Archive for October, 2011

Collaboration is the key to innovation and growth

October 31, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation, Open Innovation, Partnerships

If you want to truly grow your business, you need to invite people and companies to move forward. I recently wrote about why it is so important to reach out beyond our own four walls of our organizations to embrace open innovation in my weekly newspaper column. There are a lot of different approaches that companies take to explore and implement partnerships with those innovators who can bring a fresh new technology, product, service or skillset to the table:

Today, as many companies create their growth strategies and look for new opportunities for their products, services and even business models, they often require partnerships and alliances.

In their quest to change the basis of competition and deliver differentiated and meaningful innovation, companies have come to the realization that they need to leverage the capabilities and expertise of others.

Internally, companies have core competencies such as key technologies and skills, core brands and access to distribution channels. Partners can offer the complementary skills and capabilities that don’t exist internally in large part because they aren’t needed by the company on a regular basis.

Companies usually know what they need to execute their strategy. For example, they know they need to define the marketplace opportunities and gaps in unserved (or underserved) segments and expand into new geographies, markets, channels and categories. However, without the right partners to help, it often will not happen according to plan.

Successfully finding and engaging the right partners is not easy, but time and time again we see benefits from reaching out and creating outside relationships to deliver growth. If the relationships are appropriately structured and nurtured, they can often extend the capabilities of the company into new-to-the-company or new-to-the-world areas, increase speed to market with new technologies, products, services and business processes, and lower overall levels of risk.

Often when employees know that they have the flexibility to tap outside skills as necessary, a company that turns to open partnerships has the opportunity to create a more innovative culture — from the “outside in.” Good ideas may not be as easily discounted just because the internal knowledge or expertise doesn’t exist.

Companies just starting with this approach often need to enhance their capabilities to search and find business solutions defined in the context of their innovation efforts. It all begins with exploration. Exploration is the attempt to develop an initial, rough understanding of some phenomenon or some new opportunity areas where customers’ or consumers’ unmet or underserved needs may exist.

Outside explorers or scouts take a systematic approach to facilitate gathering information in the field. They may be either directed at a specific technological area or undirected, identifying relevant developments in technological “white spaces.”

Often, these explorers rely on formal and informal information sources, including the personal networks of the scouts themselves. They physically search for information, technologies, resources, etc. — looking for new opportunities and technologies to bring back to the organization.

Scouting is only one part of collaborative innovation, but it is an important first step to undertake. Leveraging the capabilities and expertise of others is very important opportunity today and a challenge that you will continue to hear more about in the future.

Will we someday eat lab-grown meat?

October 26, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos

Grow your own meat?

Killing animals for meat may someday become a thing of the past. Scientist Mark Post  is the head of the department of vascular physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and he is at the forefront of developing research to produce meat without the need for livestock breeding. In this video, Post explains this fascinating research and how he and his colleagues are attempting to duplicate the flavor of meat from cows and pigs.

For those who may be squeamish about lab-grown meat, Dr. Post points to the way we now buy most of our cheese–not from farms but from factories.  He asks, “Why should meat be any different?”

Dr. Post is one of the few people to dream big about creating lab-grown meat from muscle stem cells. If this works, it could transform the way we produce food.   He says the benefits of this process is especially appealing to those in the animal rights movement. In fact, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) has announced a $1 million prize for the first company to bring synthetic meat to shops in at least six US states by 2016.

Read more here.


Developing nations see transformation through technology and innovation

October 18, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized
Group of african kids

Image by Espen Faugstad via Flickr

In my weekly newspaper column I talk about how we’re hearing that innovative technology is beginning to transform the poorest areas of developing nations in South and Central America, Africa, Asia and beyond. This is great news: New well-drilling equipment and water filters are providing clean drinking water to many impoverished communities. Inexpensive mobile phones, laptops and even computer tablets are now available to children and schools where people are struggling to pay for basic necessities like housing and food. Programs like Intel’s Classmate PC and One Laptop Per Child are giving children across the developing world access to education and information the children, their teachers and parents might not otherwise have.

I also take a look at another big challenge in addressing hygiene and safe waste disposal in nations where infant mortality rates are high due to illnesses caused by bacteria.

Some facts: 40 percent of the world’s population does not have access to flush toilets. Millions of people have no other choice but to go in the open or in rivers and lakes, contaminating the ground and the water. The Centers for Disease Control says 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhea, which could be prevented via improved sanitation.

Some good news is on the horizon, thanks to private and corporate donations from the United States. This summer Microsoft founder Bill Gates talked to the media about the importance of sanitation improvements, hoping to get the message out to the world that new, bright ideas need to play a role in meeting this enormous challenge. Gates then promised to reinvent the toilet, by contributing $42 million towards a goal of finding a way to bring flushable systems to villages and homes that lack plumbing for conventional toilets.

Citing his desire to vastly improve the living conditions of millions of people, Gates pointed to the fact that no innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve heath than the invention of the toilet.

Part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s goal is to use the donation to fund eight research labs at universities around the globe to generate new ideas for turning waste into energy and clean water. Gates calls it his Reinventing the Toilet Challenge, and is encouraging technologists to invent a stand-alone unit that can be fully operational without piped-in water, a sewer connection or outside electricity. The toilets also need to operate on about a nickel a day.

Ideas are already coming to the forefront, and soon we will see the results of this call for innovation in the form of healthier children and adults in areas of desperate need.

LEGO takes toy ideation to the crowd

October 7, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos

LEGO® has found a way to bring consumers, manufacturers and anyone else with an innovative toy idea to try out crowdsourcing. LEGO CUUSOO (meaning “imagination” in Japanese) is a new international web-based open innovation and crowd sourcing platform.  You simply create a LEGO project, share your idea and see what other people think.

Once the idea is posted online, visitors to the site will vote. If your idea gets 10,000 thumbs up, it gets reviewed by the company for a chance to become an official LEGO product.

There’s a big payoff besides the notoriety. The owner of the idea will receive 1 percent of the total net sales. There are some interesting projects up for votes right now, and you can see them here.

Check out the video to see more on how this innovative idea works: