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February 8, 2013

Issue 19 – February 8, 2013


Midnight Lunch – How Thomas Edison Collaborated................................... Julie Anixter


The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part One ……..….………..…..…...…. Braden Kelley


10 Apps for Creativity ……………………..............………....…..……… Tomislav Buljubasic


My Top 10 Innovations of All Time ..........................................................…. Braden Kelley


The 4 Things You Need to Know to Make Any Business Successful .…...… Greg Satell


The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part Two …………..…………………. Braden Kelley


Innovation Sighting – Apple’s Smart Shoe …………………………………….... Drew Boyd


Innovation Communities Report Released ………………………….…..….….. Mike Lippitz


Why Your Business Needs More Innovation …………………………..….... Jeffrey Phillips


The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part Three ….…………….…….…..… Braden Kelley

Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.

“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”

Cover Image credit:

Thomas Edison 1947

Midnight Lunch – How Thomas Edison Collaborated Posted on February 3, 2013 by Julie Anixter

I caught up with Sarah Miller Caldicott to discuss her latest book Midnight Lunch: the 4 phases of team collaboration success from Thomas Edison’s Lab. Sarah is keen to talk about how collaboration “powers” innovation. As the great grandniece of Thomas Edison and a seasoned executive she has a singular perspective.

February 11 marks Edison’s 166 birthday. Time was good to him – he lived to be 84. Indeed, 166 years seems like a very long time ago, which makes it all the more stunning to look around our modern world and trace so many industries today to Thomas Edison: Movies, recorded sound, storage battery and electrical power to name a few. Edison is truly all around us. His lifetime bridged two centuries, his life’s work astounding. My interview with Sarah reveals Edison’s love for collaboration, and more… - Julie Anixter, Executive Editor

What is a midnight lunch?

Midnight lunch was the affectionate term Edison’s Menlo Park employees gave to the popular practice of staying late in the lab to run experiments, and having dinner together. Edison would often leave work at 5 PM to have dinner with his family, then return to the lab at 7 PM to monitor how his experiments were faring. He’d speak personally with the dozen or so employees who were staying late to work on their experiments, encouraging them to share insights with each other, and learn from the diverse expertise each person brought to their projects. Everyone would roll up their sleeves, working together amidst heady dialogue.

At about 9 PM, Edison would order in food for everyone from a local tavern. For an hour or so, the assembled crew would relax, tell stories, sing songs, and even play music together, before heading back to work until the wee hours of the morning. They connected socially, and

created a deeper understanding of each other as people and not just workers. This process of midnight lunch transformed employees into colleagues. It served as the foundation for collaboration in all of Edison’s labs. Through midnight lunch, we see the importance of activities that encourage employees to come together in ways that link work with their social lives.

For Edison, midnight lunch was crucially important in Phase 1 – Capacity, creating an environment in which collaboration could thrive. It became a powerful link to Edison’s use of small teams as a driver of innovation success.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote Midnight Lunch because I’ve seen a shift in the effectiveness of innovation initiatives over the past five years. Following the Great Recession, many executives have realized that innovation is not optional…it’s now a requirement. But there’s still a lot of confusion on how to draw people and resources together to effectively drive innovation in an increasingly digital and mobile environment. Without collaboration, innovation stalls. Midnight Lunch offers new ways for us to approach collaboration today, and understand its crucial connection to innovation success.

What can innovators specifically learn from Thomas Edison?

Although we don’t think of Edison this way, he worked in collaborative teams from the very start of his career. Most often we link Edison with the American lore of the ‘lone American inventor.’ But he realized even in his late teens that collaboration was crucial for innovation to succeed. We can learn from Edison how to create an environment of collegiality, how to use collaboration as a means to develop entirely new context around our thinking about a project, how to sustain momentum around innovation when the going gets tough, and how to navigate complexity as part of innovation itself. I address each of these issues in the 4 Phases of True Collaboration™, which are Capacity, Context, Coherence, and Complexity.

Will you share some lessons from Midnight Lunch?

Collaboration is most powerfully generated in small, diverse teams of 2 to 8 people, with both experts and generalists present on the team.

Collaboration begins with collegiality. Unless people feel they can roll up their sleeves and work together, innovation is much tougher.

Collaboration evolves from a shared context of learning, not the mere execution of tasks. Through discovery learning, a collaboration team develops content they hold in common.

Collaboration is reinforced through casual dialogue rather than stiff agendas. Every member of a collaboration team engages in dialogue with other team members, and is not able to shrink to the background.

In part, collaboration gains momentum and sustains momentum through stories – the narrative prototypes a team develops over time.

Inspiration must be present for collaboration to thrive. Inspiration can come from beyond the collaboration team, such as through a senior leader or champion, or it can come from a member of the collaboration team.

Collaboration generates knowledge assets. These assets can be shaped and reshaped multiple times, in different configurations over time. These knowledge assets drive the fundamentals of value creation.

Collaboration drives collective intelligence. By documenting a team’s knowledge assets and insights as they emerge, a footprint is established for others to follow. Collective intelligence can be documented via text, video, and sound.

Collaboration serves as the sinews, the ligaments, the tendons – the ‘invisible glue’ – that allows innovation to advance and sustain momentum. Without collaboration, innovation stalls.

Collaboration involves engagement with complex systems. It is complex and simultaneous rather than linear and sequential.

What do you hope people will do differently as a result?

Collaboration often operates as a background force. Like gravity, collaboration is something unseen, yet pervasive and powerful. I’m hoping that as a result of reading Midnight Lunch people will be able to recognize when collaboration is present — or not present — and see its various parts. I’d like Midnight Lunch to bring collaboration to the foreground, offering specific steps on how to set it in motion, and use it as a supporting structure for innovation.

image credit: National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site

A great grandniece of Thomas Edison and innovation process expert, Sarah Miller Caldicott is co-author of the first book ever written on Thomas Edison’s world-changing innovation practices, Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System For Breakthrough Business Success. Her new book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success from Thomas Edison’s Lab, was just released by Wiley. You can access her work at and Twitter @SarahCaldicott

Julie Anixter is Chief Innovation Officer at Maga Design and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.

The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part One Posted on February 3, 2013 by Braden Kelley

I am proud to bring you the first episode in a three part series culminating in a downloadable PDF of the whole piece on The Crowd Computing Revolution and the redesign of work that is now possible thanks to new technology tools and business architecture thinking that will allow man and machine to work more efficiently together than ever before.

Designing Work for Man and Machine to Do Together

Anyone who has read even one or two science fiction books or watched one or two SciFi movies inevitably finds themselves dreaming of a day when machines will free of us of some of the mundane tasks in our lives. Companies dream of this too. Witness the eagerness of companies to outsource entire job functions (or even more recently whole business processes) to third parties either onshore or offshore. Hackers and spammers have become quite adept at programming their machines to send emails to people or attempt to break through security around the clock, around the globe. We have built automated factories, interactive voice response systems, and devised all kinds of ways to put machines to work for us.

Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School at the University of Toronto has a simple framework from his treatise on Design Thinking titled The Design of Business, that shows how as we learn more about a knowledge (or work) area, our understanding and abilities allow us to move the piece of knowledge (or work) from something that is mysterious and performed in an ad hoc way by experts, to a level of maturity where we start to observe the patterns (or heuristics) in the knowledge area (or piece of work), to a stage where the work or knowledge is well-understood and can be reduced to an algorithm (or set of best practices) performed by lower skilled employees, and possibly even implemented as a piece of code to be executed by a robot or computer.

Source: The Design of Business by Roger Martin

But, as alluded to earlier, companies have not only become more comfortable with designing work to be executed by machines instead of employees, but also more amenable to many different sizes and shapes of work being completed by people outside the organization, including:


Entire job functions (Contractors or Outsourcing Firms – Global Outsourcing Market was $95 Billion in 2011)


Whole business processes (Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Firms – 2011 Market in excess of $11 Billion)


Projects or initiatives (Outside Consultants)


Discrete tasks (99Designs, Crowdspring, etc.)


Micro tasks (Amazon Mechanical Turk, etc.)

Task and Micro-Task Division

Over time the human race has moved from building simple machines that function as tools (like a forklift), allowing a man to do more with the help of the machine, to building machines and robots capable of completing a whole task (like painting a car or making an exact copy of a document). Has anyone seen a help wanted advertisement for a scribe lately? Meanwhile, our fully automated manufacturing and packaging

plants use machines to complete an entire process. But machines aren’t suitable for every kind of work. They are appropriate for tasks that are well-defined and repeated continuously as part of a standardized process, but not a proper fit for tasks where judgment is required, particularly tasks with numerous exceptions, variability, or personalization.

As a result, typically machines and robots have been relegated most often to the production areas of a business, places where it has been easy to define specific tasks or even whole processes that can be designed for machines or robots to own and complete 24/7/365 if necessary.

CONTINUE ON – In The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part Two we look at the role of the crowd and the business architect in the design of work for man and machines.

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

10 Apps for Creativity Posted on February 1, 2013 by Tomislav Buljubasic

Using smartphones and tablets is a big help for every creative person and here is the collection of apps that can help in unleashing that creative spark everyone has inside.

Apps are listed in no particular order and I’ve choose the ones that I use on my iPhone & iPad:

1. Evernote First help for creative person, it is cross-device easy-to-use app which stores your notes, photos, to-do lists and make it all searchable and accessible from web, smartphone or tablet.

2. Clear Nice-looking list-keeping app that is really simple, quick and easy to use, no matter if you are creating notes or to-do lists.

3. Creative Whack Pack Set of funny cards which should provoke your thinking. It contains 84 interactive creative strategies which should stimulate creative thinking.

4. Unleash Your Creativity Well, I have to confess, that this is the app that I created, but I really use it often. Quick intro should be: A help for every creative who needs a guide how to create/reshape/finish ideas with advices & place to store your notes.

5. MindTools Useful app with lot of content. It’s a guide not only for creativity, but also for other business skills such as leadership, strategy, project management and problem solving.

6. Oflow Set of more then 100 ways to get you into the creative flow. Also containing notes, reminders & favorites sections with possibility to flag, browse and email favorites.

7. Innovate All posts from Innovation Excellence in one app. Other highlighted sections are TED videos, AC Podcasts and FastCompany News, but also other content such as Business Week, or The99% are available.

8. The Brainstormer This funny and nice-looking app combines three spinning wheels with plot/conflict, theme/setting and subject/location. After spinning the wheels, generated combination make creative inspiration very simply.

9. iBrainstorm Multi-device collaboration tool for brainstorming which is used like a pinboard with sticky notes and ability to draw. So, ideas can be written and organized as groups and projects.

10. Behance Network: Creative Portfolios & Galleries This is maybe different then all previous apps‌ By browsing through the hundreds of galleries of highly talented persons, you can be inspired for new ideas. Also, everyone can build up their portfolio as well.

image created by: Tomislav Buljubasic

Tomislav Buljubasic is an Innovation Manager and writer from Croatia, focusing on creativity, innovation culture and process. Author of Unleash Your Creativity App. He can be followed on twitter @buljubasict

My Top 10 Innovations of All Time Posted on February 5, 2013 by Braden Kelley

Accelerating Innovation Requires Accelerating Knowledge and Insight Okay, I admit it, I came across the History Channel’s series Ancient Aliens recently and I’m intrigued, mostly because it is fascinating (and frightening) to me how long it takes to develop true knowledge and insight, but how quickly it can be lost.

Leaving the whole ancient astronaut theory thing out of it, it is obvious looking at the historical record that throughout history, civilizations around the world (more than once) have developed advanced scientific understanding only to have their civilization (and its knowledge) destroyed by a natural catastrophe or fade away for some other reason. At the same time, another thing that is clear as we look across our history as a species is that there are certain periods of time during which innovation accelerates and often this increase in the velocity of innovation is linked to an increase in the velocity of knowledge and insight sharing.

The Renaissance coincided with the arrival of paper in Europe, culminating with paper making its way to Germany in 1400 AD and inspiring the development of the printing press in 1450, which then accelerated the spread of books, magazines, and newspapers in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Age of Enlightenment coincided with early semi-public libraries that were only available to a learned few, but those few were inspired to create important and transformative thought in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The 19th century was a golden age of invention and innovation, ushering in the era of modern medicine, and technologies like the telegraph and the telephone which enabled information, knowledge and insight to finally travel faster than the horse.

The modern public library, as we now know it, came into its own in the the United Kingdom in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century (thanks to Andrew Carnegie) and new communications technologies like radio and television brought information and knowledge to the illiterate and enabled people to see and hear things they would never have imagined before.

And by the close of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, human beings had gained the ability to learn from each other no matter where they live in the world, in real time, in words, pictures, and now even through the sharing of videos sharing knowledge and insight, and even by showing people how to do things.

It is my contention that the pace of innovation accelerates when the speed of knowledge sharing accelerates, that knowledge acceleration leads to innovation acceleration. As we have developed more efficient ways of accelerating the pace of knowledge sharing, our pace of innovation has sped up.

It is shocking to think that if you go back only two hundred years as a species we had no idea how disease was transmitted, couldn’t send a message from one side of an ocean to another without using a ship, and that most human beings on this planet would not travel farther than 50 miles from the place of their birth during their lifetime.

Now we can travel to outer space, levitate objects using sound or magnetism, create life, destroy whole cities in an instant, build things smaller than the width of a human hair, and do some other things that even twenty years ago would have seemed impossible.

We are inventing and innovating today at an astonishing rate, and for companies or nations that want to outpace their competition, they should be laser-focused on accelerating the pace of knowledge sharing if they are intent on being faster and more efficient than their competition at innovation. But it isn’t even the speed of knowledge or information sharing that is the holy grail, it is the speed of insight sharing that leads to faster and more efficient innovation, and many organizations mistakenly restrict access to the voice of the customer. And when you cut off your employees from your customers, how can you expect to can anything but inventions instead of innovations?

It is because of these important linkages that I believe the below ten items are the Top 10 Innovations of All Time:


Paper (105AD – Europe 10th century – Germany 1400)


Printing Press (1450)


Telegraph (1837)


Telephone (1876)


Modern Public Library (1850-1945 depending on country)


Commercial Radio (1920)


Commercial Television (1936 UK, 1948 US)


World Wide Web (1991)


Wikipedia (2001)

10. YouTube (2005)

Caution – We May be Becoming Too Reliant on Technology

But there is a cautionary tale contained in this list and the Ancient Aliens reference at the beginning. You will notice that this list is increasingly dependent on technology – especially the existence of electricity.

What would happen if there was a major natural catastrophe (flood, famine, major volcanic eruption or meteor strike, giant solar flare) and for some reason all of our electrical devices ceased to function?

How much of our accumulated knowledge and technology would we lose?

Despite the growing decline of print and rising usage of digital media, the book has one major advantage, it doesn’t require power to operate. Stone tablets don’t decay as fast as paper.

Should we as a society be transcribing our most important knowledge onto something that could survive a major catastrophe (including the potential loss of electricity for an extended period of months or years), so that we as a species don’t have to start over again as we obviously have had to do in the distant past?

Technology is wonderful and allows us to do many amazing things but we should be careful about becoming too reliant on it, or we risk potentially losing the knowledge that allowed us to create it in the first place.

Just a thought‌

And if you are intent on accelerating the sharing of knowledge, information, insight and innovation in your company or country, let me know, I could help with that.

Image source:

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

The 4 Things You Need to Know to Make Any Business Successful Posted on February 3, 2013 by Greg Satell

Starting a new business is hard. I should know. Over the course of my career I’ve started many, with varied results. I’m not alone either, about one third of businesses fail in their first two years.

Keeping one successful isn’t any easier. The average life expectancy for a company on the Fortune 500 has declined from 75 years to 15 years, so even the most successful business falter. There are no guarantees.

Nevertheless, some manage to buck the trend. Proctor and Gamble, 3M and IBM have all thrived for a century or more, prospering through countless business and technological cycles in widely divergent industries. While there is no silver bullet, every business needs to answer basic questions about how will they create, deliver, capture and maintain value.

1. How You Will Create Value As Harvard professor Clayton Christensen likes to point out, companies are hired to perform jobs. Whatever business you’re in, you have to solve somebody’s problem. Nobody needs a quarter inch drill, they need a quarter inch hole. Figuring out how to create value is the core of any firm’s strategic intent.

Steve Jobs looked for things he thought were “sucky” and sought to make them better. When he returned to Apple, he looked at digital music players and was not impressed, but saw the possibility of “1000 songs in your pocket.” Before long, he was on his way to creating a breakaway product and the most valuable company in the world.

Sometimes, creating value isn’t strategic as much as it is accidental. Google started not as a company, but as a research project. The invention of post-it notes and penicillin was mostly accidental. Jim Collins, in his classic book, Built to Last , makes the apt observation that many successful businesses start out with little idea what they are going to do.

Despite what many say, the value you create doesn’t have to be unique (even if it is, imitators will spring up soon enough), but it has to be real.

2. How You Will Deliver Value Knowing how you want to create value isn’t enough, you also have to be able to deliver it. Google found that out very quickly when their search engine started crashing Stanford University’s servers and it became clear that clever algorithms weren’t enough. Today, the company maintains massive server farms in order to service billions of searches per day.

In a similar vein, Apple’s quest to give consumers 1000 songs in their pocket would have gone nowhere if they had not had strong manufacturing and development partnerss in Asia, who alerted them when a hard drive capable of delivering the performance they needed to make the iPod a reality became available.

The point is that ideas mean little without the capabilities needed to deliver them. Further, capabilities built up over time can often offer opportunities to create new value.

When Louis Gerstner took over IBM, he quickly realized that breaking up the company would eliminate the capability to provide extensive consulting solutions. Wal-Mart’s superior logistics capability enables it to consistently create value through lower prices.

3. How You Will Capture Value While creating and delivering value are essential, it will all come to naught if you are unable to profit from it. In some businesses, such as retail, this is clear and straightforward, but in others the waters are considerably more murky.

Bars and pubs, for example, create and deliver value through offering a good atmosphere, live music and friendly, efficient staff. However, they often don’t charge for those things, but rather earn money from the mark-up on drinks.

Nowhere is this dilemma clearer than in the media business. For decades, very few publishers have been able to capture value by charging consumers for access. Largely it is advertisers who pay the freight. The New York Times, for example, has gained some revenues through their paywall, but lost it back in the form of falling ad sales.

In his book Free, former Wired editor Chris Anderson, pointed out that as more products become digital and marginal costs fall to zero, it becomes harder to earn money by charging directly for products and services. Obviously, business models have to adapt.

4. Your Business Model Won’t Last In a classic 1960 article in Harvard Business Review, Theodore Levitt urged managers to ask themselves what business they were really in. Were the old railroad companies in the railroad business or the transportation business? Is Hollywood in the movie business or the entertainment business?

Those questions are still interesting, but I’m not sure how relevant they are anymore. Saul Kaplan, in his excellent book, The Business Model Innovation Factory (from which I leaned on heavily for this post) makes the apt observation that business models have become increasingly unstable, rendering not only industries but basic logic vulnerable.

It used to be that a CEO could maintain the same basic formula for creating, delivering and capturing value for his entire career. Now, it’s unlikely to last a decade. What’s more, the cycles are shrinking and returns to scale are diminishing.

Clearly, business models don’t last anymore. In the new, semantic economy that’s emerging, a competitor can spring up and set up financing, manufacturing, distribution promotion and even access to supercomputers from the breakfast table and have them in place by lunch (almost).

A big idea, flawless execution and even a strong track record of success aren’t enough to prevail anymore. Unless you can continually create, deliver and capture value in a changing context, you’re toast.

image credit:

Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation. He is available for consulting and speaking engagements in the areas of digital innovation, innovation management, digital marketing and publishing, as well as offshore web and app development. Check out his site, Digital Tonto and follow him on twitter.

The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part Two Posted on February 5, 2013 by Braden Kelley

I am proud to bring you the second episode in a three part series culminating in a downloadable PDF of the whole piece on The Crowd Computing Revolution and the redesign of work that is now possible thanks to new technology tools and business architecture thinking that will allow man and machine to work more efficiently together than ever before. (If you missed Part One – click here)

Rethinking Who (or What) Does the Work Rise of the Crowd

There is another growing trend that is now rivaling the growing power of robotics and automation – crowdsourcing. It all started with prizes like The Longitude Prize, but now thanks to the power of the Internet, companies and individuals all around the world are breaking down their projects and processes and tapping into the power of the crowd using loosely-organized, non-employee workforces like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to execute micro-tasks, getting whole tasks completed through sites like Top Coder and Crowdspring, or calling upon the crowd to solve difficult challenges using sites like Innocentive, NineSigma, and Idea Connection. Sites like these enable organizations to access knowledge, expertise, perspectives, or capacity that they don’t currently have in their organization (or to possibly to get a task or challenge completed at a lower cost). Check out my white paper Harnessing the Global Talent Pool to Accelerate Innovation to learn more about this topic and some of the strategies for successfully leveraging external talent.

Rise of the Business Architect

Our organizations face an innovation imperative amidst intensifying competition that is forcing an increasing number of industries to become commoditized. This increasing need for a sustained level of innovation and a requirement for innovation to be a repeatable and sustainable activity, has led to an increasing number of organizations to consciously design their approaches to the new businesses that they enter. This has led to the growth of two new business disciplines – business architecture and social business architecture.

Source: National Institute of Health

Business Architecture, according to Wikipedia, is “a modern technology-oriented business occupation‌. Working as a change agent with senior business stakeholders, the business architect plays a key part in shaping and fostering continuous improvement and business transformation initiatives. Business architects lead efforts aiming at building an effective architecture for the business process management (BPM) projects that make up the business change programme. The business architect implements business models that require business technology to work effectively.â€?

Social Business Architecture on the other hand, facilitates and optimizes the group dynamics and interactions inside the organization, and Social Business Architects specialize in identifying the different parts of an organization that need to interact with groups of people outside the organization, how those parts of the organization should work together to communicate with people outside the organization, and help to identify and implement communications solutions that connect the organization with the target groups so that a meaningful connection and conversation can be built, and then helps to manage the conversations and the information and learnings from their outcomes for the benefit of the organization.

Few organizations employ or are even yet aware of the need for Social Business Architects, but there are an increasing number of help wanted postings for Business Architects. This is because not only do organizations recognize the need to architect their new lines of business for maximum efficiency and to , but also because there are so many different ways that work can be executed (employees, contractors, consultants, outsourcing, business process outsourcing (BPO), crowdsourcing, and micro-task execution, that for maximum efficiency it now increasingly requires someone to investigate all of the options, break down the work to be done into jobs, projects and processes, tasks and microtasks so that the right resources can be hired, contracted, briefed, or otherwise engaged to ensure that everything is completed as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

In The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part Three we will look at an example of moving from the design of business to redesigning work for man and machine to work together using crowd computing.

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

Innovation Sighting – Apple’s Smart Shoe Posted on February 2, 2013 by Drew Boyd

A tell-tale sign of the Attribute Dependency Technique is the word “smart” in any product description. Apple’s new patent for ‘smart shoes’ is a case in point. As reported by PSFK:

Apple has patented ‘smart shoes’ that would come with embedded sensors to track your activity and tell you when you needed a new pair. Instead of wearing an additional sensor, people would just have to wear the shoes, where the technology would be less visible and be a more seamless part of your lifestyle than an external tracker. Apple’s shoe wear-out sensor would either feature as a thin built-in layer or be located in the heel. It would include a processor configured to measure the use of the shoes and determine whether they were worn out, and an alarm that informed the wearer when they were no longer providing adequate protection for their feet. As first reported by AppleInsider, the patent described three main components: a detector for sensing how worn-out the shoe becomes, a processor to measure the shoe’s use, and an alarm to inform the owner when the shoe’s time is up. The chosen sensor could be anything from an accelerometer or pressure sensor to a pedometer or piezoelectric flexing sensor.

Attribute Dependency is one of five techniques of the corporate innovation method called SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking). It differs from the other techniques in that it uses attributes (variables) of the situation rather than components. Start with an attribute list, then construct a matrix of these, pairing each against the others. Each cell represents a potential dependency (or potential break in an existing dependency) that forms a Virtual Product. Using Function Follows Form, we work backwards and envision a potential benefit or problem that this hypothetical solution solves.

This isn’t Apple’s first (or last) use of this powerful technique. Apple earned a patent described as an “apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device.” It reveals a way to change aspects of a mobile device based on certain events or surroundings. Given this pattern of using Attribute Dependency, it would appear Apple makes regular use of this technique and perhaps the full suite of SIT tools.

Drew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MSMarketing program. Follow him at and at

Innovation Communities Report Released Posted on February 4, 2013 by Mike Lippitz

This report, published by Nordic Innovation, describes and places in context the emergent phenomenon of Innovation Communities (InnoComms): groups of people who meet regularly to learn from each other about the challenges of managing innovation and entrepreneurship and to build personal and professional networks of supportive colleagues from industries and cultures beyond those they ordinarily encounter.

Participants may come to view themselves in a new way through the experience of trust and support in the community and be inspired to take on the uphill battle of fostering significant change. InnoComms support business growth by helping innovation leaders think in fresh ways and conceive innovation approaches that are differentiated from their industry peers.

Specifically, the report:

• Describes the basis and motivation for InnoComms and distinguishes them from networking organizations that focus on achieving specific business, macroeconomic or social results or on academic research.

• Characterizes and provides twenty-seven case studies from ten countries, placing them in five categories that span business, government, academia and nonprofit sectors. (10 of these cases were previously excerpted and published at

• Analyzes how trust is built and maintained in an InnoComm and how online tools and social media can support InnoComm development (but cannot substitute for in-person meetings).

• Explores how InnoComms may support regional development, such as the creation of “innovation hot spots,” and how the InnoComm phenomenon varies in different societies around the world.

Editor’s Note: The project is still collecting candidate Innovation Communities for its database and would sincerely appreciate it if you would contact them if you know about ones that they should consider including. To participate in the research, please fill out their data form and they will contact you!

image credit:

Mike Lippitz is a Research Fellow with the Center for Research in Technology and Innovation at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC, and a Principal at Clareo Partners LLC. Prior positions include Special Assistant for Strategic Technology Planning in the Office of Director for Defense Research and Engineering, US Department of Defense and product line manager at Hewlett-Packard Company.

Why Your Business Needs More Innovation Posted on February 4, 2013 by Jeffrey Phillips

I was working with a client recently where there’s a real, palpable disconnect between the product managers and the executive team. The product managers believe more innovation is necessary – not simply more new products, but more expansive innovation. They want to pursue new categories, offer dramatically new features and create new to the world products. In addition, they are interested in expanding the definition of innovation to encompass services, experiences and business models.

The executive team, on the other hand, is concerned about profitability, efficiency and effectiveness. They want innovation, but they want to know why more innovation is in order. And if more innovation is in order, why does that new innovation have to include new to the world products and/or new services or business models. Why do we need more innovation than we did previously, and what forces are requiring us to expand our definition of innovation? This is a perfectly acceptable question, and one we innovators need to have good answers for.

Porter’s Five Forces As a newly minted MBA in the early 90s, I was entranced by Porter’s Five Forces model. Basically, it’s a model that examines forces on an industry. The model should help executives in any industry parse the changes and threats and determine responses. The model is as good a place as any to start thinking about the need for more, and different, innovation.

Three of these forces that we think drive the need for more innovation, and more broadly defined innovation:

New Entrants Every market has new entrants, and newer entrants and competitors are less invested in the way things used to work within the industry or market, and more interested in disrupting how things work in an industry. Barriers to entry are falling in many industries, leading to new entrants from other industries or geographies and new entrepreneurs. These new entrants offer new products, services and business models that weren’t considered before.

Buyer Power Thanks to the internet and a wealth of information on the web, buyers have far more power, and far more options, than they had previously, and this will only increase over time. As buyer power grows, firms must counter by offering products and services tailored to the buyers’ needs, and providing experience and information that matters.

Alternatives and Substitutes Increasing, thanks to advances in technology and more efficient trade, there are often many more alternatives or substitutes for products or services than there were previously, and this fact too will continue to increase. Find French red wine too expensive? Look no further than Australian Shiraz or Argentine Malbecs. Customer have choices and alternatives, so our products and services must be more differentiated or more compelling. Old, tired offerings are no longer good enough.

Pace of Change One factor that Porter leaves out is the pace of change. The pace of change is accelerating at an ever-increasing rate, and leading to discontinuities in the market. In the past, we designed products and services in the expectation of long product life cycles, hoping for a return over years or even decades. The increasing demands and the pace of change are dramatically shortening product life cycles, to the extent that manufacturing is returning to the US, in order to be far more responsive to changes in consumer tastes and the ability to fulfill orders quickly.

It’s a race In auto racing, the pack starts out together and the leaders are just slightly ahead of the laggards. Over time, however, the leaders pull away and begin to lap the laggards, moving further ahead in the race based on speed and agility. This metaphor describes what’s happening in your markets. Often we hear clients say that they believe they are innovating at the same speed as their traditional competitors. That’s only one important measurement. There are at least two others:

Speed of change in the market Are you introducing new products and services at the speed and expectation of the market? Merely matching your traditional competitors may mean that you are drafting on one of the laggards, not a leader. What is the pace of change that consumers expect?

Shifts in expectations Are you introducing the range of products and services that align to customer needs and expectations, and are you aware of the products and services offered by new entrants or substitutes to your existing products? Subtle shifts quickly become landslides. As products become commoditized, consumers expect innovation as new products, but also as enhanced experiences, services, channels and business models. If you don’t believe that, put down the $5 bottle of Fiji water and drink tap water for a while.

Speed of change based on new entrants and substitutes The real accelerator of any market isn’t the entrenched players but the new entrants and the products or services that offer substitutes. What is the pace of change of new players in your market? What new concepts or solutions do they offer, and what changes do those offerings inflict in the market?

Why does your business need more innovation? Because the older model of long product cycles, limited competition and complacent consumers with little information is dying, and a newer, faster competitive model that relies on more information, more readily available, with lower costs of entry and more competitors and substitutes is growing.

image credit: innovate image from bigstock

Jeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of Relentless Innovation and the blog Innovate on Purpose.

The Crowd Computing Revolution – Part Three Posted on February 7, 2013 by Braden Kelley

I am proud to bring you the third episode in a three part series culminating in a downloadable PDF of the whole piece on The Crowd Computing Revolution and the redesign of work that is now possible thanks to new technology tools and business architecture thinking that will allow man and machine to work more efficiently together than ever before. (click for Part 1 or Click for Part 2)

Investigating Examples of Crowd Computing Moving from The Design of Business to Redesigning Work

Business Architects have the opportunity to plan for the organization how work can move from mystery to heuristics to algorithms to code. Business Architects (or people filling this role in an organization) have the opportunity to redesign work in the most efficient way possible to leverage both man and machine to get the work done at the lowest cost possible. Technology now exists to allow Business Architects and managers to move beyond allocating work on a job, project, or process basis, and instead design flexible workflows that combine the use of humans and machines to complete the tasks that they are best suited for, or even for humans to augment the work of machines.

For example, imagine that you work in the purchasing department at a large multinational and every month you receive hundreds or thousands of invoices from suppliers all over the world in all different kinds of formats – electronic, mailed paper invoices, PDFs, scanned paper invoices, and even faxed invoices. Your job as purchasing (or accounts payable) manager is to track all of the invoices that you receive, get them entered into your ERP system, and ultimately make sure that they get paid. You can hire or use an existing employee or contractor to manually key them all in, or sign a big dollar outsourcing deal sufficient to support the hiring, training, and management of offshore resources by the outsourcer, or you could try and use OCR software to do the job, but it would fail because of the great deal of variability in both the input sources and formatting of the documents and you’ll end up needing human resources to interpret the OCR output anyways.

Or, you could examine the workflow of the process and identify which micro-tasks humans are best suited to perform and which micro-tasks machines are most efficient and cost-effective at performing. Then assign the right micro-task to the right resource. In the case of human resources, this could be an employee, a contractor, an external expert, or even a resource you don’t even know or control (via a crowd workforce like Amazon Mechanical Turk, Elance, etc.). And finally for each micro-task, assign a level of confidence in the quality of the assigned resource’s output and a define a process for grading it. In situations where you have a high level of confidence in the micro-task’s output quality, you can move directly on to the next micro-task in the workflow, but if you have a low level of confidence in a particular microtask output performed by a machine, assign an alternate process to validate that output (such as using someone via Amazon Mechanical Turk to validate that “yes, this is a purchase order number”).

But that is not all that is possible these days. It is now possible for systems that facilitate the management of this kind of atomized work structure definition and workflow management and assignment, like those from Crowd Computing Systems, to also use artificial intelligence to both learn from the corrections that humans are making to a machine-driven, micro-task execution to get more accurate in the future, but also to learn how to do micro-tasks that humans are currently performing without machine assistance and to help identify the best performing crowd resources to inform work allocation decisions and to perform overall output quality optimization.


In much the same way that outsourcing felt awkward 20-25 years ago and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) felt foreign a decade ago, the time has come for crowd computing to begin to be a tool that managers and Business Architects can keep in their toolbox to better allocate work across man and machine. The time is now for man and machine to work together in ways that they never have before, and to learn from each other. The time has come for businesses and work to not just be operated and executed, but designed for maximum efficiency. Should we be afraid as workers that the machines are going to take away our jobs and leave us with nothing to do?

No. In much the same way that tractors and steam shovels began freeing man and beast from back breaking work nearly two hundred years ago, there are many benefits for man to gain from the crowd computing revolution – the biggest being freedom from an increasing amount of mind numbing work. Organizations that embrace crowd computing stand to gain not only to potentially lower processing costs for many high volume processes, but also will benefit from acquiring the ability to reassign analysts and other highly-skilled and trained employees to higher value work – better leveraging their existing human resources while simultaneously increasing employee satisfaction, retention, and knowledge creation in the enterprise. Are you ready for the crowd computing revolution?

Click Here to Download The Crowd Computing Revolution PDF


Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

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Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 19  

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