Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Innovation must become what quality was 20 years ago.

I have been having lots of discussions recently with organizations large and small, corporate and academic, about innovation.

Talking about innovation is easy. The most radical ideas are at the intersection of disciplines, organizations and cultures... or as I recently learned at the verge.

But doing something about innovation is very, very hard. Organizations do not have good systems and processes for interfacing with outsiders they could collaborate with. Heck, organizations don't even have great systems for knowing systematically what the most challenging issues are they face that someone outside could help with.

Recently I bumped into a quote from Gary Hamel.
Innovation must become where quality was 20 years ago.
He's right on point. We've been through a couple of decades where quality and efficiency were the name of the game. For the next couple of decades, innovation with be critically important in an increasingly globalizing world.

If anyone has thoughts about how to systematically do innovation, I'm all ears. I know a bunch of others that are listening as well.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Verge: Innovation Takes A Lesson From Nature

I bumped into a new word recently - the verge.

There is an interesting article in Optimise Magazine about "The Seven Rules Of Innovation," in which the following powerful observation is made:
Ecological research shows that Mother Nature does her most radical innovations as far away from intense competition as possible. In the center of the ecosystem where competition is highest, if you try a breakthrough idea and it fails, you’re eaten. The only thing you can do safely in the center is incremental innovation. Mother Nature innovates most radically at the edge of the ecosystem, where it bumps up against another. This shared edge is called a verge.

When you go to the verge, you encounter things you ordinarily don’t bump into...

The biological term "mutualism" is the most powerful relationship in nature. It builds on differences so we combine our differences to allow us to solve problems neither of us can solve alone.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Secretary of State talks about leading edge technology in SC

The State queried Secretary of State Mark Hammond
about what he could do to promote economic development. He responded:
Promote South Carolina Business One Stop ... (a state Web site that makes) it easier to obtain the proper registrations and permits needed to start a business in South Carolina. This allows businesses to focus on more important tasks, such as opening their doors, hiring employees, and providing goods and services.
The SC Business One Stop is a leading edge technology in the country that allows a small business to determine what is required and then to file all the forms necessary to get the permits, licenses and registrations from multiple state agencies at one time. This is a tremendous time saver for small companies in SC. What is really cleaver, though, is that the system interfaces with the existing legacy systems of the various agencies, and it allows each agency to maintain their own set of business rules independent of other agencies. Without that, the SC Business One Stop would never have gotten off the ground.

The SC Business One Stop was developed by TiBA Solutions in Greenville, which has a strong track record of successful implementations of large, complex, mission-critical systems like this. I'm working with TiBA to help figure out how to sell the Business One Stop technology to other states. It's wonderful to be talking with others across the country about how SC is on the leading edge. TiBA has an incredible staff of IT professionals who are a bit of well kept secret in the state. We're working on that too.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The State completely misses the point about Clemson

Recently The State hyperventilated over the Hunley project in Charleston. In the process, they also smeared Clemson in a recent editorial. They would have been well served if they had taken a breath and thought about what they were saying.

First, the editorial is factually inaccurate, stating that Clemson decided “pretty much on its own, to build a whole new campus all the way on the other side of the state.” In fact, in 2004 the SC Endowed Chair Review Board, in a process reviewed by academic peers from out-of-state, endowed a research chair that is the core of the Restoration Institute. In 2005, the SC Bond Act Review Committee provided $10 million for infrastructure, and the City of North Charleston donated $14 million of land. So Clemson hardly acted alone.

The vision of the Institute is to build on the global reputation of Charleston “to create a leading knowledge-based, export-oriented industry cluster” that becomes the world’s “premiere home of restoration knowledge and expertise.” Advances will be made in disciplines from preservation and healthy communities to advanced materials and urban ecology. The Hunley is a marquee project, but it is only one project.

This is exactly the type of exciting, aspirational vision that will leverage our historical assets into knowledge-based economic development that grows high wage jobs in South Carolina. To suggest that the Clemson Restoration Institute is merely pandering to a powerful politician is ill informed and a disservice to the discussion about how to move the state forward.

But James Hammond at The State understands the "new brain trust" that is forming

The really frustrating thing about The State's criticism of Clemson's Restoration Institute is that right down the hall was a reporter that gets it. Recently James Hammond wrote a great article, New brain trust - State’s endowed chairs program attracting high-caliber researchers. Maybe the folks at The State ought to talk to one another.

“We are creating a critical mass of intelligence, of brain power, to be focused upon particular areas that may produce scientific breakthroughs and create jobs,” said Sam Tenenbaum, originator of the endowed chair idea in South Carolina.


In his career as a physicist, USC's Richard Webb helped computer pioneer IBM develop new patents. Now in the academic world, he explores the frontiers of nanoscience for new theories that could one day pave the way for even smaller circuits and computer chips. Webb says he would not have his office in Columbia today without South Carolina’s lottery-funded endowed chairs program


Clemson endowed chair holder Tom Kurfess said the research into automobile manufacturing and safety done at the Greenville campus will be unique in North America and would not be possible without the endowed chairs program.


The endowed chairs program already has spawned one major collaboration in health sciences that university leaders say probably would not have happened without the program. Two of the state’s largest hospital systems, Greenville Hospital System and Columbia-based Palmetto Health, and two of the state’s largest universities, MUSC and USC, will pool resources and invest in health sciences research.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Turning excitement and interest around innovation into action

Jeffrey Phillips is with OVO in Raleigh, a presenting company at InnoVenture 2007, has a blog, Innovate on Purpose. A recent post discusses a problem we all face at one time or another: Turning interest into action

I suspect that many people agree that innovation is important, but are uncertain how to get started and how to determine and quantify the benefits.

There are several reasons for this:

1. Uncertainty around how to get started
2. Too much change and risk involved
3. People think innovation is a passing fad


What's holding up your organization from becoming more innovative? Cultural issues? Fear of failure? Uncertain where to start? Here's a tip: start doing something, especially around defining a process for sustainable innovation. Start small and demonstrate some success, and the other stuff will work itself out. Don't stand on the sidelines waiting for the fad to pass, or for someone to give you the OK to proceed. This is one train you don't want to miss.

Notes from Ideation International: Innovative Problem Solving

I spent a fascinating weekend with leaders from Ideation International, who have created a set of tools for managing the future.

The fundamental principal behind Ideation International's approach is that systems evolve in a predictable way. The Russian scientist, Genrich Altshuller, along with his students Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman, documented consistent patterns of evolution after reviewing 2 million patents.

The Ideation International tool for managing the short-term future is "Inventive Problem Solving,"
a method for eliminating technological roadblocks related to the development and use of products and processes. Applicable to all engineering disciplines, IPS can be used to solve problems related to design, research and development, manufacturing, safety, reliability, and quality assurance.
Those who have used the Inventive Problem Solving tool are amazed at its ability to lead users to break through solutions to particularly thorny problems that were unsolvable with other methods by looking for analogies in the ways similar problems have been solved by others in the past.

The Ideation International process for managing the future is based on TRIZ, an acronym for the Russian words for "Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems." Do you have experience with TRIZ or Ideation International?

Notes from Ideation International: Anticipatory Failure Determination

Leaders from Ideation International have created a set of tools for managing the future. Their tool for managing the short-term future is Inventive Problem Solving.

The next tool in Ideation International's bag, Anticipatory Failure Determination, not only deals with a problem present today, but as the name implies, begins to allow the user to anticipate and manage the future. This tool has two parts:
Failure Analysis is a systematic procedure for identifying the root causes of a failure or other undesired phenomenon in a system, and for making corrections in a timely manner.

Failure Prediction
is a systematic procedure for identifying beforehand, and then preventing, all dangerous or harmful events that might be associated with a system.
The ability to anticipate and begin to control the future puts considerable power in the hands of a trained user.

The Ideation International process for managing the future is based on TRIZ, an acronym for the Russian words for "Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems." Do you have experience with TRIZ or Ideation International?

Notes from Ideation International: Directed Evolution

Recently I met with leaders from Ideation International, who have created a set of tools for managing the future. The short-term future can be managed with Inventive Problem Solving and the medium term with Anticipatory Failure Determination.

The real power in the Ideation International tool box is Directed Evolution™, which allows a user to analyze "future generations of a system and control system evolution."
Directed Evolution™ provides a means not only to predict but to direct future technological achievements in a given time frame with a specified level of support. Most of the innovations that will appear over the next 20 years will be based upon scientific and technological knowledge existing now. The difficulty lies in identifying what knowledge is of real significance. With hindsight, what seems obscure today will be remarkably clear tomorrow. The role of Directed Evolution™ is to evaluate today's knowledge systematically, thereby identifying what is achievable and, more particularly, how one technological advance, perhaps in conjunction with another, could fulfill a human need.
We've all probably heard futurists who make predictions about the future. I heard a particularly powerful presentation recently by Ray Kurzweil at Venture 06. While the predictions of futurists like Ray are impressive, how these predictions are made is esoteric and how to apply them to my specific situation is problematic.

Ideation International puts on a users desktop the power to anticipate, and ultimately control, the future in situations relevant to the user. This is incredible.

The Ideation International process for managing the future is based on TRIZ, an acronym for the Russian words for "Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems." Do you have experience with TRIZ or Ideation International?

Notes from Ideation International: Control of Intellectual Property

Leaders from Ideation International have created a set of tools for managing the future: Inventive Problem Solving, Anticipatory Failure Determination, and Directed Evolution™.

At the end of the day, we want to make money by protecting and enhancing the value of our intellectual property. The Ideation International process, Control of Intellectual Property, does that in three phases:
Disclosure Inspection uncovers, displays and codifies the interrelationships among the functional elements of an invention disclosure or technology description submitted by the client. A suggested list of claims as well as a list of alternatives to expand the inventive reach of the disclosure or technology description is provided.

Patent Analysis employs a patented methodology to generate a graphical depiction of the logical structure of the invention described in the patent. This diagrammatic approach exposes both the weaknesses and strengths in the patent and its claim structure. The software that embodies the specialized methodology further produces a comprehensive list of suggested avenues for development that may strengthen, expand or extend the patent.

Patent Deconstruction conducts a focused patent analysis to meet the client’s objectives, which typically include litigation support, infringement avoidance, and circumvention of a competitor’s patent. This work is carried out in close partnership with client personnel so that the competitive landscape be fully appreciated by the IPBI analysts.
The Ideation International process for managing the future is based on TRIZ, an acronym for the Russian words for "Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems." Do you have experience with TRIZ or Ideation International?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Notes from Venture 06: Is InnoVenture on the right track?

Venture 06, held last week, was the Council for Entrepreneurial Development's 23rd annual venture conference. I was impressed with their commitment that, "It's all about the entrepreneurs." I was also blown away by a compelling presentation that the changes we will experience in the next few decades will "Reinvent Humanity."

March 2006 was the third annual InnoVenture conference, and I was inspired by what is possible 20 years from now. InnoVenture had 600 attendees versus 700 at Venture 06, but 225 of their attendees were investors.

But I also came away confident in InnoVenture's model of creating Communities of Innovation including corporations, universities, emerging companies, and investors. Several people that attended both conferences told me how much they enjoyed InnoVenture, which was saying a lot in the glow of Venture 06. More encouraging, many people told me that they had heard, one way or another, that InnoVenture was tremendous and they planned to attend in 2007.

We definitely created a buzz at InnoVenture that we can build on.

Notes from Venture 06: It's all about the entrepreneurs

Venture 2006, held last week, was the Council for Entrepreneurial Development's 23rd annual venture conference. For 20 years, Monica Doss has been President of CED, which is in Research Triangle Park and is one of the most successful entrepreneurial development organizations in the world.

The sound bite that stuck most with me was something Monica said to me as soon as I go there, "It's all about the entrepreneurs." She was talking not only about the conference itself, but the guiding principal for the future development of the CED. While clearly rooted in RTP, Monica emphasized that entrepreneurs were seeking resources and relationships outside the region and CED will help them.

The emphasis on entrepreneurs was reinforced throughout the conference. There was a very impressive Marquee Panel discussion, including:

  • Steve Nelson, Managing Director & Partner, Wakefield Group

  • John McConnell, Chief Executive Officer, A4 Health Systems

  • Stephen Pierce, Head of Equity Capital Markets for the Americas, Goldman, Sachs & Co. New York

  • Harry Weller, Partner, New Enterprise Associates

  • Ryan Wuerch, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Motricity
  • There were plenty of investors at the conference, 225 all looking for companies to invest in. Money wasn't the problem. The panelists made it very clear that the rarest element is proven entrepreneurs with a successful track record of having grown companies and made money for investors before.

    Finding, developing and nurturing proven entrepreneurs is what Monica is most focused on, and the rest of us should focus on it intensely too.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Notes from Venture 06: Reinventing Humanity

    The Featured Speaker at Venture 06 was Ray Kurzweil. His presentation impacted me more that anything in a long time. He asks the question, "What happens when machines exceed human intelligence in every measurable way?" He calls this the “Singularity,” which he predicts will happen by 2030. An article he wrote, Reinventing Humanity: The Future of Machine–Human Intelligence, sums up his view that,
    We stand on the threshold of the most profound and transformative event in the history of humanity, the “Singularity.”

    What is the Singularity? From my perspective, the Singularity is a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so fast and far-reaching that human existence on this planet will be irreversibly altered. We will combine our brain power—the knowledge, skills, and personality quirks that make us human—with our computer power in order to think, reason, communicate, and create in ways we can scarcely even contemplate today.

    This merger of man and machine, coupled with the sudden explosion in machine intelligence and rapid innovation in gene research and nanotechnology, will result in a world where there is no distinction between the biological and the mechanical, or between physical and virtual reality. These technological revolutions will allow us to transcend our frail bodies with all their limitations. Illness, as we know it, will be eradicated. Through the use of nanotechnology, we will be able to manufacture almost any physical product upon demand, world hunger and poverty will be solved, and pollution will vanish. Human existence will undergo a quantum leap in evolution. We will be able to live as long as we choose. The coming into being of such a world is, in essence, the Singularity.
    Before you write him off as a flake, read the article and review his incredible biography.

    I uncertain whether the world he envisions is Utopia or a sure sign of the coming of the Apocalypse.

    Best Practices: How BMW Moves Its Best Ideas Forward

    Here's an interesting Power Point presentation of Best Practices: How BMW Moves Its Best Ideas Forward