Archive for January, 2012

Free podcast to whet your appetite for CoDev 2012!

January 30, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Open Innovation

I’m now on the exciting two-week countdown to the February CoDev2012: Achieving Higher OI Returns while Managing Risk, Cost and Uncertainty. There’s still time to join me, as I team up once again with Management Roundtable and PDMA for the upcoming 11th annual event.

If you need a little convincing, check out this FREE PODCAST of the one-hour session I did last week with conference faculty members representing Nestle Purina Petcare, Unilever, and Duane Morris, LLP as they candidly discuss some of the critical elements necessary to build a solid foundation for successful Co-Development and Open Innovation initiatives.

The panel of faculty members address:

  • The impact of organizational structure, culture, business model evolution, platform engagement models, staff development and IP management on open innovation success.
  • Lessons learned as well as what obstacles and pitfalls they have experienced in advancing their open innovation efforts.
  • Key learnings garnered from their attendance at prior CoDev conferences and how this enhanced their open innovation journeys.
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LilyPad uses solar power to keep our devices running strong

January 26, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Technology

I love working with inventors. I don’t work with Dave Foster, but I’m sharing his interesting (and much welcomed) idea: using solar power to charge our electronic devices. Foster came up with a case he calls the LilyPad which does precisely that. The LilyPad uses new solar ink technology to convert outdoor and indoor light into usable energy to continually charge tablets such as the Apple iPad. Apparently this is no wimpy power output. You can run PowerPoint presentations or watch movies. For some reason he is not able to keep up with the demand and is out of stock on these.

Check out the website and video. There is a back-up battery and USB port that comes with the product, just in case the lights go out.

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Precise Forecasting Helps Maximize Wind Power

January 23, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Technology

The winds of change may be unpredictable, but forecasts are improving. New partnerships between energy companies and government agencies are helping to predict wind speeds far enough in advance to save energy companies billions of dollars.

Power companies, grid operators, and energy traders often pay close attention to the nightly forecasts on television news, but it isn’t easy to predict wind speeds far into the future. Even small fluctuations can make a big difference. But by improving the forecasts and predicting when the winds strengthen or change, these forecasts make the difference between a reliable power system and one that’s expensive and unpredictable.

Several U.S. agencies now have projects to improve forecasting. The Department of Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are each working with two private companies on a year-long Wind Forecast Improvement Project, which is focused on atmospheric conditions above ground. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is also developing new technologies by partnering with Xcel Energy. So far this partnership has saved $6 million by using the data from satellites, aircraft, weather radars, weather stations, and turbine-mounted sensors for improved forecasting.

According to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, better wind forecasting could cut U.S. energy costs by between $1.6 billion and $4.4 billion, depending on the level of production. Other nations are also looking for ways to improve forecasting. Natural Power has signed up 20 wind farms in the U.K. to produce forecasts for between 30 minutes and five days ahead.

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Six Innovative Ideas to Watch

January 19, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Trends
English: Screenshot of mobile augmented realit...

I’m passing along some ideas from Harvard Business Review that emerged in 2011 as powerful “innovation invitations.” HBR says these seem certain to intensify in global power and influence, and I do agree that they will spark innovation differentiation in the months ahead:

1. The Slacktivism Co-Opt

As much a term of derision as global sociological phenomenon, slacktivism has emerged as social media’s way of making support for a cause as easy as a re-tweet or clicking Facebook’s “like” button. Critics insist that this “path of least resistance” mechanism for saving the whales/the earth/indigenous tribes or supporting the fight against breast cancer/prostate cancer/muscular dystrophy better represents an impulsive twitch of a finger than thoughtful commitment. But that doesn’t mean savvy marketers aren’t supremely well-positioned to embrace slacktivism as an innovative outreach to customers and communities alike. The growing desire of large organizations and global brands to align with — or be seen to be aligned with — causes that matter assures that we’ll start seeing market leaders seek a higher profile in making it easy for their communities of customers to show their support.

2. Counting on Self-Quantifiers for Growth

Mobile, digital and networked devices have created a global sub-culture of self-quantifiers — that is, individuals who rigorously count every step they take, ever calorie they eat, every minute they sleep, every email/text they send/receive and every schedule change they make. The even quantify how often they self-quantify. Some think of this as networked narcissism. But individuals hewing to Thales’ admonition to “Know thyself” believe self-quantification the greatest innovation in the history of introspection. Organizations like Weight Watchers and LiveStrong already offer calorie counter apps for overweight SQers but it’s clear that self-quantification offers a remarkable marketing opportunity for firms that want their customers to count on — and up — the value they get. Health care, nutrition and energy consumption are only the most obvious marketing opportunities for Innovative Self Quantification Marketing Opportunities. Transportation, mobile communications professional development and — yes — parenting are also rife with opportunity. Given ongoing trends, consumers will soon find self-quantification apps and options as ubiquitous as “Like” buttons and QR codes.

3. Gerontabletification

Demography is, indeed, destiny. The world — particularly the wealthy OECD countries — is growing older. This creates enormous fiscal strains for social welfare states but fantastic market opportunities for device-driven innovators. Mobile phones are too small; their screens too tiny and keyboards too minute. But tablets have emerged as ideal media platforms for those requiring larger fonts and bigger keys. The iPad — originally marketed as the hip & cool media consumption device — has ceased to be a symbol of youth and vitality. It’s now how silver haired executives — and 75 year old grandmas — read the news, manage their email and play games with the kids. When this reality is linked to emerging medical research indicating that mental exercise can delay the onset and impact of cognitive diminution, it’s clear that there are more reasons for the aged population to have tablets than not. Any company with older customers that doesn’t customize apps and offerings for their 60+ users are guilty of brand-destructive age discrimination.

4. Globalizing Grand Challenges

The X Prize Foundation has transformed commercial space entrepreneurship with its innovative X Prizes. DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has transformed robotics, autonomous vehicle design and real-time social media network utilization with a series of provocatively produced “Grand Challenges.” Over the past decade, America has been a leader in the design, development and marketing of competitions and prizes for technical innovation. But it’s time the so-called emerging economies stepped up. Brazil is a vibrant, eco-conscious, increasingly entrepreneurial and innovative economy that has the money and the brains to design a Grand Challenge that inspires attention and excitement from innovators worldwide. Should it be Amazon or Flex Fuels related? Or might agro-biotech be the better offer? India desperately needs more innovative ways of handling education, health care and — especially — infrastructure. Which Indian state or ministry — or billionaire! — will design the right kind of stimulative competition or prize? China, of course, is China. Who is better positioned to exploit “not-quite-market” mechanisms to bring high impact innovation to the middle kingdom? China wants to spur innovation. This is one dramatically cost-effective way to do it.

5. Handheld Augmented Reality

Even in an increasingly virtual environments, physical space matters. The rise of accessible augmented reality technologies makes physical location matter more. Place-based social media like Foursquare have done tremendously well in attracting both users and attention. Who, or what, will be the Foursquare of Augmented Visualization and Interaction? Companies like Layar are taking an active stab at it. But Apple’s IOS and appstore ecosystem — as well as Android’s and Microsoft/Nokia’s new innovation efforts — now makes it far easier to link visual overlays, “enotations” and virtual Post-It notes to geo-spatial coordinates. In other words, don’t just read the Foursquare comments but “see” graffiti, sketches, maps and comments simply by peering through your tablet or mobile phone. Instead of “taking” pictures and images, it lets you “see” them as a function of the “augmented reality” layer of data and information stored in the digisphere.

A store like Macy’s or Home Depot could use augmented reality layers to let people see underlying details of clothes or tools that a simple tag or QR code might not. Indeed, expect a tussle between retailers and product suppliers over whose “augmented reality” deserves in-store primacy. We may see “augmented reality” fees replace stocking fees as part of physical retailing business models. But that’s a battle for beyond 2012. What’s next is the first wave of mobile devices becoming augmented reality viewers for their users. Expect to see QR code/augmented reality mashups as a 2012 investment to facilitate the virtual transition.

6. The Greenlash Arrives

The ban on incandescent light bulb sales in America is delayed. The costs — and unwieldiness — associated with energy efficient devices turn out to be greater than expected. BP’s solar shut down and solar power company bankruptcies in Silicon Valley and Berlin surprise. The failure of Spanish and Scottish wind farms to deliver disappoints. The economic opportunities from “tight” gas and oil finds in America and China impress. The rate of technical innovation in horizontal drilling and fracking continues unabated. The Chevy Volt is a hot car (but in the wrong way.) The economic growth debates around the proposed Keystone pipeline intensify.

Is there a Greenlash emerging that’s pushing populations worldwide to reconsider so-called fossil fuels as better, safer and more reliable than their renewable counterparts? There’s little doubt that they’re proving to be cheaper.

Vibrant innovation worldwide in natural gas and petrochemical technologies has come to rival — both in perception and reality — innovation associated by Greentech. Certainly, the global oil industry seems more excited by its most recent advances than the “green VCs” see in theirs. Instead of being technologically moribund and creatively dull, an established industry has challenged the eco-myth of “Peak Oil.” Conversely, the green promises of eco-tech are taking longer and costing more than many of its champions promised. As energy-dependent economies chug along with growth far lower than expected or desired, green options are looking rather gray. Fossil fuels are being rebranded as organic. Expect 2012 and its associated elections in America and Europe to spark vicious debate about which industries are more innovative, cost-effective and best for the environment.

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Can an iPad substitute for a passport?

January 16, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Technology

Here is an interesting idea sparked by a man who recently entered the U.S. from Canada without his passport. Instead he presented the border authorities with his iPad, which contained a scanned image of his passport. I wonder if this is a sign of things to come? Read on:

Martin Reisch said Tuesday a slightly annoyed U.S. border officer let him cross into the United States from Quebec after he presented a scanned copy of his passport on his Apple iPad. Reisch was a half hour from the border when he decided to try to gain entry rather than turn back and make a two-hour trek back home to Montreal to fetch his passport.

He told the officer he was heading to the U.S. to drop off Christmas gifts for his friend’s kids. He said that true story, the scanned passport and his driver’s license helped him get through last week.

He said the officer seemed mildly annoyed when he handed him the iPad.

“I thought I’d at least give it a try,” Reisch said. “He took the iPad into the little border hut. He was in there a good five, six minutes. It seemed like an eternity. When he came back he took a good long pause before wishing me a Merry Christmas.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it only accepts a passport, an enhanced driver’s license or a Nexus pass from Canadian citizens entering at land crossings. Canadians began requiring more than a driver’s license for IDfor U.S. land border crossings in 2009. Interestingly, the man was able to re-enter Canada on his way home using the same iPad method. But he said he doubts if he could get away with that again–at least not in the near future.

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Helping Kenya go green with biochar

January 12, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation


Mount Kenya m ( ft)

Imagine using human and livestock waste as a source of green energy. Many companies have explored this, but one in particular is getting the go-ahead to make some headway in Kenya with the development of biochar. Fast Company recently featured Jason Aramburu, the CEO of re:char, who is working with the emerging area of biochar thanks to a grant from the Gates Foundation to develop a system to transform human waste into biochar. Biochar is carbon negative, which means that every ton of biochar produced represents carbon extracted from the air, which cannot get back into the atmosphere.

For over 3,000 years, indigenous farmers In the Amazon basin have been making charcoal and burying it in the ground to improve the soil’s ability to capture and retain nutrients for their crops. This biochar makes a lasting impact on the soil, and the land is now rich and fertile.

Re:char also sells kilns to farmers in Kenya that allow them to convert their farm waste into biochar, which is quickly becoming known for its cost-effective solution to curtail poverty, and slow down the deforestation by encouraging people there to use biochar as cooking fuel instead of cutting down trees for firewood.

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The World’s First Vertical Forest Is Greening Up Milan

January 9, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation

Thanks to urban sprawl and auto & factory emissions, Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Italy. But Italian architect Stefano Boeri is greening up Milan with a “Vertical Forest.” The project took inspiration from traditional Italian towers covered in ivy. Boeri simply multiplied that effect on two soaring apartment towers. Can you imagine how these residential buildings that look like trees themselves could soon look like at apartment buildings throughout the world?

Click on the picture to see the photographs Boeri posted of the towers’ construction on his blog last month.

Scientists say it’ll actually improve the city atmosphere, and not just the skyline. According to Boeri, the diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb carbon dioxide and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect from radiation and acoustic pollution, improving the quality of living spaces and saving energy. Plant irrigation will be produced to great extent through the filtering and reuse of the grey waters produced by the building. Additionally Aeolian and photovoltaic energy systems will contribute, together with the aforementioned microclimate to increase the degree of energetic self sufficiency of the two towers.

The lush vegetation will also encourage the presence of birds and insects within the miniature gardens. It will also balance out the city’s environmental damage, by creating a self-sufficient ecosystem. And with construction costing only five percent higher than that of a typical skyscraper, the concept of a vertical skyscraper is incredibly accessible for other cities facing similar plights.

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Five Big Trends in Business Innovation in 2012

January 6, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Trends
Apple fruit

Throughout the year I will continue to blog about trends I see in innovation. Here’s a few of them I saw today in a Washington Post article, and how they’ll impact the business landscape in the months to come. Do you agree?

1. Strategy and entrepreneurship will have ever-greater interdependence. A trend I’ve been watching for some time is the tendency for what we used to put in the “strategy” bucket to converge with what we used to call “entrepreneurship.” With companies needing to continuously reinvent themselves and innovation becoming the watchword for success, practices formerly associated with entrepreneurship are going mainstream; companies will ignore the constant renewal of their advantages at their peril. This changes the nature of innovation. Many companies will maintain their competitiveness by acquiring small, entrepreneurial firms in new markets where building competencies themselves would simply take too long. Companies are finding that they need to be innovative just to keep their core businesses relevant. Berlitz is an interesting case in point. The company had a rather tired, inflexible business model and was being beaten by organizations such as Rosetta Stone at capturing the imagination (and money) of people who needed language training. The company’s new strategy is to become more innovative and more flexible, and to use new technologies to make possible services that never existed before. For instance, Berlitz can now cost-effectively offer Arabic lessons by electronically creating classes, where before classes weren’t practical, because not enough Arabic-seeking students were physically near one another.

2. Access to assets will be replacing ownership of assets. When times are uncertain, the last thing you want to do is make fixed-amount commitments to specific assets and capabilities. Moreover, often we don’t really need to own an asset to meet our needs. For example, most of us need a chainsaw very infrequently (let’s hope!). So why buy one, if you can borrow it just for one project? From the car-rental service Zipcar to couch-sharing sites like airbnb and the cloud services available from Amazon, we can have just-in-time access to the outputs that goods and services provide, rather than actually owning them. The same applies to people. More and more real work is being done by people on a freelance or part-time basis. The fundamental driver is that in uncertain times you preserve your flexibility by not owning a lot of assets. This will be a boon to companies like Amazon (which can provide computing power on demand) or Accenture (which can get you a change management team that will go away when its job is done). It will upend the business of organizations that depend on selling services and goods rather than leasing them.

3. The tradeoff between reach and richness will continually diminish. It is a classic truth of information technology that for a message to reach a lot of people, it has to be stripped of a great deal of rich contextual information. Thus a bond trader can connect instantly with a global network of other bond traders, but the information they exchange is very bare-bones. We will increasingly see companies develop technologies that can help re-enrich far-flung communications. Apple’s Siri voice-command personal assistant is an example. It’s still a computer talking, but it is helping to create a much fuller context for our interactions with our handheld technology. We’re going to see more advances in making remote communication feel more real, and that will change how businesses and virtual teams interact, adding in some of the texture and emotion that gets squeezed out. Technologies such as 3D imaging, the ability to use better voice recognition, and price drops for various kinds of telepresence may well make it much easier to work in virtual teams.

4. Mass markets will be micro-fragmenting. More and more, markets and market segments will shatter, making life very difficult for companies accustomed to dealing with mass or blockbuster markets. In health care, the rise of gene sequencing and more specific diagnostics means that smaller and smaller numbers of customers are likely to respond to a given therapy. That means, in turn, that companies must profit by serving niches rather than broad markets. In consumer products we see people looking for personalized offers just for themselves. is an on-demand publisher that appeals to authors with very small audiences, because they incur virtually no fixed costs and can therefore choose to publish books only when sales are assured. PC makers increasingly allow their customers to customize their devices. App developers can make enough money to pay off development costs even when their target markets are small. This fracturing of mass markets will favor companies that can sense customers’ particular desires and tailor production accordingly.

5. Oblique competition will become ubiquitous. Finally, the nature of competition has changed. Traditionally businesses competed within industries; today competition can come from nowhere and take over whole market segments. That is a seismic shift. A company’s most important competitors may not even be in the same industry. Who would have imagined that telecom companies would be competing with banks and credit card issuers for consumer payment streams? Moreover, customers judge across their entire set of experiences rather than just comparing your organization to others like it. We want our technology to be as intuitive and user-friendly as Apple products, the service we receive to be as thoughtful as we might get from Nordstrom, and personalization and ease of payment as good as Amazon’s. This expands the range of what a typical strategist will have to pay attention to.

What does all this mean for company leaders today? I think three overarching themes deserve time and attention. First, we must consciously and aggressively compare our existing assumptions with unfolding reality. Most of the time, today’s strategies are a response to constraints from the past. Relax the constraints, and all kinds of new possibilities become feasible. Second, regular time-outs from day-to-day concerns to pay attention to early warnings are crucial. All too many leaders stay so busy operationalizing today’s strategy that they miss the obvious. It isn’t usually the unthinkable that undoes companies; it’s the possible that nobody paid attention to. Finally, consider where leaders get most of the information they use to make decisions. If they aren’t tapping into different sources of data and insight, they are increasingly likely to overlook some crucial trend—until it’s too late.

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InnovationEdge helps women and girls in developing nations

January 4, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Emerging markets, Innovation Edge, LLC

Happy New Year!  2012 is going to be a great year for innovation, and I’m excited to help launch a new effort that will bring hygiene solutions and dignity to women in developing nations.

Millions of girls and women in developing countries miss up to 50 days of school/work per year because they do not have access to affordable sanitary pads when they menstruate. Currently, girls and women in this setting—if they have an option at all—turn to premium priced international brands which are too costly to sustain (e.g., in Rwanda, of the girls who miss school, 36% of them miss because pads are too expensive).  Alternatively, they turn to rags which, in combination with a lack of a clean accessible water supply, are unhygienic and potentially harmful, let alone ineffective to contain leakage.

InnovationEdge is joining SHE, a forward-thinking organization that cares deeply about this problem. SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises), is a market-based approach to improve the quality of life for people in developing countries.  As we get closer to providing solutions, I’ll report how InnovationEdge is involved in this incredible journey!

So why are we doing this? Girls and women are vital to the well-being of their families, communities, and countries and it is important that they have access to education, good health, and jobs. For every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family (as opposed to 30 cents by men).  A pivotal study by Goldman Sachs shows that the greater the likelihood for women to work outside the home, the lower the fertility, reduced maternal and child mortality, and better health and education for current and future generations.  This, coupled with a Council on Foreign Relations study linking education levels to income earning potential, has driven SHE to do something about this problem!

SHE intends to fulfill girls’ and women’s unmet need by helping local women in developing countries jump-start their own businesses to manufacture and distribute affordable, quality, and eco-friendly sanitary pads.  SHE will look to use local raw materials, instead of all imported materials, to ensure affordability and accessibility.

SHE will couple its product innovation with a financially sustainable business model operated and owned by women in the community that can be replicated wherever the need exists.  SHE will instigate the launch of a local business by

  • Partnering with existing local women’s networks;
  • Ensuring a microfinance loan for women who will share start-up costs;
  • Training local group in necessary business skills and health and hygiene.

SHE is making quick strides with its first business in Rwanda.  SHE looked to Rwanda because of the urgent need for access to low-cost sanitary pads, its well-established networks of women, and additional positive business environmental factors including increasing access to capital.

You can learn more about our progress and adventures by following the SHE Innovates blog, or becoming a fan on Facebook.