Friday, May 31, 2013

The Role of Innovation: A Macro Economic View

Many see the onset of summer as a time to rest and relax. But, summer happens to be one of my favorite seasons. Rather than rest and relax, I find the warmer weather brings renewed energy. Over the past few weeks I've expended energy reading more, exploring ideas, trying to take up running (LOL!), and huddling up with TED. On a recent visit, I re-watched Macroeconomist, Robert J. Gordon's, The Death of Innovation, the End of Growth.

The first time I watched the talk, I remember thinking Gordon held a pessimistic view of innovation. But, on second glance, I believe Gordon presents us with a number of opportunities to apply innovation to the very headwinds that plague us.

In the talk, Gordon presents four headwinds: demographics (retirement of baby boomers and prime age adult males dropping out of the workforce), education (cost inflation) debt (growing U.S. debt as a share of GDP), and inequality (slow growth rate of the bottom 99% of the income distribution). Gordon's premise is that innovation needs to be more powerful than it has been in the last 150 years in order to bring about economic growth.

Who's ready to take on innovation in the areas of workforce dropout, the cost of education, balancing debt, and tackling inequality? It certainly appears that we need to address these challenges - particularly if Gordon's macroeconomic forecast is accurate.

Feel free to comment or tweet @alicarnold with ideas or examples.

Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

HELP US rename the Future Trends Summit & Enter to Win a Pass to Attend

In an effort to empower collaboration amongst all future forward thinkers, we want to broaden the scope of our event title, to be inclusive of all those responsible for ensuring relevance for the future.

This includes insights, foresights, innovation, trends, strategic planning, marketing and all other visionary leaders. Designing the future action plans of brands, companies and services requires a combination of talent and expertise.

We want to be sure our new title is reflective of our inclusiveness as we all work together to strategically plan for the future in an immersive learning experience. Please click on the survey below to give your suggestion.

Each voter will be entered to win a complimentary pass to attend the event. * Winner will be announced June 3rd.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Frugal Innovation is Reviving U.S. Economy

Frugal innovation is the ability to generate more business and social value while significantly reducing the use of scarce resources. It’s about solving the paradox of “doing more with less”. Frugal innovation is for the “Age of Austerity” in which firms are compelled by cost-conscious and eco-aware consumers, employees, and governments to create offerings that are simultaneously affordable, sustainable, and of high quality. This is a whole new mindset, a flexible approach that perceives resource constraints as a growth opportunity.

Navi Radjou, independent thought leader and strategy consultant, came for a visit to discuss this new game-changing strategy based on his book, "Jugaad Innovation."  Radjou is a sought-after speaker by our own Front End of Innovation (FEI) event, as well as the World Economic Forum, Council on Foreign Relations, The Conference Board, Harvard University, and Asia Society. He has even coined business concepts such as ‘Global Innovation Networks’, ‘Polycentric Innovation’ and ‘Jugaad Innovation’.

To hear more about frugal innovation, listen to the video below featuring Radjou alongside a panel of thought leaders.

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Kick in the Asterisk* : New Friend Curriculum.

Design your own friend curriculum.

We put out a challenge in our last post, perhaps because of some economic frustration and a desire to get the economic engine working again. Or maybe because of a latent anxiety existing in our design perspective, seeing everything in need of improvement. Whatever the motivation, its out there, now we have to do our part to keep up the conversation.

Here's the start of something. 

My awareness of the value of a "liberal arts" education was insufficient when lounging around on the lower quad of campus in my undergrad. Today, I've realized one of the most brilliant fundamentals to creativity, problem solving and new ideas is the connection of disparate subjects. If you don't agree with these fundamentals to creativity, here are two pieces of evidence: first, the BMW Guggenheim Lab on 100 Urban Trends and second, a book by Jim Link on the new creativity.

With this in mind, let's talk about solving big problems. How do we get more people thinking this way and being creative in their daily lives, no matter their profession? Short of forcing Jim to give his book away for free, there has to be a way to get more people aware of how creative they are as human beings. 

We can start with our educational institutions and what some of us witnessed in a presentation by DR Widder at Philadelphia University and Unilever's Gail Martino. Philadelphia University counters the specialization that typically happens in graduate studies by forming a collaboration between the engineering, design and business schools — exactly what liberal arts had originally been designed to do. If you missed the presentation, there were other posts highlighting it and I am certain Professor Widder would be willing to give you more details on the program if asked.

But now you're asking yourself: "that's all fine and good Mr. Keller, but what can I really do? I don't hold the reigns to a large educational institution and I don't have a zillion dollars to spend either" (yes, that's a link to the definition for zillion). You can do plenty. The biggest thing you can do is making new, interesting friends. Yes, making friends.

Making new friends who are not like you and don't do what you do. That's the "interesting" criteria. Then, when making these friends, draw correlations between what you each do for a living. Consider this your dedication to lifelong learning and meeting new people who do "interesting" things. 

Now, if you consider designing your own curriculum for meeting new people, what would it look like? Perhaps a weekly coffee meeting with someone in a field of which you know nothing about? And, maybe a different subject matter each month? Think about the design of your own "creative" curriculum and then spend a couple hours a week dedicated to meeting new "interesting" friends in divergent fields. 

Reward yourself with a weekly infusion of brain stimulation, you'll thank yourself and perhaps even find a correlation that solves one of the big problems our society faces today. 

If this is just too much work for you, then just watch this goat video, have a laugh and go back to your day as always.

Thank you for enjoying.

Aaron Keller is an author of two books on design, Design Matters: Logos and Design Matters: Packaging. He is also the co-founder of Capsule, a design innovation firm. He also writes for a variety of blogs from his modest desk and keyboard in Minneapolis, Mn.

The Top 3 Things Popular Music can teach us about Collaborative Innovation.

This might have been better titled, What does Clayton Christensen and Christina Aguilera have in common?”

You might think the world of popular music would consistently be a hotbed of innovation, but if you look at the last century and the start of this one, you’ll note innovation is slow to creep into the field.  Like the commercial world we live in, it appears only mostly recently that innovation has driven new results.  

Old School vs. Young Bloods
Just like those of us who embrace collaborative innovation in the commercial world, those in the music world can also confront indifference to change.  Let’s contrast the work of Frank Sinatra and Christina Aguilera.

First off, I love Frank Sinatra music.  I saw him in concert.  I even shook his hand.  But the only innovative moment in his career was at the beginning.  Frank’s popularity occurred when he was part of a phenomenon where band singers become more important than the band.  

As his career took off he sang the American Songbook, in other words: classics, for decades.  When he occasionally tried to sing a modern song, like “Somewhere” or “Let It Be” by the Beatles, it sounded almost painful and rang false.  When he put out a duets album late in his career, he didn’t even sing in the same room with the other performers.  They recorded their tracks in separate locations.

In contrast Christina Aguilera works hard to embrace collaborative innovation in her work.  She has been recording music since the mid ‘90’s.  Collaborative innovations have delivered a slew of benefits for her.

The music business was somewhat shocked and awed when rap music came on the scene and proved to be popular.  While some musicians were immobilized by the threat, performers like Christina took on collaborative projects incorporating rappers, and their music, into her performances.  Aguilera’s songs always list her as the performer, and then list or “feature” a rap artist.  

She has partnered with popular rappers like T.I., Lil Kim, Peaches, Nikki Minaj and Pit Bull.  She collaborated with Blake Shelton to cross over to the Country and Western market.  She sang with superstars Maroon 5, Cee Lo Green & Pink to tap into the newer audiences they generated and into these newer artists’s popularity.  Aguilera was smart enough to appear on the television show The Voice to embrace collaborative innovation in another medium and get exposure to new audiences.

Whos Watching by Jacques Maes
Three Intersections of Innovation in Business and Innovation in Music
What did she get out of this effort?  The same things we in the commercial world all want as a result of Collaborative Innovation.  Let’s look at the common ground.

1.  We all want to stay relevant.  By using collaboration to embrace innovation we get to introduce traditional offerings to new markets.  A tried and true product can get “refreshed” with the addition of a modern twist.  In both the cases of popular music and a commercial enterprise, the younger, newer participants learn from the older, more experienced players about how the system works.  The senior player has their thought processes opened up by the fresher perspective.  An old product can regain relevancy with the exposure to a new market.
2.  A big chunk of the commercial innovation world is driven by new product development.  Popular music has a constant demand to produce new works, as well.  Yes, maybe their old favorites will have an audience, but if a CPG company or a popular musician wants to retain shelf space they have to keep a pipeline of new product offerings coming.
3.  We can see combining two different perspectives can yield a whole new product.  This type of thinking led to the production of a Hybrid Car... and the insertion of a spoken word interlude within a melodious lyric.

So Collaborative Innovation is a pervasive notion spanning both commercial enterprises and popular music.   
This approach enables traditional offerings to remain relevant to an ever-changing audience.  It assembles senior players so they can share their experiences with junior participants.  Collaborating to fuel Innovation serves to open up the minds of traditionalists to modern thinking.  The realized benefits of Collaborative Innovation include the introduction of offerings never seen before.  It drives a steady stream of developed new products to a market hungry for novelty (and the next “new” thing).

Ron Shulkin blogs, researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  

You can learn more about CogniStreamer here .  Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here). You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn. You can find his CV at

Monday, May 27, 2013

33 ways to stay creative

Our offices are closed today but here's a fun presentation with a a few ways to develop that essential innovation skill: Innovation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Call for Presenters: Future Trends

The Institute for International Research (IIR) is currently seeking presenters specializing in Futuring and vision.

The 18th Annual World Future Trend event is in the midst of a major transformation. From the name to the people who will come.

The 18th Annual Re-imagined World Future Trends Summit
November 13-15, 2013
Los Angeles, CA 

We’re scouring the earth for disruptive thinkers – our goal is to unite innovators to collaborate across functionalities - from insights to brand design to trend watchers to futurists to marketers to strategic planners to C suite leadership… We are not looking for good or great. We are looking for the most future forward, smart people in the world to come together and share their inspiring stories that will result in commercial impact. We are searching for practical wisdom. The entire event will focus on the HOW not the WHAT. We are on the hunt for groundbreaking.

 If you are an authentic visionary and want to share your story to help people across different cultures and business ensure relevance for the future – then we invite you to submit an idea. Our goal is to revolutionize this event from a conference to a blended learning experience to accelerate future growth.

 While our event title is in limbo – thanks to all your feedback - we know the event will be focused on “Prediction to Implementation: exploratory learning experience for synthesizing world trends, brand strategy, innovation and human science into a future action plan”. 

 How will we achieve this?

 1. TOP TRENDS revealed from trend experts around the world. Is this you? If so, email us.

 2. STRATEGIC CONTEXTUALIZING – how is this visionary information relevant to what others do and how to adapt and implement it? Real world Business Cases work well to achieve this. Do you have a story to share? If so, email us

 3. Exploratory Learning: Putting trends and ideas into practice in real time. Workshops and field trips are some potential ideas – but we are open to more. Can you facilitate a workshop? Do you have an idea for a nontraditional experience? If so, email us.

**We are particularly interested in storytelling workshops by filmmakers or Hollywood producers as well as a 3D printing workshops. If you can help bring mind-blowing content delivered through extraordinary experiences email us.

 Due to the high volume of submissions, we suggest you submit your proposal early and no later than 7 June, 2013 to Romina Kunstadter, Conference Director. To submit your proposal, please email

Presenters receive FREE admission to the entire 3-day conference. We are currently looking for client-side case studies ONLY (for consultants, vendors, and solutions providers, please additional information below*).

Following are a few topic ideas:
• Trend Tracking 
• Trend Implementation Strategy 
• Creativity & Innovation 
• Global Social Trends 
• Global Technological Innovations 
• Economic Trends 
• Behavioral Trends 
• Rapid Prototyping 
• Big Data & Analytics 
• Connectivity & Collaboration 
• Thriving in Emerging Markets 
• Consumer Trends 
• Environmental Trends 
• Design Trends 
• Creating a Futurist division within your company 
• Global Social Media Trends 
• Future of Millennial 

*INVESTING IN FUTURE TRENDS 2013: If you are interested in investing in this event as a sponsor please contact Jon Saxe at

CALL FOR PRESENTERS: For consideration, please e-mail with the following information by 7th June.
• Proposed presenter name(s), job title(s), and company name(s)
• Contact information including address, telephone and e-mail
• Title and objective of presentation
• Please indicate which topic you plan to address and please indicate what is NEW about the presentation
• Summary of the talk
• What the audience will gain from your presentation (please list 3-5 key “take-aways”)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hershey’s Innovation Strategy Accelerates the Candy Giant’s Global Growth

For almost 120 years, The Hershey Company has embodied innovation with products that have changed the confectionery industry and established the company as one of the world's leading candy makers. As part of the company's strategy to drive global growth and innovation, it is opening an Asia Innovation Center located in Shanghai, China. Hershey's new Innovation Center is a big step toward continuing to accelerate its growth momentum.

This new research and development hub will enable Hershey to launch new products customized to the tastes of consumers across Asia. The facility in Shanghai provides a strategic gateway to the larger Asia market while enabling close collaboration with local and regional China sales marketing personnel. Currently, China is Hershey's fastest growth market, moving from number seven to number three in chocolate share in only five years with chocolate share more than quadrupling by 2012.

"Our new Innovation Center in Shanghai supports our aggressive growth plans in Asia and reflects our global approach to business," said Michael Wege, senior vice president, Chief Growth and Marketing Officer, The Hershey Company, in a statement. "It will enable us to translate our insights and knowledge of consumer tastes and preferences into relevant products.”

The two-floor, 22,000 square-foot facility is a significant investment in the China market and will house R&D laboratories, a plant for the chocolate and sweets & refreshment categories and a development center for emerging product offerings. In addition, it will feature a sensory area, creativity center, packaging development section and research laboratory.

The center will initially employ 12 scientists and product developers and includes office space for 32 engineers and innovation staff. Hershey will also supplement technical resources that will enable this facility to become a global innovation hub with a focus on building powerful brands across Asia and worldwide. So, emphasis will be placed on consumer research and - a process Hershey's calls “consumer-centric brand building.” Hershey can gain a holistic understanding of how the company's products play into consumer needs.

"The China team is very excited about the new Innovation Center in Shanghai," said Jane Xu, vice president and general manager of Greater China for The Hershey Company. "Our aggressive growth target in the next five years will be achieved by building our five global brands across China, along with the innovation capabilities developed at the center."
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Submit Your Innovation Master Thesis to the Future Ideas Competition Today!

Alumni Masters, there are only a few days left to participate Future Ideas European Innovation Master Thesis Competition by submitting your innovation master thesis! You have the exclusive opportunity to connect with like-minded master graduates, academia and companies in order to boost innovation and entrepreneurship. Main partners of Future Ideas are such as Dialogues Incubator, ABN AMRO and the extremely valued IIRUSA!

With your thesis you have the opportunity to come to the Future Ideas Grand Finale on June 21st in Amsterdam and win one of the three prizes - 3500 EUR, 1000 EUR or 500 EUR! The elite jury panel consists of innovators from universities and companies from all over Europe! Think of Alcatel-Lucent, SWIFT, Microsoft, Philips, IIRUSA, etc.

Deadline for submissions: May 24th
Grand Finale: June 21st

For more information please visit the website:

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The Importance of Strategic Innovation

Today, in order for your business to succeed, it needs to stay competitive. So, you need strategic innovation to understand the marketplace and produce new products to meet the needs of your customers. Without strategic innovation you won’t keep up with, let alone stay ahead in the today’s faced paced business world.

According to Tom Donovan of Wisepreneur, a company needs a template of strategic innovation because the business needs it to survive the cut throat competition. Without techniques to analyze the business world, the competition as well as how the company can innovate, it stagnates. As technology advances at a rapid pace a business needs to be able to utilize that technology with innovative concepts. Businesses can fail if they can’t grow in this ever-changing world.

Additionally, the business needs to look for new streams of revenues that can keep the company going. Innovation is one way to make a lasting statement in the business world and keep a company going. The long-term strategy of a company is then one of the most important aspects of the business. By developing strategies to stay competitive the business has a better chance to succeed. A company will look at its own products, and then decide how to improve them or make new ones that have an impact on the marketplace.

“Just think of Apple and how popular their PCs and mobile technology is. If Apple just sat there and never worked on its innovation then it wouldn’t be in the position it is today. Apple developed strategies and used strategic innovation to be the giant in the PC and mobile market that they are,” wrote Donovan.

He suggests the following template for innovation strategy:
  • New business models – You help your business grow in new directions with new products that allow your business to stand out in the marketplace
  • Increased Value- Your company has increased values and this leads to more value for your business
  • New Markets – Your business can break into new markets that it might not have been able to before

Strategist innovation will allow you to break through the conventional mold and gain that advantage over companies that sell the same products you do. The business world always changes and those that recognize those changes have an advantage over those that never change. If you use strategic innovation to analyze your business and those of your competitors, you’ll see where those improvements to your business models can propel your business.

Today’s consumers wants the next best thing and by innovating you can give them what they want. Innovation will help you get there. 

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5 Trends Changing the Small Business Future

A small business is considered to be any company that employs less than 100 people. Today, in the U.S., small businesses employ over half of the country's workforce. Many people think that industrial giants are the most important factor in driving the economy, but small businesses are actually on top. Without small businesses, where would half of the country work?  

Small business in America has been the stabilizing force in the economy. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of creativity and production. Small business is what stimulates economic growth. With over 60 percent of all private sector jobs coming from small business, it is a proven fact that small businesses are critical to the economy.

Looking into the future, here's a look at five trends, according to Laurel Delaney, a world-renowned global small business expert, that are reshaping a very bright future for small businesses.

It’s a way to thrive in a complex and connected world. We have to accept this, master the disruptive breakthroughs as fast as possible and stay ahead by making optimum use of its capabilities for growing small businesses into global powerhouses. SMBs that are poised to come out of tough economic times on top will be those that learn how to use innovation to drive growth and productivity.

“Just like entrepreneurship is not for the weak at heart, innovation isn’t either, for it requires risk, a tolerance for failure and the ability to make a move on every brilliant idea that flies across your desk,” wrote Delaney.

Today, we need technology for continuous change and affordability. It has never been easier to test ideas quickly. For instance, mobile gadgets too will continue to get smaller and more powerful, bolstering the case that going global will be a prerequisite for long-term success.

In addition, cloud computing, the next new growth environment will play a big role for SMBs in application delivery. Someday, not too far off in the future, customers anywhere in the world with a mobile device will be able to text you their next big container order.

Global Entrepreneurship
Because the economic environment is so bad, the only thing you can count on in life is yourself, so everyone will not only think about whether they have the skill set for entrepreneurship but will jump into it as a new way of life.

She wrote, “Combine that mindset with the use of innovation and technology, and a heavy dose of determination to change the world, and you’ve got the ingredients for a global entrepreneurial revolution — a force not to be reckoned with.”

Sustainability Practices
According to Delaney, we will see more and more SMB owners committing themselves to sustainability strategies because they extend the efficiency and value of products and services. Improving social and environmental conditions is fast becoming the soul of a local or global SMB enterprise.

Green Initiatives
Being environmentally conscious is not only good for our well-being, it’s even better for our planet. So, we’ll see more green initiatives put into play in the future, and consumers will begin to expect it.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Post FEI Doldrums: A Kick in the Asterisk*

The seminars are over, the conversations have gone silent, and we’ve all gone back to our work-a-day lives. Perhaps some messages got through from the show, and some items you’ve since taken back to study under the fluorescents.

This is where the real stuff happens.

The other 355 days [giving 10 days for show euphoria to wear off] is where we need to apply a new frame to an old challenge. We essentially need a kick in the asterisk* at least once a week. So, we’re here to provide that Shift-8 every so often.

These posts will be about what I’d expect you to be working on to solve the problems we have confronting us [as a global society]. Because we’ve got plenty of heads bobbling around atop bodies on this planet – we’d like to see some more output from anywhere and everywhere.

We will focus on sketching out the problem and making some connections between obscure subject areas. We will skew toward meaty, challenging problems but may wander into the barnyard of the obscure and irrelevant. We will use images and concepts to make these connections and perhaps offer ideas of our own to fuel the fire.

Then, we’ll socialize this and see where it goes.

Our small hope is that you will see these posts and say, “I got this one” and go forth to ideate and innovate. Or, you’ll pass it along to someone who knows more about the subject to listen to their perspective. Our big hope is that someone will be working on such a problem—or just solved it—and will submit his or her name to present at next year’s Front End of Innovation conference.  

These are the subjects we will be likely covering [if this isn’t enough, please add to our list by sending a message]:

-- Health and wellness
-- Sustainability
-- Poverty and hunger
-- Financial intelligence
-- Everyday frustrations
-- Transportation

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider our thoughts.

Aaron Keller is an author of two books on design, Design Matters: Logos and Design Matters: Packaging. He is also the co-founder of Capsule, a design innovation firm. He also writes for a variety of blogs from his modest desk and keyboard in Minneapolis, Mn.

Photo credit: Elegant Donkey (you can decide which one)

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