Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Believe In Social Media

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reason.” from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

You don’t need to believe all social media is real in order to believe in the powerful reality of social media.

If the mark for knowing whether a YouTube video has reached epic viral status is determined by when a link for such video hits my middle school daughter’s email box, then Hi-Tec’s “Liquid Mountaineering” video went epic at 9:16 am CST August 31, 2010.

The three-minute video depicts men talking about a new challenge – namely running on water. As you begin watching, you wonder whether these people are actually serious. Its straight-faced delivery is ultimately what makes it pretty funny. It’s reminiscent of some classic Saturday Night Live commercial spoofs from the ‘80s - in particular (my personal favorite) “First Citiwide Change Bank.” The high production quality of “Liquid Mountaineering” almost begs the viewer to question its authenticity. Which of course you should. Unlike a Daniel Ilabaca parkour YouTube video¸ “Liquid Mountaineering” is not real. The video was actually created about four months ago by Amsterdam-based CCCP for sportwear firm Hi-Tec. It’s been viewed over six million times on YouTube thus far. If you’ve seen it, you likely remember it. If you haven’t, it’s worth watching.

There are those that would call such a video a hoax, a ploy, or a marketing stunt. I’m sure some initially took (and perhaps some still take) the underlying premise at face value. But I don’t think it should be called a hoax, ploy, or stunt. It employs something more innovative than basic deception and is thus worthy of praise, not condemnation. It’s not meant to fool the audience. It’s not LonelyGirl15 or Milli Vanilli. Rather it’s smart, oddly funny, entertaining, and subtly informative (by showing viewers that Hi-Tec shoes are waterproof). It could easily become a classic online video. And dare I say it borders on cultural satire by exposing our natural desire to believe in possibilities. You want to believe in what you’re seeing, but you know you shouldn’t.

Utilizing social media can be a tricky proposition. How best to use it? How best to track it? These can be hard questions. The answers for which evolve over time. In an online world that is easy to manipulate, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s real. Creating online scams, perpetrating fraud, or simply deceiving others for the heck of it is actually quite simple. Creating online content that is smart, oddly funny, entertaining, informative, and satirical all in one on the other hand, is a decidedly different innovative challenge (although not quite as difficult as running on water I suppose). A challenge we should all take up.

I still often hear the debate concerning social media as an instrument for doing good or evil. But this is different than the simple belief that social media is powerful. This would be hard to deny. There are few people (or I rather I hope there are few people) that can deny the pure power of social media – whether used for good or evil. But I suppose Jesus walked on water (without Hi-Tec shoes). And he certainly had (has) his skeptics. You don’t need to believe what you see though. Just know that its power is real.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

EPIC Spotlight: Ted Arnstein, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, NXP Semiconductors

Ted Arnstein
Senior Vice President, Corporate Development
NXP Semiconductors

Edward R. (Ted) Arnstein is Senior Vice President and Head of Mergers & Acquisitions for NXP Semiconductors, a privately-held $5 billion company based in The Netherlands that provides high performance mixed-signal semiconductor and standard product solutions to the automotive, industrial, consumer, lighting, medical, computing and identification markets.

Mr. Arnstein joined NXP in 2007 shortly after its spin-off from Philips to build an M&A department in support of an aggressive program of growth and portfolio restructuring
previously, Mr. Arnstein was an investment banker with Deutsche Bank Securities in Boston, MA and Goldman Sachs in New York.

He began his career in the Project Finance Group at the Export-Import Bank of the United States in Washington, D.C. Mr. Arnstein attended the University of Michigan, The School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Ted Arnstein will be presenting "21st Century Portfolio Management (You've Got to Monetize Everything)" at EPIC Partnerships this October.

Bio courtesy of econique: http://business-masters.econique.com/263.html

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don't Be Fooled By The Mythology Of Innovation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” - from the motion picture "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne and James Stewart

Time can obscure fact. What we remember and how we remember isn’t always perfect. And even when recollections are good, sometimes we simply choose for various reasons – inspiration, entertainment, persuasion, etc. – to simplify our stories. Embellishments and ommissions are all part of the process. Creating a good story, one that is easy to tell and serves its intended purpose, is what matters most.

As innovators, marketers, or product developers, we are all storytellers in one capacity or another. Stories are fun to develop and fun to tell. Some of the best innovation stories in the world are those that revolve around the origin of discoveries and the origin of organizations. For some reason we seem drawn to the stories of companies started in a basement, or started in a garage, or the business plan written on the back of a napkin, or the product idea that came in a dream. These become stories of legend. They make us believe that anyone with an idea and a dream can do something great in a short amount of time and with relative ease. They inspire us. But can these legendary, almost mythological origin stories obscure the actual overall process of innovation and mislead those that attempt to follow the inspiring path?

In 1987, the garage at 367 Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, California – the garage in which Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard developed the 200A and 200B audio oscillators, HP’s first products – reached landmark status and was later dedicated as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley” in 1989. This garage has become a symbol of genius and entrepreneurial spirit. To think that a couple regular guys simply got together one day and formed a company in their garage that ultimately went on to be one of the largest tech companies in the world, is truly amazing and inspiring. It seems so simple.

In the populist version and corporate telling of this story, what is most often left out are the years spent on education and training for both Hewlett and Packard. Bachelor’s degrees, advanced degrees, time spent by Packard at General Electric, etc. The road to 367 Addison Avenue wasn’t really all that simple or easy.

In the 1985 movie “Back To The Future”, Dr. (Doc) Emmett Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) tells the story of how time travel was made possible. It all hinges on a little contraption called “the flux capacitor” – the idea for which came to Doc Brown after he fell and hit his head on the toilet in his bathroom while trying to change a light bulb. It’s a pretty good story. What we don’t see in the movie however is the effort to build the flux capacitor and the subsequent transformation of the suped-up Delorean automobile. Telling (or showing in a movie) this part of the story, wouldn’t likely be all that compelling or interesting to watch. We simply hear the bathroom story and see the completed Delorean. We want to believe in the genius. We want to believe in the simplicity and ease.

Unlike some origin stories which are actual myths – like Ebay having been created to trade Beanie Babies -, I don’t think there’s anything “untrue” about the story of Hewlett-Packard and the historical garage. The story of HP is a great one. An inspiring one. It serves its purpose. But don’t be fooled. Although the stories of innovation may seem simple and easy to tell, the process of innovation isn’t always so. Be inspired. But remember to work hard.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

EPIC Spotlight: Terence McElwee, Director of Technology Transfer & Innovation, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Terence McElwee
Director of Technology Transfer & Innovation
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Terence P. McElwee is the first Director of Technology Transfer & Innovation at KAUST, where he is building an open innovation organization. Technology commercialization is an integral part of KAUST's economic development mission.

Terence is using crowd-sourcing applications to design a metamediary innovation network that will serve regional companies and universities and is seeking partners and collaborators in the region to become part of that enterprise. He is also launching a technology transfer fellowship program for Saudi masters trained scientists and engineers to study at technology commercialization offices in the US.

He is co-author of Licensing Intellectual Property and Licensing Intellectual Property in the Information Age the first law school textbook devoted exclusively to technology licensing. He has written for the AUTM Technology Transfer Manual and the journal "Pharmaceutical Contract Administration." He was an Adjunct Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law and has served on the AUTM Journal Board of Editors.

KAUST¹s regional network plan is described in detail on the Website of Beyond the First World http://beyondthefirstworld.com.

Terrence McElwee will be presenting "Developing a Context, Framework and Strategy – A Strategy to Both Sides of Open Innovation" at EPIC Partnerships this October.

Bio courtesy of LinkedIn: http://sa.linkedin.com/in/terencemcelwee

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is it Time to Retire the Blackberry Brand?

Rim was forced to release a new and improved Blackberry with Droid and the iPhone4 taking the majority of the market share this past month. But is the Blackberry Torch 9800, RIM's latest touchscreen offering, just a passing of last year's technology?

According to this article in BusinessWeek the Blackberry Torch comes complete with what has made it so popular with corporate IT departments, stable and secure email messaging as well as improved functionality. The addition of the new operating system Blackberry 6 has also made surfing the web a more pleasurable experience, but unfortunately it weighs a hefty 6 pounds make it much heavier than the iPhone4. It also lacks the elegance of the iPhone4 and the amount of applications that both the iPhone and Droid have in its application store.

So I pose this question..who's the leader in mobile innovation?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What The Cluck?!

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“The story of Harland Sanders is perhaps the most remarkable. Sanders left school at age twelve, worked as a farm hand, a mule tender, and a railway fireman. At various times he worked as a lawyer without having a law degree, delivered babies as a part-time obstetrician without having a medical degree, sold insurance door to door, sold Michelin tires, and operated a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. He served home-cooked food at a small dining-room table in the back, later opened a popular restaurant and motel, sold them to pay off debts, and at the age of sixty-five became a traveling salesman once again, offering restaurant owners the “secret recipe” for his fried chicken. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened in 1952, near Salt Lake City, Utah. Lacking money to promote the new chain, Sanders dressed up like a Kentucky colonel, sporting a white suit and a black string tie. By the early 1960s, Kentucky Fried Chicken was the largest restaurant chain in the United States¸ and Colonel Sanders was a household name.” - excerpted from the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Shortly after the publication of Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation back in 2001 it seemed as though our collective consciousness concerning what we choose to consume increased dramatically. I have vague recollections of various healthy menu items popping up at quick-serve restaurants during that time presumably to combat the growing consumer perception that the industry’s traditional offerings were (and continue to be) “unhealthy”. Advertising messages shifted. Menus changed. I cannot say for certain to what extent Fast Food Nation specifically contributed to the economic malaise experienced by the quick-serve industry back then. I’m sure there were lots of forces at work. I imagine additional later mainstream media offerings such as Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me and Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which first appeared in 2006, didn’t help public perceptions all that much.

It didn’t take that long though for consumers, with the help of the restaurants themselves, to slide back into pre-“consciousness” consumption patterns. The slide began a few years ago and is now exemplified by current cornerstone menu items such as McDonald’s Big ‘N’ Tasty and Burger King’s Steakhouse XT (a version of which at one point included mashed potatoes in the sandwich itself).

In a world where KFC’s recent Double Down sandwich – an offering that foregoes a bun in favor of two boneless white meat chicken filets and includes bacon, two types of cheese and the Colonel’s sauce and in essence glorifies all that is deep fried - achieved tremendous success and was seemingly received with open arms by consumers, it should probably come as no surprise to Yum! Brands (owner of KFC) that recent attempts to push a more “health-conscious” oriented message and menu by promoting grilled chicken over its traditional bone-in fried chicken, has been met with considerable resistance by some franchise owners. It’s in fact prompted a lawsuit. Many franchisees say the strategy creates confusion and hurts the brand.

Two things came to mind as I read a story about KFC’s franchisee backlash online the other day. The first was something Bert Jacobs, CEO of Life is good® apparel company said during his closing keynote speech at the 2010 FEI Conference – “Know Who You Are, and Act Like It.” Perhaps Yum! Brands is deliberately attempting to reshape it long-term image and define who they are. It appears though at the moment at least that franchisees don’t see eye to eye with corporate.

The second is simply the necessity for organizations to fully understand and appreciate what’s happening “in the trenches” and “on the frontlines” within its organization in order to be innovative. I’m not privy to all that Yum! does to research its markets and customers. I once worked for a cultural trends research company however that had Yum! Brands as a client, so I do have a basic appreciation for aspects of their strategy inputs. That being said I won’t pretend to know what’s happening inside corporate headquarters at Yum! or pretend to know specifically who they’ve talked to – customers, franchisees, competitors, industry experts, trend watchers, etc. – in order to build their approach.

Know though that the frontlines matter. The people working directly with customers on a day-to-day basis deserve to have their voices heard. The process of innovation demands it. Don’t let your frontline employees or channel partners end up like some KFC franchisees who find themselves wondering “What the Cluck?!!”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What global economic trends will shape the future?


This week we continue our “Future of…” series by asking the Front End of Innovation community how you see economic trends in global and emerging markets shaping the future. (And a special thanks to all who responded to our previous announcements- We truly have a truly remarkable group!)

Join Steven Faktor, Vice President, Chairman's Innovation Fund, American Express for his presentation, "How Global Economic Trends Will Shape the Future” at Future Trends //October 18-20, 2010 // Miami, FL. Steven reveals how to assess the competitive environment, identify macro trends, and harness innovation to build long-term competitive advantage.

The key points that Steven will discuss include:

• Melding of post-recessionary economics with innovation strategies
• Better understanding of the "new normal" in economics
• Emerging winners and losers after the Great Recession
• Likely scenarios
• New rules for innovators

The Global Economy is just of the topics that will be address at Future Trends by leading futurists and forward thinkers. You will hear trends and insights on The Future of... America, Technology, Work, Consumption, Innovation, Health care, Digital Products, Aging, Brand, Global & Emerging Markets, Social Media, Education, and much more.

Register by August 30 & Save $400 off the standard & on-site rate!

Learn more about Future Trends 2010 and plan to join us this October in Miami.


Cheers,
The Future Trends Event Team

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Remember The Ice Cave: A Lesson In Serendipity

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

If I miss a turn while driving in the car nowadays or otherwise simply get lost or rerouted for some reason, rather than getting perturbed or irritated or worried about being late and inconvenienced in some fashion, I simply blurt out in a semi-strident voice “Remember the Ice Cave!” Most often my kids are in the car when I vocalize, but I’ll do this even while driving alone sometimes. It’s a reminder to myself of discoveries that possibly await me around the next corner.

My family took a trip to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa a couple years ago. My wife was attending a writer’s conference. While there, after dropping my wife off at Luther on one of the days, my kids and I meandered throughout and on the outskirts of town. I’ve actually visited Decorah numerous times so have a certain familiarity with the place. One spot I wanted to take my kids was a place called Dunning’s Spring.

Dunning’s Spring is a small park and picnic area on the northern outskirts of downtown Decorah. It’s a five, maybe ten minute drive from Water Street, Decorah’s main drag. The park features a 40 ft. cascading waterfall with a wooden staircase meandering through the trees on its left for exploring the length of the falls. Except for the sound of falling water, it’s a fairly quiet place. Fun to explore.

Having been to Decorah previously many times, and visited Dunning’s Springs on occasion while there, I didn’t bother checking a map for street names or asking for directions. The drive to get there is fairly straight forward. Needless to say, I didn’t readily recognize the foliage covered final left turn that leads up the mile long gravel road through the trees to the spring. After a few more minutes of driving I knew I’d gone too far. I missed the turn.

There weren’t any obvious spots on the narrow gravel road to do a quick 360 when I realized my mistake. I thus drove a little while longer until I saw a more convenient place to turn around. I ultimately turned left into what looked like a small three or four-car gravel-covered parking lot, and realized we had happened upon what was known throughout the area as the Ice Cave. A place that I’d never known existed. As the name implies, it’s a relatively simple looking cave, largely visible from the gravel road, created by glacial ice countless years ago. My kids and I decided to have a look. We climbed around a bit but didn’t actually venture into the cave. Wet slippery rocks, no flashlight, the possibility of encountering animals larger than or more vicious than myself, while carrying one of my toddler sons didn’t sound like a smart move a responsible parent would make. We thus limited our exploration of the Ice Cave to the rocks surrounding the locale. We decided to return at a later date when my youngest was older and we’d be better prepared.

Despite not having ventured into the cave, it was still a beautiful discovery. A discovery by mistake.

Innovation is no different. Missed signs and wrong turns are inevitable at times. How you deal with them perhaps holds the keys to your success. Attitude matters. Prepare yourself with knowledge and open your mind to the missed turn. You never know what you might discover.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mass Customization is Back in Business

Several companies have allowed their consumers to design their own products for quite some time like Converse, Nike, and Lego just to name a few. This slideshow in BusinessWeek highlights some companies today that are continuing this pipe dream that started in the 1990s. Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

EPIC Spotlight: Kris Halvorsen Chief Innovation Officer, Intuit

Kris Halvorsen
Chief Innovation Officer
Intuit

Per-Kristian (Kris) Halvorsen is the chief innovation officer and a senior vice president at Intuit. He is responsible for building the company's innovation capability by identifying and implementing social, mobile and other emerging technologies that will spur growth. He joined Intuit in 2006.

Before joining Intuit, Halvorsen was vice president and center director at HP Labs, where he started and led the research for the HP's services business. He established HP's research labs in India - the first IT industry research lab focused on creating products and services for the rapidly growing emerging markets - and in China.

From 1983 to 2000, Halvorsen was at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where he was the founding director of the Information Sciences and Technology Lab. He has served as a member of the board of directors at Symantec, Autodesk, Finn.no and Iron Mountain.

Kris Halvorsen will be presenting "Bringing Innovation to Life" at EPIC Partnerships this October.

Bio courtesy of Intuit: http://about.intuit.com/about_intuit/executives/kris_halvorsen.jsp

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What is the future of health care and wellness?


Last week you told us what you thought about the future of technology. Thank you for all of your responses! We have already learned a great deal about our FEI network and where your interests are (and we’ll be sure to pass along your thoughts to the FT 2010 Technology Keynote, Phil McKinney, CTO at HP). Now we are eager to learn the FEI network's predictions regarding this weeks ‘Future of’…

Let's hear it - what does the future hold for health care and wellness?

Dr. Mark Liponis, Author and Corporate Medical Director at Canyon Ranch sees the future of health care in terms of wellness. Medical advances continue at a blistering pace as medical discoveries and innovations have extended our life expectancy from five decades just eighty years ago to eight decades today. We've largely conquered infectious diseases are on the verge of controlling cardiovascular diseases; but, at the same time we're seeing an increase in environmental diseases stemming from our industrial society. Increasing rates of cancer, obesity, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and autoimmune diseases will create new ever-more complex challenges for our future health care system. Studies show that babies born today already harbor more than 200 industrial chemicals in their body even at birth. Toxic exposure is everywhere, and we are to blame. We can't all live in a bubble, so how can we produce ourselves and our families?

Find out the best practices for future wellness and health care during Dr. Liponis' presentation at Future Trends //October 18-20, 2010 // Miami, FL

Download the 2010 brochure today!

Register by August 30 & Save $400 off the standard & on-site rate!

Cheers,
The Future Trends Event Team

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Innovation Artifacts

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

I took a short walk through the woods yesterday at Itasca State Park in north central Minnesota. For those that don’t recognize the name Lake Itasca, just know that it includes the headwaters of the great Mississippi River. As you can imagine it’s a beautiful place. At the end of a trail on my short walk I came upon what is simply referred to as the “Old Timer’s Cabin” - a small, one room cabin (made with huge logs) nestled amongst tall trees and the surrounding bog adjacent to the lake. Construction on the Old Timer’s Cabin began in 1933 and finished in ’34. The project to build the cabin was actually part of the government programs used to put people back to work and stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. Rather than housing loggers and state park employees as it once likely did so many years ago, it is now on occasion (when the door isn’t padlocked) used as a simple localized museum, telling the story of a bygone time during the park’s formative years. It’s a reminder of where we’ve been, what we’ve done. It’s perhaps a prelude to where we’re going.

Throughout my career I’ve worked for and with a variety of interesting organizations, big and small. When I’ve had the opportunity to be on location with clients at their place of business, I am sometimes rewarded with a visual and tactile history of that organization’s innovations. For on display in offices, in lobbies¸ in hallways¸ and sometimes in designated localized “museums”, are the original inventions and innovations on which the organizations were built and continue to be built. The lobby at Medtronic was one such location that comes readily to mind. This was truly an interesting place. I even have my own collection of board game artifacts (not on display, but rather in a storage box) that I will on occasion bring forth for my own infusion of inspiration.

When we emerge from the current economic malaise that surrounds us, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that economists will reclassify this “Great Recession” as an actual depression. Perhaps not as great as the Great Depression, but a depression none-the-less from a technical economic viewpoint.

No doubt, throughout the world, there is much government money being put to work to stimulate economies. In the U.S. for instance, we’ve had cash for clunkers, highway projects, and more. I can’t help wonder whether in 20, 50, or 100 years, if there will be any artifacts from this “Great Recession” on which future generations will draw inspiration. A new car or a paved road don’t quite fit the bill for me. Will there be an “Old Timer’s Cabin” to inform and inspire?

Where have we been? What have we done? Where are we going?

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