Archive for February, 2010

The Social Component of Innovation

In this Pixetell video presentation, Jeff briefly discusses the social side of innovation and gives a plug for one of our 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.

When you understand that innovation requires social adoption, you’ll understand why we work so hard to help our clients understand the relationships involved in their ecosystem, whether its internal relationships between teams in a corporation, or the ecosystem of partners, customers, and others outside the corporation.

What are we learning from Toyota?

February 26, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation, Innovation In The News

Although we have yet to discover the whole story of the underlying causes of the unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles, I suspect that we may be seeing more of these dangerous types of incidents in the future.

A growing culprit will be the complex computer software and hardware systems that run the machines that we depend upon. And it won’t necessarily be due to negligent software design, but due to the many possibilities and environmental scenarios that can’t be tested for or anticipated.

The problem with electronic system errors may also be that it is extremely difficult to recognize the specific causes and therefore how to correct them. They often can’t be easily replicated. The conditions that came together to create the problem could be extremely rare or even unique. Without being seen firsthand, the possibility is dismissed too easily.

I suspect this is part of the reason why the first reports of unintended acceleration of Toyotas happened more than 10 years ago and we still don’t have all the answers. We are hearing of many different possibilities including floor mats, sticking accelerators, and now there are even hints of the more shadowy culprit, i.e. complex software systems whose operation can’t ever be completely understood.

After 10 years of reported problems, the death last year of off-duty highway patrol officer Mark Saylor and his family in a fiery crash in San Diego finally brought the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration into the public consciousness. How was it that a 20-year CHP patrolman couldn’t halt his 100 mph out-of-control Lexus? You can be sure that he tried all the possibilities in the minutes he had available to him and his passengers: unsticking the gas pedal, trying to turn off the engine, shifting the vehicle into neutral, even calling 911. It is reported that this was a case of an improper floor mat jamming under the pedal, but it is illuminating other issues in modern design and safety. Right now Toyota is taking their turn under the microscope; there will be others.

I don’t think you can create the perfect engineering design or software program. Even if we could it would no longer be that way after the first update to add new features. What needs to be done is to minimize the possibility of harm when something does go wrong, build redundancy and fail-safe mechanisms into the design.

One example of this that is being built into vehicles now is that if someone steps on the gas and the brake simultaneously, the system takes the safe route and assumes you want to stop. Fuel flow is cut to the engine. This is good contingency design.

On a vehicle with a push button start/stop, if there was runaway acceleration one of the first things you might try is to shut off the vehicle by pressing on the button, repeatedly pressing it harder and faster if it didn’t work the first time.

You wouldn’t think that you might have to hold the button for several seconds to shut it down — just like you sometimes have to do to reboot an unresponsive computer.

Although we have yet to discover the whole story of
the underlying causes of the unintended
acceleration of
Toyota vehicles, I suspect that we
may be seeing more of these dangerous types of
incidents in the future.

A growing culprit will be the complex computer
software
and hardware systems that run the
machines that we depend upon. And it won’t
necessarily be due to negligent software design, but
due to the many possibilities and environmental
scenarios that can’t be tested for or anticipated.

Sign up for news, weather and sports text alerts.

The problem with electronic system errors may also
be that it is extremely difficult to recognize the
specific causes and therefore how to correct them.
They often can’t be easily replicated. The conditions
that came together to create the problem could be
extremely rare or even unique. Without being seen
firsthand, the possibility is dismissed too easily.

I suspect this is part of the reason why the first
reports of unintended acceleration of Toyotas
happened more than 10 years ago and we still don’t
have all the answers. We are hearing of many
different possibilities including
floor mats, sticking
accelerators, and now there are even hints of the
more shadowy culprit, i.e. complex software
systems whose operation can’t ever be completely
understood.

After 10 years of reported problems, the death last
year of off-duty highway patrol officer Mark Saylor
and his family in a fiery crash in San Diego finally
brought the issue of unintended vehicle
acceleration into the public consciousness. How
was it that a 20-year CHP patrolman couldn’t halt his
100 mph out-of-control Lexus? You can be sure
that he tried all the possibilities in the minutes he
had available to him and his passengers: unsticking
the gas pedal, trying to turn off the engine, shifting
the vehicle into neutral, even calling 911. It is
reported that this was a case of an improper
floor Although we have yet to discover the whole story of

the underlying causes of the unintended

acceleration of Toyota vehicles, I suspect that we

may be seeing more of these dangerous types of

incidents in the future.

A growing culprit will be the complex computer

software and hardware systems that run the

machines that we depend upon. And it won’t

necessarily be due to negligent software design, but

due to the many possibilities and environmental

scenarios that can’t be tested for or anticipated.

Sign up for news, weather and sports text alerts.

The problem with electronic system errors may also

be that it is extremely difficult to recognize the

specific causes and therefore how to correct them.

They often can’t be easily replicated. The conditions

that came together to create the problem could be

extremely rare or even unique. Without being seen

firsthand, the possibility is dismissed too easily.

I suspect this is part of the reason why the first

reports of unintended acceleration of Toyotas

happened more than 10 years ago and we still don’t

have all the answers. We are hearing of many

different possibilities including floor mats, sticking

accelerators, and now there are even hints of the

more shadowy culprit, i.e. complex software

systems whose operation can’t ever be completely

understood.

After 10 years of reported problems, the death last

year of off-duty highway patrol officer Mark Saylor

and his family in a fiery crash in San Diego finally

brought the issue of unintended vehicle

acceleration into the public consciousness. How

was it that a 20-year CHP patrolman couldn’t halt his

100 mph out-of-control Lexus? You can be sure

that he tried all the possibilities in the minutes he

had available to him and his passengers: unsticking

the gas pedal, trying to turn off the engine, shifting

the vehicle into neutral, even calling 911. It is

reported that this was a case of an improper floor

How Social Media Trends are Shaping Fortune 100 Companies

February 23, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation, Trends

Does your company Blog, Tweet or Facebook (yes, it is a verb these days!) to communicate to your customers? Nearly 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies do. And nearly all of the Fortune 100 companies wouldn’t be without some form of social networking.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and corporate blogs are all ways to have a media presence with your customers and other stakeholders. I’ve been blogging since 2006, and Tweeting for over a year.

Not surprisingly, Twitter is the most popular network . The average Fortune 100 company has four different Twitter accounts! This is according to a study done by PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and the study breaks down the findings by region. The firm found that Twitter and Facebook are mostly West-oriented, while Asia-Pacific companies favor corporate blogs.

Check out the embedded slideshow below. I think you’ll find the stats pretty interesting. I noticed that more than half of the Fortune 100 companies have more than one Facebook fan page, and half of those companies also have at least one YouTube channel. A third of these companies have at least one corporate blog, and a fourth use all four social media networks.   So why are companies so keen on having a multi-channel media presence? My guess–and I think the slides confirm this–is because customers enjoy using these platforms to interact with companies and with each other.

Creating an Ecosystem for Business and Innovation Success: Brasilia's Success Story

When it comes to innovation and business growth, there are exciting success stories all over the globe. For example, in Brasilia, a small state in Brazil with 2.6 million people, a recent experiment has resulted in astounding economic advances and record low unemployment, even as much of the rest of the world struggles with recession and rising unemployment. The Federal District of Brasilia embarked on a revolutionary program in 2006 aimed at reducing bureaucracy and creating an environment for success. This required dramatic steps to advance education, infrastructure, and the rule of law. Improving financial resources (debt financing) for business is one of the next big priorities.

Here is a 14-minute Pixetell presentation describing some of the good news coming from Brasilia, focusing on efforts to create an ecosystem for success. It follows an earlier presentation from Jeff Lindsay. Click on the enlarge-screen icon to view this in full-screen mode.

Introduction to Defensive Publications

February 18, 2010 Jeff Lindsay No Comments » Intellectual Assets, Patents, Publications

Here’s a brief Pixetell video presentation introducing some of the issues you should be considering in terms of defensive publications. Assistance with low-cost intellectual asset strategy is an important service Innovationedge offers for its clients. If you would like to know how we can help you save money and improve the results you’re getting with your IP budget, contact us and let us show you what we can do for you.

New torch shines as example of green innovation

February 15, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation

I spent this past weekend cheering on my favorite athletes, and looking forward to more of the same this week. Although the torch-lighting ceremony had a glitch, the world’s enthusiasm for the beloved Games shines bright.

Courtesy of Camosun College in British Columbia.

Last week I wrote about the 2010 Winter Olympics going green by offsetting carbon credits, a trend that will continue for many Olympic Games to come. The lesser-known 2010 British Columbia Games has taken energy savings to the next level with a new Olympic torch that draws less power than a household toaster!

For over 30 years the government-funded BC Summer and BC Winter Games have been promoting healthier lifestyles in Canada, and today they are one of British Columbia’s largest sporting events.

Until now the traditional torch has been burning natural gas, just like the International Olympic Torch. But this year the newly-redesigned BC Games torch is kinder to the environment, thanks to the efforts of BC’s Camosun College.

The BC Games Society asked Camosun College to design a high-tech torch with a reduced environmental impact. The Camosun School of Trades and Technology came up with a novel torch that uses LED lights to create the illusion of a flickering flame.

For the 100 days of the games the torch “burned” about  2,000 kWh of electricity and costing less than $2 a day to operate.  This compares with the old natural gas torch that cost about $50 a day!

What’s more, the college and the committee used an open innovation model to make it happen. The design project required a multidisciplinary effort that included participation from many diverse design teams in electrical, mechanical and manufacturing technology .

Here are some cool facts:

  • Number of LED lights used: 303
  • Height and weight: 544 kg and 4.5 m tall (1200 lbs and 15 ft.)
  • Green House Gasses removed from the environment:  1.5 tons

I’m sure with only 300 LED’s, the spectacle isn’t as grand as an actual flame, but who knows what may be in store for the “torch” years from now as technology continues to develop.

Home & Housewares show brings innovation opportunities

February 12, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets, Events, Innovators, Trends

Looking for your next best selling product for the home? Check out this year’s upcoming International Home & Housewares Show. I’ll be over at the Inventors Corner Pavilion to speak on March 15. That’s where companies can go see actual product creations and their inventors on hand.

The International Home & Housewares Show is the world’s premier housewares marketplace, and it features more than 2,000 exhibitors and more than 20,000 buyers from over 100 countries around the world! It’s the one place you can go to see first-hand consumer lifestyle and product trends for all areas of the home, both inside and out, under one roof.

For my part I will be sharing best practices for taking innovation to the next step and discusses how to create a strategy, structure and culture to successfully drive innovation efforts. I am going to share insights on how to engage internal stakeholders, address innovation fatigue and overcome barriers to personal and corporate success, as discussed in our book Conquering Innovation Fatigue.

While I’m at the Inventors Corner I’m looking forward to meeting those inventors and seeing how are the most creative minds are solving the problems that consumers face each day.

Don't Overlook the Power of Defensive Publications

February 12, 2010 Jeff Lindsay No Comments » Intellectual Assets

One of the most important lessons I learned about intellectual asset strategy during my time as Corporate Patent Strategist at Kimberly-Clark Corporation was the value of aggressive defensive publications. IBM, one of the world’s leaders in extracting value from its patent estate, publishes about half of all its invention disclosures. John Cronin of ipCapital Group taught us some of the reasons for IBM’s aggressive publishing and some of the unexpected benefits of publishing. He was involved in IBM’s successful efforts in the 1990s to generate revenue by licensing its estate. One of their early efforts involved a patent for a technology (scanning tunnelling microscope) where the value of a patent estate ended up being reduced by about 90% due to a group of minor improvement patents on top of the foundational IBM patent. Many of the improvements were things that IBM had thought of but didn’t feel were worth the cost of additional patents. They realized that such improvements needed to be disclosed to create prior art that would stop others from getting patents for all those minor variations or minute improvements, thereby increasing the value of their own estate.

The IBM STM story is behind this passage from Richard Poynder’s 2001 article, “On the Defensive about Invention“:

As patenting strategies become more sophisticated, so the value of defensive publishing increases. It can, for instance, protect against picket-fencing – where competitors patent small incremental improvements in your patent in order to erode its value and enable them to license your technology on preferential terms.

In 1982, for instance, International Business Machines was granted a US patent for the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) capable of imaging atomic details as small as 1/25th the diameter of a typical atom.

At first IBM dominated the STM field. By 1989, however, it had been picket-fenced by competitors.

“If IBM had published disclosures of all of the incremental innovation around their pioneering technology, they could have prevented others from picket-fencing them,” says Tom Colson at IP.com. “They would, in effect, have taken full control of the technology without putting patent resources at risk.”

Such blocking tactics can also be achieved by patenting the incremental improvements, but defensive publishing is significantly cheaper. “It costs $109 ( £75) per document to publish on IP.com,” says Mr Colson. “This compares very favourably with the $20,000 it costs per patent application to file in key locations worldwide.”

The price at IP.com has come up since then, but it’s still an incredible bargain. For a very small fee, your document is almost instantly published and time stamped, archived, and made searchable by the PTO and other patent offices, providing a lasting and secure record that the information disclosed was part of the public domain at that time.

Some of you with corporate R&D or IP experience have faced the pain of seeing competitors get patents on things you had considered long ago but thought were too “obvious” or minor to be worth a patent. An important lesson from IP litigation is that even an invalid patent can still be a major headache, one that can cost millions. Much better to reduce the odds of such nuisance patents by creating a strong body of prior art that discloses bells and whistles as they come up and also discloses various combinations that competitors might be working on to reduce what they can patent in the fields important to you.

Publications need to be crafted for strategic purposes. There are quite a few issues to consider, such as how to get the internal review needed to avoid harmful disclosure, how to get them written, what kind of incentives to provide for inventors/authors, whether to publish anonymously or not, and what venues to use (IP.com is one of my favorite), etc. I’ll be discussing some of these issues in the future, but feel free to give me a call if you’d like to learn more.

When Innovationedge helps a company strengthen their innovation strategy or IP strategy, defensive publications are usually one of the key topics we address. We find very few companies do anything serious in this effort, and many Legal Departments seem inherently geared to overlook the benefits that can be obtained with creative publications. That’s understandable. The IP attorneys are all about IP, and publications don’t fall into the “P” area of property. They are intellectual assets, however, that must not be neglected for cost-effective IP strategy.

Going to the Olympics? Get your carbon credits!

February 3, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation, Sustainability, Trends

With about a week to go before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, it’s interesting to note that there is a green effort underway to make these events more environmentally friendly.  Twenty-five partners are heading an ambitious effort to leave a legacy of carbon neutral Games by doing things like offsetting air travel for Olympians.

Those games are projected to put about 268,000 toes of carbon emissions (118,000 tons from direct emissions and 150,000 from indirect emissions), resulting from Olympic travel by participants and spectators. (These projections come from the Center for Sustainability and Social Innovation at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.)

Corporate sponsors, governments and broadcasters are volunteering to offset some of their own carbon emissions by investing in a portfolio of British Columbia clean energy technology projects, as well as international Gold Standard offset projects. It’s called the 2010 Legacy Portfolio.

What’s more, even the Olympic Torch Relay presenting partners Coca-Cola and RBC have joined the partners in offsetting all their emissions arising from the long journey across Canada.

And if you happen to be headed for Vancouver and want to join in this green movement, you can go carbon neutral by offsetting emissions from your travel to and from the games by clicking www.offsetters.ca to calculate your carbon footprint and purchase carbon credits immediately online.

Prize4Life Illustrates Collaborative Innovation at Its Best in the Quest to Cure ALS

In Conquering Innovation Fatigue, we emphasize that many innovators are motivated by the desire to make a difference in the world rather than merely obtain personal profit. We also discuss the concept of innovation competitions as a great way to fuel innovation success and access new talent. We also emphasize the importance of collaboration across disciplines and organizational boundaries as the future of innovation success. All these concepts are nicely illustrated by an organization seeking to cure ALS, Lou Gherig’s disease. Prize4Life, Inc. (Prize4Life.org) makes an interesting case study of what can be achieved in the realm of altruistic innovation using collaborative models and innovation competitions.

Meghan Kallman, Marketing & Communications Manager of Prize4Life, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, kindly shared some information with me about their inspiring innovation efforts. Here is the information she provided:

I would like to share with you the case of Avichai Kremer, co-founder and CEO of Prize4Life, Inc. Then a student at Harvard Business School, Kremer discovered in 2004 that he had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

A computer-science engineer and ex-captain in the Israeli army, he had planned to graduate, work as a manager in a hi-tech company, and raise a family. Those plans changed drastically when he was told he would have 2-5 years to live, and that the medical establishment could do nothing for him. Kremer’s business perspective sparked his interest in the economics of ALS therapies, and inspired him to use his Harvard training to work for a cure.

Little is known about what causes ALS and only a few companies develop ALS drugs, so Kremer and two of his Harvard colleagues queried scientists and industry executives about the gaps that have prevented researchers from finding a cure. Companies said that they needed some basic research tools to reduce the cost of the development, like a biomarker – a better way to track disease progression. So Kremer and his classmates began Prize4Life, Inc., a non-profit organization employing business theories to stimulate research, which announced in 2006 that they would give $1 million to anyone who could come up with such a biomarker. The ALS Biomarker Prize program recently awarded $100,000 in progress prizes, and the organization’s second prize, the Avi Kremer ALS Treatment Prize, hits its one-year anniversary in October 2009.

While prizes are the visible core of our results-oriented model, we are also conscious of the need to create a vibrant and supportive arena in which our participating teams can effectively compete. Prize4Life has thus created a series of innovative projects and partnerships, piggybacking on its groundbreaking prize model, to ensure that all competing teams equal opportunity to be successful.

As one example of such partnership: in June 2009, Prize4Life and the Alzheimer Research Forum announced the launch of a new ALS-focused internet portal known as the ALS Forum (http://www.researchALS.org). Initial reaction to the new web portal has been swift and positive. The site offers ALS researchers around the world a one-stop access point for cutting edge research news and unique web-based resources. We also have designed and developed a manual to help researchers design their animal trials, and are currently designing and developing a database of genes associated with ALS that we intend to make available to researchers.

About Prize4Life
Prize4Life was founded by a group of Harvard Business School students when one of them, Avi Kremer, was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29. Prize4Life works to accelerate the discovery of a treatment and a cure for ALS by using powerful incentives to attract new people and ideas, and to leverage existing efforts and expertise in the ALS field. Among other program initiatives, the organization currently administers the ALS Biomarker Prize Challenge, the Avi Kremer ALS Treatment Prize, and the ALS Forum.

THE NEXT ALS BREAKTHROUGH COULD BE YOURS

Meghan also shared with me an example of a successful outreach effort using the competition model. “We actually awarded $50,000 to a dermatologist who had never studied ALS before, and who was intrigued by the prize model, and who submitted a winning entry, which is a testament to the potential of the prize model itself.” For the complete press release with much additional information, see the press release, “Prize4Life Awards Prizes for ALS Biomarker Challenge to InnoCentive Solvers: Extends $1Million Challenge Seeking ALS Biomarker” (PDF).

Further examples of great collaboration can be seen in their press release, “Prize4Life and The Jackson Laboratory partner in fight against ALS
Non-profits join forces to provide researchers with new preclinical resources
” (PDF). This describes a partnership with The Jackson Laboratory (JAX®), the world’s leading provider of mouse models, to provide preclinical resources for ALS research. Together, Prize4Life and JAX® have prepared a comprehensive training manual to enable researchers to more effectively use the SOD1 mouse model in the fight against ALS.

Their website is http://www.prize4life.org.

Want to Help?
If you would like to help, Meghan told me that there are many opportunities. “We always need donations and fundraisers (this is the link), but we also have folks who host events for us, who blog on our behalf (on their blogs or on ours), who reach out to scientists who may want to compete for our prizes, to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to link to us on their sites, the list goes on! We have an exciting event coming up here in Boston, for those who are local–Boston’s pro lacrosse team will be featuring us at ‘Heroes Awareness Night’ at the Boston TD Garden on February 6, and donating a percentage of the proceeds to our efforts. If anyone is on the east coast and wants to attend, they should click here:http://bit.ly/512shV. Anyone interested can contact me directly, mkallman at prize4life dot org.

A great example of collaborative innovation in action, with bonus points for using innovation competitions and having altruistic goals. ALS is a terrible disease and needs more attention in the quest for cure.