - but he found out that there was not a perfect Diet Pepsi but perfect Diet Pepsis. People wanted variety - some liked their soda very sweet, some liked it just a little less. Thanks to his research, we've now have a variety of soda concontions to suit every taste bud. But Moskowitz didn't stop there, he went after spaghetti sauce.

Malcolm Gladwell describes it best: " 1986, he (Moskowitz) got a call from the Campbell's Soup Company. They were in the spaghetti-sauce business, going up against Ragú with their Prego brand. Prego was a little thicker than Ragú, with diced tomatoes as opposed to Ragú's purée, and, Campbell's thought, had better pasta adherence. But, for all that, Prego was in a slump, and Campbell's was desperate for new ideas. Standard practice in the food industry would have been to convene a focus group and ask spaghetti eaters what they wanted. But Moskowitz does not believe that consumers—even spaghetti lovers—know what they desire if what they desire does not yet exist. ... When Moskowitz charted the results, he saw that everyone had a slightly different definition of what a perfect spaghetti sauce tasted like. If you sifted carefully through the data, though, you could find patterns, and Moskowitz learned that most people's preferences fell into one of three broad groups: plain, spicy, and extra-chunky, and of those three the last was the most important. Why? Because at the time there was no extra-chunky spaghetti sauce in the supermarket. Over the next decade, that new category proved to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Prego."

We have a fantastic opportunity for you to join Dr. Moskowitz and Steven Onufrey in a complimentary webinar ""Applied Market Research - The Next Generation: Addressable Minds" on April 6th from 2-3PM EST. This is your chance to learn about market research from the best of the best. Use priority code M2246W2BLOG to secure your seat today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Spring Break: Losing a Linchpin

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

The company that best exemplifies the marriage of technology and pop culture is Apple. They understand music. They like music. They like the art object. The iPod is probably the greatest pop object since the electric guitar. We – as a band – feel strongly about the iPod. We – as a band – talked about the idea for an iPod years ago. We – as a band – are fans of Apple.”
- Bono, lead singer of U2

What do think Apple’s succession plan for Steve Jobs looks like?

My daughter is a pretty good basketball player on an exceptional team. In fact, for their age group, her team was one of the best in the state. While playing in top tournament brackets this season, her basketball team won five tournaments, took second in four, and placed third in the final state tournament. A record of 33 wins and 5 losses – all the losses coming at the hands of other top-four teams. Not bad.

Just a couple weeks ago, in the final practice of the season, two days before the state tournament was to begin, my daughter broke her pinky finger on her non-shooting hand. It wasn’t a bad break. But it was a break none-the-less. And although my wife and I were tempted to simply tape up her finger and let her play, she was done for the season. She had to watch from the bench while her teammates played the state tournament without her.

My daughter is a role player, someone who clogs up the paint with her size and plays solid team defense. Her not being in the lineup was not as devastating a loss as losing another key member of the team could have been. The team could compensate without my daughter on the floor. They finished the tournament in the same position they’d likely have been had my daughter been participating.

Her broken finger made me wonder though what would have happened had one of the key ball handlers on the team gone down with an injury. The outcome of the state tournament would likely have been different.

Then I began to wonder what happens to innovation when key innovators from an organization are lost (for whatever reason - freak accidents, maternity leave, retirement, or serious illness, etc.) Stuff happens. In a world where more and more people are striving to be indispensable, how can an organization effectively protect against the unforeseen loss of such people? I’d like to know. Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Netflix, Apple, Microsoft, Budweiser, Chase, Mattel, Hasbro, General Motors, Citrix, StubHub, BestBuy, Target, Walmart, Mastercard, Visa, Disney, Motorola, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Innovation Should be Equally Shared Across Organization

Here's a video from Tom Peters, the author of The Little Big Things, in which he discusses that companies need innovation in all parts of an organization--not just research and development. What are some examples of companies that have innovated throughout different departments? Take a look at the 2 min clip below.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Package Design Innovation - Explore What's Next at PROOF 2010

As a member of our Front End of Innovation community, we'd like to extend a special invitation for you to join us at this year's PROOF 2010 conference next month in Chicago. PROOF delivers everything you need to better leverage market research and consumer insights to create the perfect package.

PROOF 2010
April 14-15
Trump International Hotel & Tower

At PROOF, you'll hear from:

• Jim Stengel, President/CEO, The Jim Stengel Company, LLC, Adjunct Professor, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Retired Global Marketing Officer, The Procter & Gamble Company
• Craig M. Vogel, FIDSA, Associate Dean, University of Cincinnati
• Christine Mau, Associate Director Packaging Graphics, Kimberly-Clark
• Greg Chambers, Vice President Supply Chain, Arbonne International
• And more...Click here to see the full list of speakers.

Learn how to:
• Quantify the value of design: new techniques, advancements and ideas
• Explore social media as a source of authentic insight
• Re-position and reinvent brands using your package as a key driver
• Measure the ROI of Package Design on Brand Performance
• Identify and Define which trends matter most to your core customers
• Utilize your customers as a source of innovation through co-creation

And so much more, click here to download the brochure.

Ready to join us? Register by Friday to save $100 on your registration - don't miss this opportunity!

We hope to see you in Chicago!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March To Madness

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

In 1986 we made it to the Final Four and beat a great Kansas team to get to Monday night. We lost that championship game to Louisville, 72-69, and if there is a game in my career I look back on with regret, it’s that one. I just don’t believe I gave my players as much help as I could have if I’d had more Final Four experience at that point. They were tired after the Kansas game, very tired, and I didn’t find ways to use the bench early in the game to keep them fresh enough for the finish. Those four kids – Dawkins, Alarie, Bilas, and Henderson – deserved to win the national championship. I know they all feel as if they somehow came up short by not winning that night, but I’ve always felt that if anyone came up short, it was me. I do think they know that the three national championships we’ve won since would not have happened if not for them. That’s why I honestly believe they have been national champions – because 1991, 1992, and 2001 could not have happened if not for 1986.”

- Mike Krzysewski, Duke University head basketball coach (from the introduction of the book Last Dance by John Feinstein)

The NCAA college basketball tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year. I can’t pinpoint exactly why. Despite my 6’8” frame, of all the sports I played growing up, basketball was not one of them. But I enjoy college basketball. And the Road to the Final Four™ has it all. Lively and intriguing characters, leadership, drama¸ passion, suspense¸ excitement, heartbreak, a sense of history, and much, much more. I don’t even fill out a bracket. I just want to see good basketball. I’ve never been disappointed.

Quality basketball from quality basketball programs. As I think about it, I suppose this is what attracts me to the NCAA tournament. It’s the same thing I like about innovation. Quality innovation from quality innovation programs.

Programs being the operative word.

Programs aren’t readily bought and sold. They must be developed. And a program is something that can be handed down from leader to leader, coach to coach, player to player, over the course of its lifetime. A good program can have lasting effect after individuals have come and gone.

John Wooden, arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time, built a program at UCLA that will never be equaled - ten NCAA championships, seven of them consecutive. It was a program that was sustainable for a time even after he departed. “We had very good players and I wanted to be sure I didn’t leave the cupboard bare for the next coach,” Wooden has stated. “I’m very proud of the fact that we won the league championship the first four years after I retired.” In fact, UCLA even went back to the Final Four the very next year after he left.

In what shape is your innovation program? Can it be handed down to the next group of leaders, coaches, and players?

Although the process to develop a quality innovation program may at times drive you mad, to not put forth the effort to do so would be just plain crazy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

An Innovator's Dream: The Porsche 918 Spyder

The Porshce 918 Spyder, a Hybrid concept, seems to have been the big buzz at the recent 2010 Geneva Auto Show. The vehicle is faster than the Carrera GT, at a whopping 500hp, and is able to run 25 kilometers on electric power alone. Adrian van Hooydonk, Director of Design for BMW recently unveiled a similar hybrid concept, the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car, at FEI Europe. Looks like this is the new wave of the future! Be sure to check out the video below to learn a little bit more about this concept car.

Porsche 918 Spyder Rocks the Geneva Motor Show

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why Some Ideas Will Never Fly

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

After watching science do its thing for a while, you realize that knowledge is really a moving target. What we know today will probably be wrong tomorrow. And science is that tool for discovery. When science tells us something, chances are that it will tell us something different a few years from now.”

- from the introduction of the book Present at the Future by Ira Flatow, host of National Public Radio’s Science Friday

For someone that’s had the opportunity to gaze at the heavens through the same telescope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ used by Clyde Tombaugh to discover Pluto back in 1930, it was difficult for me to accept the official demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet in August of 2004. I had been taught that there are nine planets in our solar system. The reduction to eight was like an oversized, tough piece of steak that I had to chew, and chew, and chew until it was alright to swallow. Just last year my daughter’s elementary school class play about our solar system included the “planet” Pluto. Apparently my daughter’s teacher was having a tough time with the adjustment as well.

Innovation, like science in many respects, is often based on the accumulation of knowledge and the interconnectedness of thought. But what happens to our innovation efforts when these thoughts require alteration? What happens when we’re required to unlearn something?

When asked in recent years by my relatively young children how planes fly, I’ve typically spouted off about the Bernoulli Principle – the 1733 discovery by Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli that the faster a fluid flows, the lower its pressure. Applied to planes, the idea is that a classically shaped wing forces air to fly faster over the top of the wing than the bottom. The faster-flowing air on top means less pressure on top. And subsequently there’s more pressure on the bottom of the wing which results in lift. My kids always wonder how or why I know such things.

What my kids haven’t realized, and something which I’ve only recently come to fully appreciate myself, is that the Bernoulli Principle is a myth. The idea that the faster a fluid flows, the lower its pressure, is not actually a myth. The idea however that the Bernoulli Principle is the reason why planes don’t simply drop out of the sky, is a myth. A somewhat understandable myth, likely concocted in a post-WWII milieu by educators of all sorts looking for a user-friendly, easy to grasp, catch-all explanation on why planes fly. But it’s still a myth, one that has persisted for a long time.

Planes don’t stay in the air because of the Bernoulli Principle. It’s actually all about Newton’s third law of motion (every action has an equal and opposite reaction) coupled with something known as the Coandă effect – the idea that any stream of gas tends to follow the curvature of a smooth surface (such as an airplane wing) as long as the surface doesn’t make a sharp turn. Air goes down. Wing goes up. Seems simple enough. But sometimes it’s easier to say “Bernoulli Principle” than explain Newton’s third law of motion, which invariably leads to questions about Newton’s first and second laws of motion. Never mind the Coandă effect. Most of our family’s local car rides, during which planes are most often sighted and such seemingly benign inquiries surface, are not overly conducive to drawn-out conversations about scientific principles. I’m committed however to dispelling this myth for my children. Or at the very least, should the Bernoulli Principle not yet have fully taken hold in their brains, I’ll teach them properly so they won’t be forced to unlearn this piece of information in the future. I believe they’ll be better off because of it.

As innovators, sometimes we get stuck in certain thought patterns and beliefs. Sometimes we simply need to unlearn certain things. Sometimes we simply need to reorient ourselves in order to remain effective and move forward. British historian and philosopher of history Herbert Butterfield, in his 1949 book The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800 described this ability as “picking up the other end of the stick,” a process that involves “handling the same bundle of data as before, but placing them in a new system of relations with one another by giving them a different framework.”

Whether you call it “picking up the other end of the stick”, unlearning, reorientation, or whatever, it’s a useful and necessary skill needed for innovation. Without it, some of your potentially innovative ideas may never fly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Caffeinated Car

At inhabitat, they look at a new car that runs purely on coffee grounds. The 1986 Volkswagen was re-designed to run off of coffee grounds. Designed on the show Bang Goes the Theory, Nick Watson, the producer of the show, says this of the car, “Coffee, like wood or coal, has some carbon content so you can use it as a fuel. The coffee needs to be very dry and in pellets to allow the air to move through the pile of coffee as it burns. The brand doesn’t matter.”

While using waste to fuel the car, it can get pretty expensive, as it takes a kilo of ground coffee for the car to run three miles. So while it is innovative, the search for an efficient alternative fuel source will continue.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cisco Announces $250,000 iPrize Competition v2.0

by Braden Kelley

Cisco has announced its second Cisco iPrize Competition. At stake is a $250,000 Grand Prize that will be awarded after eight selected finalists have the opportunity to present their innovation idea to Cisco's selection commitee using Cisco Telepresence.

The first Cisco iPrize was awarded to an idea focused on reducing the energy consumption in the electrical grid. This idea is currently undergoing development in Cisco. But the winners are back at it again and have entered an idea in Cisco iPrize v2.0.

I had the opportunity to do a video interview with Sharon Wong, Director of Business Development in Cisco's Emerging Technology Group about the competition:

Interview with Sharon Wong about Cisco iPrize from Braden Kelley on Vimeo.

Interview with Sharon Wong about Cisco iPrize from Braden Kelley on Vimeo.

In this open, global competition entrepreneurs submit proposals and collaborate to create the seed idea for Cisco's next billion-dollar business.

You have until April 30, 2010 to submit your idea. Idea submissions should fall in one of four categories:

1. The Future of Work: New solutions that accelerate and change the way we do business

2. The Connected Life: Technological inspirations that dramatically improve living conditions and disseminate culture

3. New Ways to Learn: Next-generation solutions that transform when, where, and how people learn.

4. The Future of Entertainment: New solutions that change how people play together

Below on the left you'll find a video of Marthin De Beer announcing the Cisco iPrize Competition and on the right you can watch Guido Jouret speak about some of Cisco's views on what makes a big idea:

You can submit an idea by yourself or you can work together as a team. Once ideas are submitted, iPrize community members can vote for the best ideas, and otherwise engage with the community of people who have submitted ideas. For complete rules and other information, please check out the Cisco iPrize Questions and Answers.

Original from Blogging Innovation:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Report: Iceland is No. 1 in World Innovation

Michael Arndt of Business Week reports that The United States no longer leads in innovation, according to a report by INSEAD and the Confederation of Indian Industry. Iceland has replaced the U.S. as a leader in innovation as the country outshines the U.S. in education and infrastructure. Iceland comes in fourth overall, for instance, in per capita mobile phone subscribers. Its general infrastructure is the world’s best.

This year’s report, financed by Canon India and released on March 3, evaluates 132 countries. Researchers used data from a number of sources, including the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, and the UN, to gauge innovation inputs—things such as education and business climate—as well as outputs to quantify scientific and creative advances.

The U.S. drops out of the Top 10 because it isn’t sufficiently providing many of the inputs or what the study calls “pillars of innovation.” It ranks 22 in political environment and 21 in regulatory environment. It ranks 22 in K-12 education, 22 in technology infrastructure, and 24 in exports and employment. “The U.S. is unable to create a coherent public agenda,” Dutta tells me on the phone from India.
So where does the U.S. score best? In market and business sophistication, which includes access to capital and openness to foreign competition and where it rises to second and third.

What other nations are quickly pulling ahead in the innovation race?

Learn more: U.S. Loses Innovation Crown to ... Iceland

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ongoing Preparation for Innovation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

After all, baseball isn’t anything like life. I think that was your point, sir, when you said there’s nothing real about it. In that sense I agree. In truth¸ nothing in the game appealed to me as much as its unreality. Baseball is all clean lines and clear decisions. Wouldn’t life be far easier if it consisted of a series of definitive calls: safe or out, fair or foul, strike or ball. Oh, for a life like that, where every day produces a clear winner and an equally clear loser¸ and back to it the next day with the slate wiped clean and the teams starting out equal.”

- from The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg

In my youth I was considered a pretty good baseball player. In fact, there was a time in my mid to late teens during which some people would have argued I was perhaps one of the best pitchers in the state. All the strikeout pitches¸ tournament and state championships, and the Division I scholarship are all but memories now.

In recent years, after literally not touching a baseball for more than a decade, I began coaching my son’s team and have become more involved again in the sport. Just this past weekend I helped with some travel team tryouts for a group of kids a few years older than my own. I was scheduled to evaluate the live hitting element of the evaluations, but the person slated to pitch had a pinched nerve in his neck and thus was unable to throw. I got drafted.

I threw batting practice to about 60 kids that night. Upwards of 1500 pitches by my estimation. It was only batting practice. But even so it was a night of extreme, especially considering the baseball season is in its infancy and thus my arm isn’t even ready to throw a normal regiment of batting practice. By the end of this almost three hour session I was willing the ball over the plate. Needless to say my arm has been ragged for the last few days.

I came to realize just after college, while playing some town-team ball, why there aren’t many non-professional baseball teams comprised primarily of players over thirty. I was in my twenties at the time, and was now playing baseball for the first time on a part-time basis. My day wasn’t devoted any longer to strengthening and conditioning, pitch placement, the study of pitching charts, or regularly scheduled practice. I had a day job and was now playing baseball during my off hours. It was during this time I became convinced there aren’t many non-professional baseball teams comprised of players over thirty because there isn’t anyone to pitch for these teams. Fielding, catching, and throwing a baseball as an occasional act while playing shortstop, the outfield, or other utility position is relatively easy to do at any age. But as a pitcher, repeatedly throwing a baseball from 0 to 90 in less than a second can be a violent act. It can do a number on your arm if you’re not properly prepared for it.

In our globalized economy the speed of innovation can be break-neck. Product shelf-lives seem to be ever shortening. The pressure to develop products faster and more cheaply is on the rise. Going from 0 to 90 in less than a second can be a violent act. Yet unlike baseball players or most other professional athletes, the productive life of an innovator doesn’t end once you’ve reached thirty. Innovation isn’t necessarily based on your physical prowess and agility. Yet this doesn’t mean metaphorically speaking that innovation doesn’t require strengthening and conditioning, and practice. It’s an ongoing process at which you need to work. Previous triumphs, accolades, and glory do not guarantee continued innovation success. Know that if you stop attempting to actively innovate yet expect one day in the future to simply pick up the ball and have continued innovation success, you’ll likely be disappointed. All you may be left with is a sore arm.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What's to come from the Fall of Venture Capitalism?

Long gone are the days of 10,000x percent profits for venture capitalists, according to a recent article written by FEI US keynote James Surowiecki on Technology Review. Although this has been an ongoing trend for quite some time, venture capitalists are still pouring in billions of dollars into new start-ups in hope of a burst. The article also references economists like Paul Ferri who told the Wall Street Journal in 2006 that the industry does not now have "an economically viable business model" and also Howard Anderson, Yankee Group founder, who mentioned "good-bye to venture capital."

Seems like venture capital has fallen, but will we see a shift in how venture capitalists are investing their money?

Make sure to check out James Surowiecki's keynote speech Success through Synergy:
The Wisdom of Crowds at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston May 3-5. Hope to see you all there!

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