Archive for September, 2010

Smartphones will continue to change the way we live

September 28, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Social Media, Technology, Trends

Thanks to our phones, we’re becoming tightly drawn together as a global society. With half a billion users on Facebook and nearly as many on Twitter, our humanity and the way we connect is undergoing a seismic shift.

Some predict that Google and Bing will no longer be our favorite search engine sites. Instead Twitter will become the go-to search engine of choice. In face I find that I can find exactly what I’m looking for by searching trending topics there. Often, I do my searching via cellphone.

I notice in my own blog’s analytics that quite a bit of traffic comes from social media promotion. If you are popular in the world of social media, your blogs and your articles will get read, and product sales from your websites will soar.

Smartphones used to be for the affluent users a few years ago, but now even pay as you go smartphones can get you surfing online in a few clicks. Phone prices are decreasing, and many living in third world nations often will own a cellphone even if they don’t have adequate shelter or food.

Smartphones seem to be getting smarter by the week, as new and improved connectivity applications are released. As for multimedia functions, most phones now have built in cameras which can shoot video and stills up-loadable in seconds to whatever social media site you enjoy.

No wonder these videos and stills have the potential of going viral as millions of people share, retweet and like. How are you using your phone to network and share?

Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum 2010

September 23, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Event Info

Innovationedge President, Cheryl Perkins, will present at the Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum at 10:55 a.m. on September 23, 2010 in Miami Beach, FL.

Cheryl will moderate the General Session “Developing Leadership & Talent”

Moderator: Cheryl Perkins, President, InnovationEdge
1. Bennett L. Brenton, Chief Innovation Officer, Snap-on Incorporated
2. Barry Calpino, Vice President, Breakthrough Innovation, Kraft Foods Inc.
3. Elyse Kane, Worldwide Director, Colgate-Palmolive

What sorts of skills do the newest generation of innovation managers need? What can educational institutions do to better prepare their graduates for innovation jobs? We are in danger of not having the talent required to move into the future, and companies are starting to feel the impact. This panel discussion will examine the required critical skill sets, where the skills can be found today, and how to address existing gaps.

Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum

Sept 2010: Consumer Goods Technology Magazine

September 21, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Media Coverage

Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent: Cheryl Perkins, InnovationEdge
By Cheryl Perkins, President, Innovationedge LLC

Consumer Goods Technology Cheryl PerkinsMore and more companies are facing talent management challenges. Downsizing, the aging of the workforce and the ongoing retirement of resources with years of institutional knowledge are making it even harder for them to have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place to deliver growth and innovation.

There is an urgent need today to improve workforce productivity, retain high performers and weed out remaining low performers. However at the same time, many organizations are also faced with a younger workforce as experienced baby boomers retire and the number of middle-aged workers decline (See Figure 1). These generational trends are making an impact on how companies recruit and retain the staff they need to remain competitive and innovative.

Read more

In the News: IP and Apple–the Other Apple

Apple’s commercial success has often been linked to its intellectual property. Today IP and apples’ success is in the news again–the other apple, the kind you eat. The story involves the theme of tension about the way universities pursue technology transfer.

The story begins with the University of Minnesota and their agricultural research that led to the delicious and wildly successful Honeycrisp apple. That apples was the subject of a 1990 US plant patent, US PP07197, “Apple Tree: Honeycrisp” by inventors Jim Luby and David Bedford. That patent recently expired, but brought substantial revenue to the University (at least $8 million). So what’s next? How about the SweeTango, also called “the Honeycrisp killer,” an apple that builds upon and exceeds the Honeycrisp? This advanced apple was also developed at the University of Minnesota during a decade of research and is now being marketed through an exclusive license. That’s the problem: exclusivity. A lot of apple orchards could benefit from this tree, but the University of Minnesota has chosen to license it to only one group. The competitors have chosen to sue, claiming that it’s inappropriate for a public university to benefit just one company. The story made it to BusinessWeek in the Sept. 17, 2010 story, “Licensing Deal for Hot New Apple Comes Under Fire” by Steve Karnowski.

The university chose Minnesota’s largest orchard, Pepin Heights, to commercialize its new apple. But 15 other orchards say it’s not a sweet deal for them, and they’re suing. The school counters that research universities everywhere award exclusive rights to all kinds of intellectual property, and that the royalties are crucial for replacing shrinking public funding for research. It also says the deal is needed to protect the quality of an apple it spent more than a decade developing.

“When Pepin and the university signed this agreement, they had no consideration for what it would do to the Minnesota apple industry,” Frank Femling said. “The only thing they considered was their financial interests.”

The Femlings grow 13 kinds of apples at Afton Apple Orchard, about 15 miles southeast of downtown St. Paul. Most of their varieties came from the university, including the hugely successful Honeycrisp. They’re not growing the SweeTango, and they fear what will happen if it becomes as popular as the Honeycrisp. Cindy Femling said they’re already losing sales.

Mark Rotenberg, the university’s general counsel, said the school partners with private industry all the time to bring technology to the marketplace — not just apples but a myriad of other innovations as well, including lifesaving drugs and medical devices.

“This has become, for research universities across the United States, the dominant way in which basic research is made available to benefit the community at large,” Rotenberg said.

As an example, Rotenberg pointed to the technology transfer program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The 75-year-old Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation is considered a leader in turning university research into products that benefit society, and using the licensing income to support further scientific investigation.

Emily Bauer, a licensing manager at the foundation who specializes in plant technology, said it generally prefers nonexclusive licensing because it wants the technology to be widely used. She said the foundation doesn’t usually award exclusive licenses for agricultural products. But in some cases, she said, exclusive licensing is the only way to get the technology into the marketplace.

Rotenberg said the university believed Pepin Heights could do the best job of quickly getting SweeTango apples into the market.

Dennis Courtier, owner of Pepin Heights in Lake City, said restrictions on who grows it are necessary to protect the quality as it competes with other snack foods, including candy bars and potato chips….

[The university] also wanted to avoid a repeat of a significant problem with the Honeycrisp. Anybody could plant it anywhere, and the quality suffered in warmer growing areas, hurting its reputation. So it picked Courtier and Pepin Heights, who formed the “Next Big Thing” cooperative to manage and safeguard the SweeTango. It has 45 growers in five states — Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York — plus Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada.

The university is hoping the deal yields a repeat of the more than $8 million it earned from the Honeycrisp. Besides a $1 per tree royalty, Next Big Thing pays the university 4.5 percent of the apple’s net wholesale sales.

Orchards outside of Minnesota that don’t join the co-op can’t grow it. Minnesota growers who aren’t in the co-op must sign an agreement with Pepin Heights and accept restrictions that plaintiffs such as the Femlings consider one-sided.

While we leave it to the parties involved to resolve the particular issues in this case, we do recognize that it is painful when competitors acquire a technology that has a competitive advantage. However, intellectual property owners generally have rights in determining how their property is used and by whom. Universities in the United States under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act have an obligation to look for ways to benefit from IP that they develop. That doesn’t mean that they can only consider non-exclusive licenses. In this case, preserving the quality of the SweeTango brand may logically require a controlled approach to distribution of the crop, and the choice of one particular channel with added limitations in planting might make sense. Yes, the terms offered may be one-sided, which is the advantage of having a superior product and IP on your side. Those on the other side can agree to the terms or walk away and pursue alternatives, including developing or acquiring their own sources of competitive advantage. But we’ll have to let this case play out to see where the courts rule–there may be many details beyond the brief story we see in the press that could lead to unpredictable outcomes.

Nothing is safe in the business world. Disruption is always a threat. You may have a great product and a valuable crop, and the next day someone may develop something superior and not choose to let you in on the action or give you the terms you want. There’s a temptation to cry foul and look to the courts to even the playing field, but that’s rarely a fruitful approach.

Here’s a promotional video about SweeTango that discusses how long it takes to develop an innovation in apples. I especially enjoyed this because it features an inventor, the lead apple developer at the University of Minnesota, David Bedford.

I especially appreciate the story of SweeTango innovation since I’m an avid apple grower and apple processor myself. OK, I only have two trees, both Jonathans, but they put out about 1,000 pounds of amazing fruit that keeps me very busy for a couple of weekends and evenings in the first week of October–we’ll can well over 200 quarts of our secret-recipe applesauce, make dried apples, apple leather, various apple concoctions, and give away a couple hundreds pounds or so. The tart, juicy taste of our particular fruit when picked on a cool fall day beats that of nearly any product you can find in the grocery store, in my biased opinion, but I welcome every advance in this field and look forward to trying SweeTango.

Social sharing is growing increasingly cozy at work and home

September 20, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Social Media, Technology, Trends

The trend toward increased convergence of our social media sites, home entertainment devices and your company intranet is going to change the way you communicate to the world in the next few years. People’s identities will be embedded in our televisions, music and video devices and the like, thanks to enhanced location awareness.

It’s been coming for years, and now a new spurt of cutting edge web and mobile technologies will shake things up even sooner than you might think.

From my perspective, this convergence trend is already changing the way corporations view channels like Facebook and Twitter. In the next few years I think you’ll see more companies embracing open innovation through social media channels, allowing people to collaborate seamlessly and share interests in a a multi-channel environment.

As online sharing becomes embedded into everthing we do, we’ll need to decide individually how quickly we need to adapt our TVs, music systems, cars and computers to keep on top of the trend. Imagine your TV remote control not only being touch screen, but including “like” and “tweet” buttons which autopost to your Facebook page.

And if cell phone identity-location postings make you nervous about people being able to find you, get ready for even more devices empowered by embeddable RFID tags. I’ve heard that some companies are working on smart handbags, which would enable auto-checkins and send coupons to your phone as you enter your favorite store!

Are you ready for the future? Or is all this sharing making you apprehensive?

Sept 2010: CEP Magazine

September 14, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Media Coverage

Overcoming Obstacles To Innovation

The American Institute of Engineer’s CEP Magazine featured Cheryl Perkins and Jeff Lindsay of Innovationedge in their September issue in an article about their recent book topic, Conquering Innovation Fatigue.

Click to Read Article

31 of the most innovative technology start-ups

September 7, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation In The News

The World Economic Forum held in Switzerland last week announced its new class of Technology Pioneers: 31 of the most innovative technology start-ups from around the world– the companies representing 13 countries. (Interestingly, more than half of these Technology Pioneers are from the United States!)

Many of them you’ve never heard of, but they will change the world–impacting business, industry and society.  You can read their profiles here.

This year’s selection process leaned heavily on companies that are committed to finding clean and green solutions to meet the world’s energy and consumer needs.

Here are the best of the best in innovation:  Adimab, Aster Data, Atlassian, Digital Lumens, Ecovative Design, Ferrate Treatment Technologies, Flexoresearch Group, foursquare, GetJar, Ion Torrent, Knewton, Layar, Medicine in Need, Molecular Partners, NetQin Mobile, Neuronetics, Novacem, On-Ramp Wireless, OpenDNS, OPOWER, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, Quintas Renewable Energy Solutions, ReputationDefender, Scribd, SecondMarket, Spotify, TaKaDu, Tendril, Topell Energy, Transonic Combustion, Vortex Engineering.

You’ll be hearing more about them in the news this week as they receive their awards and recognition at a ceremony in China.

How Twitter can make your organization more customer-friendly

September 4, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Social Media

If you still think social media sites like Twitter is a time-waster, it’s time to re-consider this incredible business innovation. Twitter can be a wonderful customer-service tool, IF you know how to use it.

Check out what Best Buy is doing to maximize its Twitter impact on its customers all around the world. The company has created an account called @Twelpforce, and now it can assist anyone with a mobile phone or Internet connection in real time. That’s great news for consumers who don’t want to sit in your automated voice-mail queue for an hour.

Twelpforce has more than 28,000 followers! Many of them don’t always need to go to the Twitter site, but can check conversations on a Best Buy Feed site.

Consumers love the fact that they can get technical assistance 24-7 all for free! @Twelpforce is a great way to show customers how valuable they are and how far you’ll go to meet their needs. How far will your organization go with social media?