Archive for May, 2012

Sticking with innovation crucial to growth

May 28, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Culture of Innovation
Innovation

No matter where I go in the U.S., or what type of industry I work with, I see a common challenge across almost all companies. Many industries have significantly cut back the financial resources they have earmarked for innovation.

This situation is having impact on innovation leaders and their teams, as well as the companies’ product pipelines.

More innovation leaders have shared with me that they find themselves growing weary under the fatigue of tighter budgets and uncertainty as the economic climate continues to stagger along. The uncertainty of the future has caused many to indefinitely delay or table plans for growth.

However there are others that have decided to find a way to pursue new strategies and reach out.

Because we are now still in an era of little or no tolerance for failure in any industry, fear can close the doors of opportunity — shutting down the solution pipeline of new products that may be waiting for funding. But for forward-thinking strategists who can look beyond the forecasts and spreadsheets, there is hope for finding new ways of creating and delivering solutions, even on a shoestring budget.

For companies lucky enough to have leaders with such vision, the extended economic slump that we are in is becoming a catalyst that propels them along new pathways that otherwise wouldn’t have been taken.

Indeed there are not as many disruptive or game changing innovation efforts under way on as wide a scale as there were a few years ago. However companies that are pushing for concentrated incremental efforts will still separate themselves from those that do nothing.

As for customer engagement, as I have talked about before, we will continue to see unique ways that crowdsourcing and social media platforms will used to find opportunities to deliver better and more cost-effective solutions, ones that end users and customers will gravitate to in 2012.

Technology is even taking a new role in harvesting valuable information.

For those companies who can’t produce total solutions because of budget or resource constraints, look for more open-source partnerships to become the norm. This is one proven way of doing business with resources beyond companies’ brick and mortar walls.

It is always exciting for me to see companies find productive ways to overcome challenges and deliver successful solutions.

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Patches offer possible option to taking pills

May 27, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets
Scopoderm 278:365

Transdermal patches were approved by the FDA and first marketed in the early 1980s. They have advanced significantly since then and are now available to treat a limited variety of conditions.

Most of the patches work in the same general way: Medicine is applied to the adhesive side of a patch that is placed on the skin and the active drug is absorbed through the pores in the skin and directly into the bloodstream.

We all have heard of the patches that are used to control nicotine delivery for people trying to quit smoking, but patches are now available for treating motion sickness, nausea, depression, high blood pressure, angina, menopause symptoms, and even attention deficit disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. These are all areas where controlled, time-release dosage makes sense. In cases where patient compliance is an issue, patches may help since pills don’t have to be taken at regular intervals.

In fact, patches have some significant advantages over the conventional tablet. One important advantage is that the dosage can be controlled over time. Conventional pill medication, once through the digestive system, releases medicine rapidly and produces an initial high concentration that then falls off rapidly.

So, we have a combination of a high concentration initially that may produce side effects, and then a low concentration that may not be as effective in treatment. The controlled release of medication, for example with a patch, can lead to more constant levels of medication. Medicines can be released over hours, days, or even weeks.

Another advantage is that since the medicine doesn’t pass through the stomach and liver, patches are less likely to cause interactions with food and reactions of nausea.

Of course as with any alternative there are some disadvantages. For example, as you might expect, patches may cause skin irritations or rashes. The patch performance may also differ from person to person —mostly because different fat levels influence skin absorption rates.

However, probably the biggest drawback of patches is that only a limited number of medicines are available. Drugs with molecules that are too large to be absorbed through the skin will not work as a transdermal patch. Insulin is one example of such a medication, many antibiotics are another.

Currently there are about a dozen drugs that have been approved by the FDA for use in patch form, but new advances are sure to add to this number in the coming years. Just in the last 25 years, the technology has come a long way.

Who knows, in the not too distant future, perhaps modern day pills and tablets may be going the way of the spirits and powders of the 19th century.

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Collaboration will move innovation forward

May 26, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized
Innovation

Manufacturers today are facing a broad array of challenges as they strive to develop products faster, improve efficiencies, and streamline their marketing and sales organizations. Manufacturing is a diverse field, but there are common themes among many of the businesses that represent the industry. This includes the need to reduce time and cost to market, and the desire for fueling the future lifeline of any business — innovation.

A recent survey performed by International Data Corp., an advisory organization for the information technology and consumer technology markets, shed some interesting light on the current mindset of the manufacturing industry. The organization surveyed several hundred global players in the automotive, aerospace and electronics fields and found that a majority of organizations —about 60 percent — believe that product innovation and product value-added services are the key to growth. At the same time, only about 40 percent felt that way about expansion into emerging markets.

Further, product innovation as the key to growth was ranked highest by almost 80 percent of the respondents in the automotive and high-tech electronics areas. Perhaps surprisingly, the study found that only 35 percent felt that social media and mobile platforms were a key component to manufacturing growth strategies and for improving the way they work.

As far as what was considered to be key components to innovation, access to real-time, up-to-date information and improved collaboration were cited by 60 percent, but almost 85 percent felt that faster business processes would be most helpful.

Like a lot of organizations today, poor decision-making cultures were cited as significantly hampering manufacturing industry growth. Much of the blame for the cultural barriers was attributed to inadequate processes and systems.

It is true that information is necessary for reacting quickly to the rapidly changing environments that businesses face today, for streamlining operational processes and for improving collaboration.
As we have talked before, information is also necessary for discovering the insights that catalyze true innovation and ultimately differentiate your business from its competition.

These insights can take the form of technological advancements, undiscovered market opportunities or previously unseen competitive advantages, and are only brought to light by having the right information at the right time — from both internal and external sources.

Connecting the right people through collaboration to act on the insights gained from information is the engine that will drive timely, informed decisions for delivering innovative products, and getting them to the customer most efficiently. It’s good to know that the manufacturing industry understands this and is looking wisely to the future.

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Urban farms: anyone can connect food with need!

May 24, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

I was surprised to discover how easy it is to create urban farms in areas where people most need inexpensive, fresh food. Urban-farming is really taking off in cities such as Detroit and Cleveland. Check out this article from Fast Company, on how cities can transform disused land into tomorrow’s (healthy) dinner:

Consider this paradox: 49 million Americans live with daily food insecurity, 23 million live in urban food deserts, and collectively we’re all getting fatter. Simultaneously vacant lots, concrete grooves, and other desolate, empty

An urban farm in Chicago

An urban farm in Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

spots dot urban landscapes, while a quarter of traditional agricultural land is severely degraded according to the UN.

Enter the urban farm: a fast, smart, cheap way to bring healthy food closer to those who need it, transform ugly vacant spaces into lush gardens, and promote a healthier, greener, more connected urban community.

A recently released video by the American Society of Landscape Architects uses case studies from edible-city innovators, such as Cleveland and Detroit, to offer practical advice for bringing urban farms to your backyard (or corner lot or rooftop). Here are four helpful tips:

Plant a garden in your own yard (or farm the job out to someone else).

Acres of perfect green grass are both a hassle to maintain and, nutritionally speaking, useless. Inhabitants with yards in D.C. and Portland can even lease their yard to those with greener thumbs–and take a cut of the produce they yield.

Populate empty lots with crops.

Cities like Cleveland and Detroit are leasing abandoned lots to urban farmers for practically nothing–provided the lessees are committed to filling those spots with edible greenery.

If your lot’s soil is poisoned with lead or other contaminants, simply truck in new soil in raised beds. Even cheaper: Plant your veggies in burlap bags filled with clean soil. Roll the sacks up and fill with more soil as the plants grow, and you can transport them indoors when winter hits.

Use your roof.

ASLA’s video suggests restaurants harness their roofs to grow ingredients for their own meals. Big-box stores can lease or farm their own vast roofs and sell the proceeds in-store or via local greenmarkets. Rooftop farms use wasted space and lower your utility bill, too.

Fill up your food trucks.

Mobile trucks sell prepared foods–often unhealthy at that. Why not use them as fresh-fruit stands? Food truck legislation in many cities has relaxed in recent years. Opportunity knocks, suburban farmers: Coordinate with a food truck owner to sell your produce wherever there’s a need in your city–not just at the Saturday greenmarket. Hook the kids on juicy berries or watermelon in summer, and you may make a confirmed veggie fan year-round.

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Seoul retailer uses 3D QR codes and the sun to lure consumers

May 23, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Crowdsourcing

4th February. This was one of the first QR Cod...One retailer in Asia is doing something innovative to attract shoppers during those quiet times when most stores are empty.

Emart is calling this creative effort its “Sunny Sale,” making use of the shadows created when the sun hits the sculptures. Those who scan the code on their smart phones or iPads can go to the home page and find special offers including a coupons. If they choose not to set foot in the store, that’s okay too! The coupons work for online shopping and delivery. Here’s how it works:

Emart says it saw membership increase by nearly 60 percent with a 25 percent increase in sales during lunch hours.

 

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Biomimicry: A new perspective can alter your outlook on world

May 22, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Disruptive Innovation
Leaf lamina. The leaf architecture probably ar...

As part of my innovation consulting efforts, I’m getting more heavily involved in the area of biomimicry and the idea of using nature as a guide to providing technological insights. The exploration of nature and its processes to yield innovative solutions to complex problems is an interesting and novel approach that not only researchers, but also some companies, are formally using as another way to “think outside the box” to identify business opportunities.

I’ll have more on how my company is helping drive the adoption of nature-inspired innovation approaches in future articles, but whenever I come across examples that illustrate some of the potential successes I would like to share them.

As I shared in my newspaper column this month, an article appeared recently in the American Chemical Society Journal Accounts of Chemical Research on some amazing progress that is being made in mimicking part of the process of natural photosynthesis. Call it an “artificial leaf” if you will.

As we all learn in high school, photosynthesis is the process where plants convert light from the sun, water from the soil, and carbon dioxide from the air into food sugars for the plant and oxygen that we can breath. The oxygen that is produced is actually split off from water molecules. If the remaining hydrogen can be recovered in a synthetic process it might be an attractive and plentiful source of fuel energy for developing countries.

That is precisely what Daniel Nocera and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have done. His synthetic leaf puts a light collector between two inexpensive chemical films where oxygen and hydrogen bubble away when the leaf is placed in water.

Up until now similar processes have used prohibitively expensive platinum or semiconductor compounds. In contrast the materials used in Nocera’s device are claimed to be naturally abundant — a critical factor in the research team’s goal is to help find ways to deliver abundant energy to the worlds undeveloped and poverty stricken populations.

Beyond the efforts of Nocera, scientists at the University of Toronto and the University of California at Berkeley are looking past the chemistry and into the mysterious realm of the quantum physics of photosynthesis. Here they are concerned with understanding, on the smallest scales of time and distance, how a plant captures, channels, and stores the energy of the millions of billions of photons that strike a leaf every second.

The hope is that insights from the research could yield tiny molecular circuits that efficiently transport energy over long distances.

Who knows where research into artificial photosynthesis will lead and what practical innovations will be discovered? What we do know is that the potential of looking at the wonders of nature for help in solving complex human problems is exciting, and I’m looking forward to sharing more examples of the progress.

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THINC! Innovation is this Thursday

May 20, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Disruptive Innovation

I’m hoping you can join me for THINC! (Technology and Human Innovation Networking Conference), this Thursday, May 24th at EAA in Oshkosh.

We’re going to discuss the global threat to American manufacturers, and why companies cannot afford to put innovation on the back burner.

Three other thought leaders will join me this Thursday with THINC! Talks beginning at 8:30 a.m. including Bob Pedersen, Goodwill Industries NCW; Neal Verfuerth, Orion Energy Systems and Craig Dickman of BreakThrough Fuel. The Part 1 – THINC! Talks will be followed by the 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. program for taking “Innovation to Capitalization” presented by First Business Bank.

For a full schedule and event details visit www.thincinnovationevent.com. Register today! Tickets for the event are $30 which include the two-part event, a light networking breakfast, lunch and the pitch and mingle session. Register at www.thincinnovationevent.com Featured speakers for the Part 2 – Innovation to Capitalization program.

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