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In late 2009, I was invited to speak at Singapore’s Innovation and Enterprise Week 2009, an event held at Biopolis and sponsored by A*STAR, the world-class research organization of the Singaporean government, in collaboration with Exploit Technologies, the tech transfer arm of A*STAR. While I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss our book, the important thing to me was the opportunity to learn more about that amazing country and their bold approach to promoting innovation and technology. In my presentation for the large crowd at Innovation and Enterprise Week, I discussed the fascinating parallels between the Singapore experiment and the evolving experiment in innovation in my state of Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery represent a brilliant approach to combining the best of public and private innovation.
Below are three video segments from my presentation. A couple of friends in Singapore took the video. There are a few gaps in sound and so forth, but I hope you can understand it. Don’t miss my lame magic trick in segment 3. They seemed to like it–proof again of the great courtesy that one finds in Singapore. In all seriousness, I think there are important lessons about innovation that can be gleaned by inspecting both the Singaporean system and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, which include the Morgridge Institute for private sector research and the public Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Madison and Singapore are on opposite sides of the world, but on the same side of the innovation spectrum, at the leading edge.
Update: On April 24, I posted a newly recorded and shortened Pixetell presentation covering the basic information I shared in Singapore, without the magic or other excursions.
I am deeply grateful to the many people who kindly shared their time to help me prepare for the presentation, including Sangtae Kim, John Wiley, Charles Hoslett, Carl Gulbrandsen and Janet Kelly from the Wisconsin side (Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and WARF), plus Boon Swan Foo, Seito Wei Peng, and Sze Tiam Lin at Exploit Technologies in Singapore.
As part of the series on Magic and Innovation, today I’m using a simple magic trick with a balloon to illustrate some of the trials in producing successful innovations within a corporation. I begin by discussing the challenges and barriers that inventors and prospective innovators within a corporation face.
Available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiF6IQO79ag
My co-author, Mukund Karanjikar, suggested this demonstration of the principles of combining elements in new ways as a basic building block of inventing. It’s not explicitly discussed in the book, for the material most relevant to inventors already assumes skills in inventing, but it is a good reminder of some ways to strengthen whatever innovations are being pursued.
One can find unexpected phenomena through combinations of existing elements either by serendipity and luck, or by targeted exploration due to creative tinkering coupled with a thorough understanding an area (in this case Newton’s laws of motion and the physics of momentum transfer). The results may be entirely predictable in hindsight (this is often the cause for obviousness rejections from the Patent Office), but may actually be surprising and unexpected at the time of the discovery or invention. So here’s a 57-second clip featuring my son and a little momentum transfer to remind us of a couple basic concepts.
Entrepreneurs, start-ups, and inventors seeking to bring a new product or service to a corporation for licensing or acquisition face many barriers. Open innovation can be much more difficult than people think, partly because many companies that may talk about open innovation actually practice fairly closed innovation and shut out outside ideas. There are good reasons for this, as we discuss in the book, including the desire to prevent contamination and potential law suits if they are working on related topics. But there are ways to deal with this. This video discusses one option based on good relationships with leaders inside the corporation who can give the innovation a chance. The video features a magic trick, with a bonus clip at the end showing it again, up close.
From YouTube.com/magicinnovation (Jeff Lindsay’s Magic Innovation channel): “The Closed Hand of Open Innovation: Getting Outside Innovations Past Corporate Barriers.” Recorded in Appleton, Wisconsin. All rights reserved.
This is video #7 in my series of “magic innovation” video lectures.
In dealing with many innovators and companies in our work at Innovationedge, we sometimes hear complaints about leaders who seem to be anti-innovation. You know, the kind who supposedly “wouldn’t touch innovation with a 10-foot pole.” Sometimes these leaders aren’t really anti-innovation, but anti-waste and especially pro-results. That’s not a bad thing!
Maybe their past experience with innovation showed little return and little direction. Maybe they were once talked into supporting misguided innovation adventures without the right strategy, controls and metrics. Maybe innovation waste came out of their pocket. These leaders sometimes can be reached and shown a better way such as the “Horn of Innovation” paradigm described in Conquering Innovation Fatigue for more productive, targeted innovation.
Once they understand what innovation can do when guided by the right strategy once they see what metrics make sense to gauge progress, they can become more comfortable with meaningful, targeted innovation. In fact, they can become some of the best champions of real innovation. Don’t give up on them. Reach out with our “ten-foot pole of innovation” and help them become converts to innovation that matters.
From YouTube.com/magicinnovation (Jeff Lindsay’s Magic Innovation channel): “Reaching Executives Who Wouldn’t Touch Innovation with a Ten-Foot Pole.” Recorded in Appleton, Wisconsin. All rights reserved.
This is video #5 in my series of “magic innovation” video lectures. OK, they’re a bit lame, and it’s not secret that I’m an amateur, but I hope you’ll learn something useful from some of them. Or have a bit of fun. And don’t forget, of course, to buy the book.
While giving a pseudo-explanation for the “physics” behind our last video post, a new tongue-in-cheek demonstration is provided that launches a brief discussion of disruptive innovation and the role that intellectual assets can play. The physical demonstrations occurs in the first 4 minutes, then there are 3 minutes of further discussion. (Sorry about the lighting – my hair isn’t that dark!)
Disruptive innovation involves a product or service that motivates the established incumbents to ignore it or flea to higher ground by focusing on high-end customers. The disruptive innovation tends to be “worse” in some way and initially only attractive to non-users or low-end users of the existing technology, so it is not perceived as a serious threat nor does it cause serious pain as it gets a foothold. The disruptive innovation tends to lack the bells and whistles of existing offerings, but provides new dimensions of convenience, low-cost, easy access, etc., that are not key features being sought by the incumbents. But once the easily-ignored “worse” disruptive innovation gets established, it can, through successive sustaining innovations, reach an increasing large portion of the market and eventually cause direct pain to the incumbents. By the time they feel the pain and recognize the threat, it may be too late because they have not developed the new skills, supply chains, or infrastructures needed to compete effectively. Toast.
The problem with disruptive innovation is that established companies, especially large companies, have filters in place that tend to kill it. The opportunity is too small, not aligned with their core competencies, not aligned with what existing customers are asking for, etc. So it is killed or ignored, whether it comes from internal innovators or external innovators.
In our chapter on disruptive intellectual assets, we explain how a low-cost intellectual asset strategy can be used to overcome the known problems in responding to disruptive innovations. By pursuing these intellectual assets at an early stage in the name of mitigating external risk, you can actually lay a foundation for later products or services of your own when the corporation realizes the importance of the opportunity. Without the intellectual asset foundation, it would normally be too late. An aggressive intellectual asset team can make a huge difference in protecting a company and lying a foundation for future success.
From YouTube.com/magicinnovation (Jeff Lindsay’s Magic Innovation channel): “Salt from Water: Getting Granular with Disruptive Innovation.” Recorded in Appleton, Wisconsin. All rights reserved.
In our newly released book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, July 2009), we offer guidance for innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers. Today I’d like to speak to leaders of teams or organizations where innovation matters but seems to be less effective than it should be. Innovation fatigue can set into an innovation community for a wide variety of reasons we discuss in the book. When that happens, the solution is not necessarily to punt and discard your team. The first step should be to look within and identify the fatigue factors that may have left your would-be innovators feeling disconnected and empty. Has there been a breach of trust that needs to be rebuilt? Are there barriers that keep your innovation community out of the loop and disconnected from the needs of the market place? (If so, see our chapter on the Horn of Innovation!) Are there steps you need to take to recharge your innovation group with the energy and innovation fizz they used to have?
My short video clip below uses an analogy with aluminum cans to help illustrate the problem and recommended approach. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I hope it makes a point. OK, it’s a bit lame and amateurish – just trying to make a point in a round-about way. No trick photography is used.