Archive for networks
One of the highlights of the past few years for me has been the annual CoDev conference on open innovation sponsored by the Management Roundtable. Top-notch speakers on open innovation and collaboration will speak, sharing their experiences and insights. Speakers from companies like Procter and Gamble, Colgate, Pepsico, General Mills and ConocoPhilips (one of the new companies speaking this year) have much to share. It’s a great venue for networking with many thought leaders and experts. Many of the participants are executives, directors, or managers responsible for collaborative innovation and are the kind of people you ought to know if you or your company care about advancing your approach to innovation.
This year Innovationedge will be conducting a pre-conference workshop on innovation and IP strategy. I hope you’ll be there with us!
The setting is Scottsdale, Arizona, which is the place to be in January. Beautiful region! The conference runs from Jan. 24-26, 2011.
This year I’m especially excited about one of the key-note speakers, my friend Adriano Amaral from Brazil. He was one of the visionary leaders of the government in Brasilia in the past decade who transformed the economy of that state into the strongest economic engine of Brazil. He is a tremendously successful CEO of a for-profit business, POSEAD, and of a non-profit educational organization, CETEB, both of which have transformed education for speakers of Portuguese and Spanish with a remarkably successful business model. He will share some of his story, a tiny part of which I’ve shared previously on this blog. Connecting with this influential leader from Brazil could easily be worth the price of the conference for some of you.
In May 2010 I was invited to speak at a conference of WTA (the Wisconsin Telecommunications Association) about innovation lessons for the telecommunications industry from our recently published book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Here is a condensed version of the presentation. I’ll do another Pixetell soon with some additional content.
Can’t help mentioning this: I had a technical problem with the above Pixetell and sent an email to their tech support team. I had a response within minutes. In fact, I had a phone call – the kind that takes real people using real time – and the quickly helped me troubleshoot the problem and get this post working. Wow! Miracles still happen–or at least great customer service. Love Pixetell. Great way to turn PowerPoints or whatever you have on a computer plus your voice into a recorded presentation that you can share with a URL, embed into a blog, or save as a movie. Pixetell is a product of Ontier, Inc.
The problem in large organizations, and the US federal government is pretty much the world’s largest, is that numerous entities have their own turf and their own advancement in mind, and without special efforts being taken will naturally work in ways that cause conflict and delay. Leaders must carefully work to align these interests and incentives toward organizational objectives, but this can be almost impossible when an organization gets out of control. Adding a new committee or bureaucracy in addition to everything else will rarely be the most effective path forward. Meanwhile, those who may have the answer and want to bring their expertise to the table find themselves discouraged, worn down, ignored, and ultimately punished for their passion to innovate and help. Welcome to organizational innovation fatigue, and welcome to the Gulf Coast disaster.
Several voices have discussed the need for innovation in dealing with the disastrous oil leak in the Gulf Coast. There are so many intriguing opportunities for technology–oil absorbent materials, new chemistries for dispersing or attacking the oil, controlled burnoffs, skimming and oil collection systems, barrier technologies to keep the oil away, materials that coagulate oil, and a host of proposed technical solutions for addressing the root cause and stopping the leak. Many of the proposals should be considered and tried. This is not the time for bureaucracy. This is not the time for the government to be shutting down efforts with its bureaucracy. If the Coast Guard is worried about inadequate fire extinguishers, round up a batch and take them over to the relief effort to help, not hinder the State of Louisiana as it tries to protect itself. But what the Coast Guard did in this case is akin to what happens thousands of times each day in companies and government around the world, contributing to the innovation fatigue that stymies much needed efforts at innovation and progress.There are some bright spots of innovation amidst all this mess. Kevin Costner of Hollywood fame has been developing a company with patented technologies for cleaning oil-contaminated water. Ocean Therapy Solutions (http://ots.org) represents a case of successful technology transfer that began in the US Dept. of Energy and some national labs. The technology has now emerged as clever centrifugal separators that split a contaminated stream into highly separated water and oil-rich streams. Portable units mounted on boats can go into contaminated waters and process large quantities of ocean water, recovering oil and returning much cleaner water to the ocean. Their website includes a couple of interesting videos, including one of Kevin testifying before Congress. The system has received relatively little interest for the past decade and the factory has been dormant, but now awareness is rapidly increasing and BP is deploying some of these units for use in the Gulf. A single unit can process 200 gallons per minute or more.
Kudos to Kevin and his team! He certainly has an advantage with his name recognition and extensive networks–without that, he may have been viewed as just another voice in the wind claiming to have something. There are others with technologies and potential solutions. May they also find their way to make a difference. May all the innovation fatigue factors remain far from Kevin Costner and all others seeking to bring something new to help us fix the Gulf Coast disaster.
It’s that way in the business world. too. Companies can create tidy org charts and draft neat process maps to describe how they work, but the unseen reality outside the visible systems may be what really dominates operations. Increasingly, experts in knowledge management are learning that easily overlooked and often invisible intangibles can dominate corporate value and performance. Numerous intangible transactions may be essential to the success of a company, including casual information sharing between trusted friends, helpful exchanges of tips and best practices between employees or between external partners and internal employees, or loyalty that is gained when people are included in decision making. The invisible linkages and hard-to-observe exchanges in a company’s internal an external ecosystems may be the real engines of value creation, regardless of what is on a process map or workstream. By not understanding the value of such intangibles, corporations can easily break key linkages and crush subtle engines of value creation.
Many companies focus on their “value chains” – a term popularized by Michael Porter in his seminal 1985 work, Competitive Advantage. The value chain describes the linear chain of events as materials and products move from sourcing through manufacturing and out to the market. It is a highly useful paradigm for manufacturing and was highly applicable to much of the economy in the era when Porter was doing his research. But since that time, the explosion of the knowledge economy has changed the way we work and create value. One of my favorite authors, Verna Allee, a revolutionary expert in knowledge management, has detailed the move from the value chain to modern ecosystems and Value Networks in her book, The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks (Burlington, MA: Elsevier Science, 2003). Verna Allee and Associates have introduced a clever, methodical tool called Value Network Analysis for analyzing and visualizing the transactions of intangibles and tangibles that affect a business.
After my training in Value Network Analysis by Verna and her associate, Oliver Schwabe, an exciting new perspective on business and human behavior opened up. I have been highly impressed with the power of Value Network Analysis and the insights that it can rapidly deliver for a company. The Value Network Analysis work that Innovationedge has done as part of larger projects for some of our clients has been a very exciting part of my work since joining Cheryl Perkins’ exciting company. We value the tool enough that we had Verna Allee speak at the 2008 CoDev conference to introduce other business leaders to the basic concepts behind Value Network Analysis. I’m very pleased to see a community emerging of people using Value Network Analysis and developing exciting tools for it.
Here are some resources that you may find helpful in further exploring this area:
- Hosted Value Network Tools
- A Value Network Approach (PDF) – 2002 Whitepaper by Verna Allee
- ValueNet Works™ Analysis for Boeing (PDF)
Part of the initial output in Value Network Analysis are maps, called “holomaps,” showing human entities as nodes and transactions of tangible or intangible items between them. There is much that can be learned from such holomaps – a topic for later discussion. For now I’ll show you two sample holomaps I created to illustrate simple ecosystems. One shows several external nodes around a manufacturer and the other shows some structure within part of a corporation. For simplicity, the maps lack all the labels explaining the transactions.
One interesting approach is to use the “holomaps” you get in Value Network Analysis as tools for “what if” scenarios to explore what new partners might do for your business model, or what new business models might do for your ecosystem. Using holomaps to explore innovation ecosystems is a particularly fruitful approach for those doing open innovation and wondering who should be in their external ecosystem.
We have further information on this topic that we’d be happy to share with you. It’s certainly something you should look at to understand how business really works.
Last year I discussed the bold technology transfer and commercialization work of Exploit Technologies in Singapore under the leadership of Executive Director Boon Swan Foo. Their goal is an important one for the economy of Singapore. They are working with a booming portfolio of patents from the intense research being funded by the government of Singapore, seeking to license the patents and promote full commercialization. Mr. Boon has recently retired, turning the keys over to the new CEO, Mr. Philip Lim. I had the privilege of meeting Philip when I was at Singapore last year to speak at Innovation and Enterprise Week 2009, a remarkable event held at Biopolis. Philip Lim shares some of his thoughts in Part 1 and Part 2 of a blog post at Exploit Technologies. I’d like to share and comment upon a few of his thoughts from Part 2, as reported by Alfred Siew:
What are the biggest technologies to focus on?
With some 800 to 1,000 patents within A*Star to tap on, new Exploit Technologies CEO Philip Lim would be hard-pressed to name a few.
Still, gamely, he does point out a couple, during an interview.
One area is nano-imprinting lithography (NIL), a manufacturing process that is set to bring many benefits to making electronics that control, say, the liquid from an inkjet printer, or even for biomolecular sorting devices in the emerging bio-sciences equipment market.
Another area is ultrawideband (UWB) technology, a radio technology that promises to transfer audio and video over the air with speeds that are more common on wired connections.
With it, hi-fi equipment would one day do away with messy cables used to connect them together.
Taking over from long-time A*Star stalwart Boon Swan Foo, Philip says his main task is to group together complimentary expertise in the hottest fields, so as to come up with more products that can go to market fast.
He also intends to incentivise people to play as a team. By combining knowledge of market requirements, as well as the expertise that A*Star has, Exploit can help map out emerging and potentially viable areas which Singapore can focus on, he says.
For example, with UWB, the expertise of two A*Star institutes – the Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) for its UWB design, and the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) for its expertise in manufacturing electronics – can easily be combined.
He notes: “One has the hardware (IME), the other has the software (I²R); put them together and you got UWB!”
“We want to be more outcome-focused and customer-focused in the way we do things,” he says, referring to a more streamlined approach to getting technologies out from the lab bench to retail shelves.
But he is not a number-cruncher, he explains. “We see ourselves as facilitators… KPIs, while tangible, have their limits.”
The dollar value of licenses made possible with Exploit, he notes, does not count the multiplier effect of the entire value chain of a technology. For example, technology behind a simple, low-cost keypad can be used in a much more expensive handphone, and has more value than its mere licensing fee.
“If we can generate ‘economic outcomes’, like sustainable innovation and more jobs for Singapore, then we’ve done our jobs,” says Philip, of Exploit.
He adds: “If we do more here, companies will like being based here. Instead of moving to cheaper manufacturing bases, they will want to stay in Singapore to keep in touch with the latest technologies.”
“For $1 in licensing, we may be creating thousands of dollars in economic value if jobs are kept here.”
Economic outcomes are what it’s all about. Philip wisely recognizes that successful tech transfer of government-funded R&D can result in long-term economic value for Singapore. They are focused on a long-term plan that will bring more companies and more jobs to Singapore to take advantage of the talent, the technology, and the culture of success that is being crafted.
One of the challenges for commercialization success in the Singaporean model will be continually crafting a portfolio of not just patents, but know-how and other intellectual assets that create synergy with the marketing story that fits the technology and business opportunities being developed. The marketing perspective needs to be brought into the technology plans and the IP strategy to create portfolios that encompass winning business models and can quickly give a partner a competitive advantage. The world beyond 2010 increasingly will rely on ecosystems of partnerships for success, united by the energy of clever business models in which marketing savvy and IP prowess go hand-in-hand. A*STAR and Exploit Technologies have the vision, and they are continuing to build the discipline and partnerships to make it happen. I look forward to watching this story unfold in the coming years.
Congratulations to Philip Lim and Exploit Technologies, and best wishes in your path forward to innovation success!
Many creative corporate employees trying to innovate fail because they don’t fully grasp the social component of innovation. It is a social beast that must be fed and nurtured in many ways. It requires healthy relationships and many connections within your organization in order to help your peers and others recognize and act on the value you provide. For companies and individual inventors, developing the ties with the right people is again critical for innovation success, even at the earliest stages of your journey. The social component is often far more important that the technical components of innovation.
In this Pixetell video presentation, I briefly discusses the social side of innovation and give a plug for one of my favorite books, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, a resource that can help corporations and individuals better “feed innovation.” Keith’s book, coupled with the insights we provide in Conquering Innovation Fatigue, can help you build the right relationships you need for innovation success.
Want to become a better innovator every time you step onto a plane? I’ll tell you how in just a moment. First, let me mention an important new study on innovation. In a six-year research effort from INSEAD professor Hal Gregersen, Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Clayton Christensen of Harvard, 3,500 executives were examined to determine what traits separate successful innovators from the rest. The results are published in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review. As summarized in the article “The Innovator’s DNA” at INSEAD.edu, the key attributes are:
This is about connecting the dots, finding unexpected applications of skills and approaches from other fields. Steve Jobs’ interest in calligraphy, for example, contributed to the graphical interface of Macs.
Looking at problems and opportunities with keen observational skills often leads to new solutions, new connections, and rich innovation.
Success in innovation rarely comes on the first try. Many iterations are needed. The winners learn from early efforts and keep adjusting and experimentiing to find success.
The ability to question the way things are, to challenge our assumptions and to keep pressing for insight through questioning is behind many examples of innovation success.
We should all know how important networking is for success, but in the realm of innovation, the team of researchers found an interesting twist, according to the INSEAD article:
Typically, when we think of networking, we think of this in terms of jobs, a career or maybe social life. But when it comes to creativity, it takes on a different meaning. “Innovators are intentional about finding diverse people who are just the opposites of who they are, that they talk to, to get ideas that seriously challenge their own,” Gregersen says. Creative and innovative entrepreneurs look for people who are “completely different in terms of perspective” and regularly discuss ideas and options with them “to get divergent viewpoints.” There could be differences in gender, industry, age, country of origin, or even politics. “If I’m on the right, they’re on the left, that kind of notion. And those sorts of diverse inputs in terms of conversations enabled them to get new ideas,” he says.
Many networking efforts focus on people who are like you. They might share the same views, go to the same clubs and church, or have the same profession. That’s great, but we need to tap into new circles and new ways of thinking by deliberately reaching outside our comfort zones. This is one reason I really enjoy traveling on planes. There is a random person seated next to me on almost every flight, often with an exciting career or interesting perspectives that can stretch my knowledge–and my network. I frequently come away with a business card and a new linkage. I strive to follow up and make that connection stick. Through these efforts at “flight networking,” I have met some amazing and interesting people that have influenced several aspects of my life. Musicians, public safety officers, preachers, international non-profit leaders, biotech leaders, and others are part of my highly memorable flight networking experiences. Listen, learn, share, connect, and make those random encounters on airplanes and elsewhere contribute to who you are, what you know, and how you can change the world.
To really understand the power of networking for innovation and business success, I recommend Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi.
Recently I spoke to a group of engineers, scientists and managers about the challenges of innovation fatigue within corporate R&D. I condensed that presentation down to just 14 minutes and have made it available using Pixetell.com, a nice system for recording a presentation.A short URL for the presentation is http://tinyurl.com/jlpres1.
Engineers and scientists are often puzzled by the decision-making processes in corporations, and sometimes get frustrated over the apparent blindness of others to see the potential of an invention or new product or process. Others, however, may see the opportunity through the “Lens of Risk” and find compelling reasons to be concerned. Understanding those other perspectives is one of the topics of this presentation.
Those managing R&D also need to understand the personal aspects of innovation and appreciate the tenuous “will to share” that keeps employees tied to the objectives of the corporation. When the will to share is broken, innovation can dry up quickly and silently, in spite of large budgets and enthusiastic efforts.
As the world becomes more “green conscious,” green innovation will increasingly be an area where the best of human creativity can surprise and delight us. One of my favorite case studies in Conquering Innovation Fatigue is that of Orion Energy Systems (NASDAQ: OESX), where CEO Neal Verfuerth’s personal journey of innovation has resulted in a large company that can dramatically cut the power bills of large and small companies with massively innovative lighting systems and a retrofitting approach that recycles everything. Green capitalism at its best!
Green innovation extends to many other areas. One intriguing example from the Netherlands is GreenGraffiti®, a sustainable advertising and communication method that involves simply power washing a sidewalk or other dirty surface using a template that results in a “clean green” message standing out from the normal untreated background. Better than paint, posters, neon, or billboards, this form of communication doesn’t require removal or cleanup and doesn’t harm the environment unless you want to nit-pick about the small amount of water and electricity used to create the message, and the template itself).
One of the clients of Innovationedge has a remarkable green innovation for the paper industry. The Fractionating Saveall™ by a Wisconsin inventor is a remarkable device that helps papermakers, especially tissue makers, recover good fibers from waste streams and improve the quality of the water (“whitewater”) that is recycled in the paper machine. His clever device relies on the water flow itself to drive the rotating flexible conical screen that does the work, using no electricity or other additional power.
The conical fabric screen rotates under the action of jets of water carrying fibers and “junk” (ash and “fines” – materials that are often undesirable at high concentations that can build up in a paper machine). It gathers desirable long fibers inside the screen, which roll down to a central collection area where they are sent back to the paper machine, while the water high in ash and fines but low in fiber goes outside the screen, where it can then be purified or partly sewered without losing good fiber.
The flexing of the fabric screen is what gives this process so many advantages over past approaches. A metal screen can quickly plug up. But the fabric screen has a self-cleaning action due to the continual flexing back and forth as it rotates and passes under water jets that momentarily push it outward. This flexing keeps fibers from locking into place onto the screen. High efficiency, low maintenance, easy installation – really brilliant. We have a unit in Appleton that can be seen upon request, and much more info is available upon request. Green, clean, and lean – perfect for a paper machine.
Naturally, a tool like this can find applications in other fields as well. Separation of solids from water is important in the food processing industry, in mining, in biomass conversion, in water purification, in waste treatment, and in many other areas. The mesh of the screen, flow rates, system diameter, and post-processing systems can all be adapted to meet the separation objectives needed. I some cases, the presence of added surfactants, defoamers, or other agents may be helpful in optimizing performance. Contact us with your application and let’s discuss how one or more of these units could be applied to meet your needs.
The story of this innovation is one that fits many of the lessons of Conquering Innovation Fatigue. We hope to share it in the near future, after this device becomes more fully known and appreciated by the industry.
For more information, see the Executive Summary for the Fractionating Saveall (PDF file).
As I began writing this post, my wife was in a car a thousand miles away with a brand new smart phone. I received a call on someone else’s phone informing me that my wife’s smart phone had quit working completely after following the instructions she received from tech support to fix the GPS system in her phone. The GPS had quit working that morning after tech support had her do another set of procedures to fix another problem. Now she had no GPS and also couldn’t make or receive calls. The problem would later be resolved. I’m still not sure how much of it was due to network trouble (the black hole effect I describe below), hardware trouble, user error, and questionable tech support, but after almost 3 weeks of experience, I can say two things about the Palm Pre: 1) It is a terrific and beautiful phone with many innovations, and 2) Palm is doomed. Doomed, I fear, unless they make some changes in their business model and better consider the harmful long-term impact that some short-sighted decisions may have. The exciting work of the innovators within Palm may be destroyed, in the long run, by Innovation Fatigue Factor #5, “Flaws in Decision Making and Vision”(the subject of Chapter 9 in Conquering Innovation Fatigue).
The problem, in a nutshell, is that Palm and Sprint (the only network for the Pre) apparently have decided to focus on getting the limited production of Palm Pres into the hands of as many users as possible, rather than letting tech support staff have them. The quality of customer service is being deliberately sacrificed to grab more market share and get more buzz among consumers, but this may backfire and create negative buzz due to some compounding factors. Some users may be happy with what they can figure out on their own and never need tech support, but I think many Palm Pre users are likely to need support. I say this because users are not given the Palm Pre manual and the manual in PDF form is not provided on the Palm Pre, cannot be downloaded from the Palm Pre, and even if loaded onto the Palm Pre, cannot be read by its PDFView application without crashing the phone. It’s a painful irony that makes aggressive users rely more than they should on tech support, and yet tech support is in the dark. When you call 888-211-4727 for support, you will be speaking with someone who has never used the phone, perhaps never even seen one. You can usually get to a human in under three or four minutes, which is wonderful, but simple questions can take far too long to be answered, if an answer ever comes. If uncorrected, this will drive consumers away from this phone and toward the many alternatives that can do many of the same things.
Here’s an experience that illustrates the problem of using inexperienced tech support instead of people familiar with the phone. I had a problem with a disappearing icon. There are five icons across the bottom of the screen for a newly installed phone: one for dialing, one for contacts, one for email, one for the calendar, and one that brings up a directory of apps and services. On day two of using my phone, the email and calendar icons disappeared. I’m still not sure how. There were suddenly just 3 icons, not five. I was able to still find email by navigating through the apps, but wanted the convenience of rapid access to email that the icon provided. So how does one get it back? Nothing in the skimpy guide given to new users addressed the issue. So I called tech support.
After being escalated through three levels of tech support over the course of an hour, I still hadn’t found anybody who could answer that question, so I gave up when, mercifully, the signal dropped. The top-level person didn’t call back. The next day, when I had to call again for another issue, and while talking to a rep, I asked this new guy if he knew the answer to the icon puzzle. He put me on hold for about 60 seconds, and then came back with the simple solution: press any icon in the apps window for several seconds until it glows, then drag it into the row of icons at the bottom of the screen and it will stick. I was delighted. “Wow, that’s great. Do you mind if I ask why you were able to help so quickly when three levels of tech support yesterday all searching for the answer couldn’t help?” “Oh,” he said, “there’s another guy over here who owns a Palm Pre. So I asked him and he was able to show me.” Ah, someone with experience – someone with a phone!
Because the person I reached knew someone with experience, he was able to reach out to his local value network and get the knowledge I needed, and he could do it in 60 seconds, compared with a fruitless hour of my time and Sprint’s when talking to people without experience. My wife and I have been contacting tech support a lot– far too much, but usually out of necessity–and nearly everyone I’ve talked with didn’t know much about the phone at all. Thank goodness one person had access to someone who had one.
By going for short-term market share by getting more sets into the hands of the public instead of into the hands of your own support staff, Palm is taking a huge risk and incurring costs that may well outweigh the benefits of the accelerate distribution to the public.