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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Innovation’ Category

Fostering Organically Grown Innovation – Insights From the Art of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on March 16, 2014

I just got done trimming some of my bonsai trees.  What always fascinates me is how branches seem to show up in the most unlikely places.   Yet, while the origin of a particular branch baffles me, to the branch growing out of the tree, it made sense.

Somehow, the protobranch saw an opportunity.

Somehow that tree responded to the amount of light being received, the overall stress levels, temperature, soil conditions, nourishment demands, and it sent out branches in the most unlikely, and sometime unwanted(!), places (at least for the artist). Not all these branches will become large, at least without some eventual outside help. But, these branches spring up and, while they take up resources, they also contribute to the overall health of the tree as they leaf, flower and sometimes, even bear fruit.

From a bonsai perspective, these branches are sometimes pruned away so they don’t take energy away from other parts of the tree that, at least in the bonsai artist’s mind, need more.  But, many times, these rogue branches are left – precisely because of the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph - they contribute to the well-being of the tree.  These fledgling branches, while pulling nourishment from the tree’s roots, also send nourishment back to the entire tree.  In the process they contribute to building up the vascular system of the tree and ‘fattening’ up the trunk and all the rest of the branches.   They help make the tree more robust and able to withstand lean times, or environmental stressors in the future.

Innovation efforts in many companies are like these branches.  They pop up, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and often avoid detection until someone finds out about them and then wants to eliminate them.

Don’t!

These budding innovation efforts are organic - it’s not an accident that they showed up inside a specific company at a specific time! They should be welcomed and examined, not elicit shock and disdain (“What are you working on this for!?”).  After all, they came from the company’s roots.  Somehow these proto-innovation efforts sensed an opportunity.  Due to internal or external stressors, market dynamics, serendipitous inter-employee communications, or any combination of myriad variables, a person sensed that now was the time to start making an idea manifest in the world.

An innovation branch is born…

What’s next?

Leave it alone and let it grow for a while where it started.

Again, it’s an organic growth in a specific time and place, trying to mature where it started.  Try and put more light on that dark nook where the tiny branch is budding, try and cut it off and transplant it somewhere else, trim too much of the surrounding foliage, and it’ll die, or start growing in a different manner.  Same thing with new innovation efforts.  Shine corporate spotlights on it, try and move it somewhere else, put other people on it, change the corporate structure and it could very well die.  If nothing else, it will stumble.

New efforts need to grow where they start, at least for a while.  They will contribute to the corporate whole in subtle but real ways. The knowledge being obtained from the budding effort, the synergies being developed, these all feed back into the organic whole and contribute to its growth – if they’re allowed to.

Another reason to let these innovation branches grow for a while is that the world is unpredictable.  A sudden storm, intense winter, drought, animals, a move to another location, or a combination of many other issues, can cause severe damage to a bonsai tree.  After the dust clears, often those branches that played the main role are damaged beyond repair.  Those little branches in the sheltered nooks, that grew in the shadows, they are the ones that survive and enable the tree to continue its life. Will it look like the old tree?  Most likely not, but, the tree will survive.

So too with innovation efforts.  When market dynamics change, sometimes quickly, a company can’t adjust quickly enough and it’s the little innovation efforts that are well poised to take the corporation into the next era.  Those little, pesky, organic, innovation projects, that were perhaps unwanted, are the very projects that will enable a corporation to survive.

There are times and places to trim back branches, sometimes heavily.  But, if you want innovative diversity, resiliency and robustness, pay attention to those new little buds popping up.  They are a sign of life, a sign that the company is interacting with the world around it, a sign that people are thinking, interacting, and dreaming.

Then…

…leave them alone for a while…

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How Monsanto Should Be Innovating

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2013

It seems that every week someone mentions something about Monsanto, and it’s very seldom good.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or the news, someone is saying something.  A simple perusal of a Google Search of “Monsanto” can give one the impression that the company is a litigious giant  that doesn’t care about the well-being of people or the environment and instead is only concerned with making money.  Monsanto even has the dubious distinction of being named “The Most Evil Corporation” of 2013 in a Natural News poll.

Never the less, as far as corporations go, Monsanto is doing very well.  In spite of the bad press and mounting negative public opinion over GMO‘s, Monsanto continues to grow, innovating, patenting and licensing the agricultural technologies they develop.

Even though Monsanto  licenses its technologies to other seed companies,  many in the public perceive Monsanto as taking advantage of farmers as opposed to helping them.  After all, companies generally don’t sue their customers (even if any money won in a case does go to youth scholarship programs.)

To be fair, they really can’t be blamed for  protecting their intellectual property.  When a company invests millions of dollars a day in research, if it allowed people to use their technology in an unlicensed manner, the business could not sustain itself.

But, there is another way…

(Farmers are) the support system of the world’s economy, working day in and day out to feed, clothe and provide energy for our world. – Monsanto’s About Us webpage

There are literally millions and millions of farmers in the world. Small farms, large farms and everything in-between.  Ultimately, everyone wants the same thing: Improved, sustainable yields that don’t hurt people or the environment, but yet enable farmers to make a living.

Farmers are passionate about their calling. Each one is looking for an edge, for a way to get the most for the least amount of investment in time and money.  Each one is dealing with local microclimates, soil conditions, and pests; not to mention the economic climates.  They seek out new information, they build and utilize support networks, they experiment.  They are entrepreneurs. (Check out Farm Journal for just a tiny sample of the varied topics farmers digest)

Monsanto, as mentioned before, spends over 2 million dollars a day on research and patents are only good for 20 years (and some of the patents they’re defending now are expiring within the next few years.)  They employ 22,000 people worldwide. No matter how much they invest in R&D, or how many people they hire, they can never account for  all the variables farmers around the world deal with.

So what should they do?

Monsanto needs to begin Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Co-Creation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Open Source, Science, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Minds.com – THE Open Source Portal to the Social Web

Posted by Plish on October 4, 2013

I clicked on the link in Facebook and was brought to a matrix of videos, pictures, words…information.  I scrolled down, clicked…

Amazing… share it…

Scroll…

Click…

Wow…share it…

Welcome to Minds.com

Who are they?

We are organizing the world’s free information and liberating the people of the net through dedication to decentralization, creative commons and digital democracy.  You are a co-creator of this network.

We want to build an app with every active free and open source project on the Internet in order to create a legitimate universal alternative to closed-source surveillance corporations like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon and so on.  This includes search, social networking, clouds, video, images, docs, maps, video chat, markets, mobile and even alternative currencies.  We still want to share and interact with those networks in many cases, but we don’t want to be reliant on them at all.

Motivated by the centralization of power of the Twitters, Facebooks, Googles, etc., Minds.com will decentralize the social web and offer people choices – three of them when you sign up:

1. Create a channel on Minds.  (Just like you would make a profile on other social nets)

2. Launch a social network on Minds. (Your own customized version of our entire site that we host for you)

3. Download the code and host it all yourself.  (The decentralized option at Minds.org)

A great description of their philosophy and everything they’re doing is here.

This isn’t what everybody’s been calling Web 3.0

This is disruption

Co-creating and empowering

A Maker Movement for the Social Web

Think about a future where social networks are democratized, where information is shared across platforms, where the control is in your hands…

~Dream~

As of the time of writing, there was 352 days, 6 hours & 20 minutes until the free code would be released.

Until then, head on over to Minds.com, join in the fun and start building the social web that you want.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you envision this being used?

 

Posted in Co-Creation, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Maker Movement, Open Source, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Society, The Future, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

5 Insights Into Innovation From the Coyote

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2013

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Every once in a while when I’m out jogging, I’ll come across a coyote. They look at me, turn, and go in the other direction – disappearing into a thicket along the trail.  I also hear them yipping with pups, or I hear local packs of coyotes join in with choruses of their own when a distant ambulance siren pierces the night.  Yet most people don’t see coyotes all that often.

But just because most people don’t see coyotes doesn’t mean they’re not around.  On the contrary, coyotes are, quite literally, everywhere.  In fact, coyotes, in spite of their habitats being modified, and open hunting seasons, are one of the few animals that has actually increased the extent of its domain over time.

Think of it.  They are competing for food and land under intense pressure and thriving!

So, what are the main reasons for this, and what can we learn from the wily Coyote? (The word itself is an Aztec derivative of the word meaning ‘Trickster.”)

1. Coyotes adjust their diet based upon what’s available.  When they find certain types of food getting scarce, they’re willing to go after other types of food.   How willing are most companies to venture out of the comfort space and adjust how they ‘feed’ themselves? What new channels do you utilize?

2. As coyotes spread Northeast, they mated with wolves, or more properly, allowed themselves to breed with wolves, who were in the decline due to hunting.  This resulted in bigger coyotes that could take on bigger prey. Now there is evidence that they’re breeding with domestic dogs – the results of which are unknown because this is still an experiment in the making.  Is your organization willing to intimately partner with others to create even more powerful ‘offspring’?

3. Coyotes breed quickly.  Compared to other predatory canines, coyotes reproduce more quickly.  This enables them to stay ahead of the game, even under predatory pressure and open hunting.  Is your organization reproducing itself, creating multiple channels to have a better chance at survival?  (Google is especially good at this.)

4. Coyotes are relentless in forcing others to play by their rules.  Where coyotes are taking advantage of clear-cut forests to prey on the young of an endangered caribou species, the only way to save the caribou right now, is to stop clear cutting the forest.  Is your company taking advantage of  market dynamics so effectively that you’re forcing the game to change?

5.  Coyotes constantly push the edges of their boundaries.  They look for opportunities to expand their domains. How effectively are you probing the edge of what you don’t know? 

Larry Ellis, in his essay, “Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal” perhaps summarizes innovation best when speaking of the Trickster genre (Replace the references to ‘Trickster’ with the word ‘Innovation’):”Trickster creates through destruction and succeeds through failure; his mythic and cultural achievements are seldom intentional. “Defining such a various creature,” writes Jarold Ramsey, “is a little like trying to juggle hummingbirds””

Yes, innovation can be like trying to juggle hummingbirds.  But, with these 5 insights into the method behind the coyote’s madness, the juggling becomes much more manageable and the results, intentional.

Posted in Best Practices, creativity, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Evolution, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Makers – The New Industrial Revolution (Book Review)

Posted by Plish on February 7, 2013

The other day I picked up a copy of Makers – The New Industrial Revolution, by Chris Anderson.

It’s an exploration of the Maker movement and its place on the world-wide stage.

If I could sum up this book with one word it would  be:

Inspirational

Yes, inspirational.

He makes a good case for the argument that the Maker movement is here to stay and it’s buttressed by enthusiastic people who are empowered by the democratization of manufacturing technologies worldwide.  Indeed, as one chapter is entitled, “We Are All Designers Now.”

We can all take part in designing and manufacturing products, and even help each other in the process.  The internet is the great equalizer and it enables people to reach each other, and niches that, while perhaps not in the millions, are substantive enough to enable the development and growth of business.  The internet also gives access to manufacturing methodologies such as 3-D printing, laser cutting, and CNC machining, making the machine shop as close as your laptop.

He cites multiple case studies of companies (including his own) that leverage technology and the power of crowds (which is also the power of individual dreams) to build sustainable businesses.

The book is an easy, clean read.  There is some minor redundancy in writing style but it’s not off-putting.  Also, if you already are familiar with manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing, there are small chunks of the book that won’t give you any new information.

I’ve already shared this book with a friend who is involved in artistic co-creation, and this book excited him as well.

If you’d like to learn more about the Maker movement, if you’d like to be inspired by stories of how Makers are redefining manufacturing business worldwide, if you want to understand how Maker businesses have the potential to expand and become disruptive economic machines, you do want to read this book.

Ignore it at your own risk.

 

************

There’s a great interview with Chris Anderson, about the Maker movement, over at Wharton.

 

Posted in Arts, Books, Case Studies, Co-Creation, creativity, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Innovation Tools, invention, Open Source, problem solving, Reviews, Social Networking, Start-Ups, The Future, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Finding the Real Niches for 3D Printing

Posted by Plish on February 3, 2013

3-D printing is cool and it has its place, but we keep asking it to do everything.  We want it to be the go-to technology for making toys, utensils, art, food, etc.   And yes, there are companies like Ponoko that are built around these technologies, and they’re quite successful, but the question still needs to be asked:

Are we using 3-D printing tech to its strengths?

Neil Gershenfeld of MIT, and author of Fab:The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop, sums it up well by saying:”…The killer app for digital fabrication is personal fabrication. Not to make what you can buy in Wal-Mart, but to make what you can’t buy at Wal-Mart.”

To “make what you can’t buy at Walmart.”

That’s exactly the point!

Yet, if you look at what 3-D printing is being used for, with the exception of some creative art and its use by architectural and design firms, 3-D printing is, by and large, being used to make what can be bought at Walmart, or some other store.

Recently Nokia, in its attempt to ride the buzz of 3-D printing, started providing files so that people can print their own phone cases. Yes, people with some 3-D design software acumen can make their own cases, and no doubt will come up with some really cool ideas.  But, the point remains, these same parts can be bought finished and then customized with colors, overlays, etc., and (this is a biggie) no software knowledge is required.

So that brings me to the main point of this post.

If 3-D printing is ever going to truly blossom and be a force to reckoned with, it needs to be more than just another way to do something that is already being done.  It needs to stand on its own as a technology that says, “Only I can do this and without me you will never see this come to fruition!”

For that statement to be made, we first must truly understand the strengths of 3-D printing technologies.  Once we know what can and can’t be done, we can then look for those problems for which 3-D printing is the ultimate solution.  It’s a little bit backward to think this way, but it often happens that new technologies start as solutions looking for problems.

So, let’s put the power of the web to work and crowdsource the future of 3-D printing. To do that, we need to answer the following questions:

What is it that 3-D printing can do that other technologies can’t?

Where are 3-D printing’s strengths?

What can 3-D printing do that molding technologies or machining, or thermoforming can’t do?

Here’s a quick, short list to get the ball rolling:

  • Make things in layers
  • It can create by controlled melting/bonding and curing type processes
  • Can make hollow objects
  • Can make objects within objects
  • Can reproduce digital data in 3-D (This enables us to hold something that otherwise can’t be held, i.e. Using CT scan data to build skulls for surgical planning)
  • ???

I’m sure there is more that can be added to this list.  Please share what you think 3-D printing does well.   Feel free to either comment here or on twitter, use  #3Dstrengths.  I’ll compile the responses and let’s see if we can’t find a niche for 3-D printing that brings real, sustainable value beyond what 3-D printing is being used for today. If you have a niche idea, use #3Dniches.

Thanks and looking forward to the responses!!

Posted in Arts, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Open Source, problem solving, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Thoughts on 3D Printing and…

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2012

Zintro recently blogged on the future of 3D printing. My thoughts are quoted in the article along with those of some colleagues.

In short, 3D printing (in all its facets) still isn’t on the ‘verge’ of launching into the mainstream.  Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for 3D printing in the world.  I use it myself for testing product fit and function.  But, even with newer materials being developed all the time, there are still limitations, especially for the ‘home printing’ demographic.

There’s also the problem with designing parts on your computer.  Before anything can be printed it needs to first exist in the digital realm. In other words, the part needs to be built twice- virtually before it can be made in actuality.

The expertise to do this isn’t there yet.  Computer Aided Design programs are pretty complicated.  Even newer ones like Autodesk 123D, while they’re simpler, are not suited to anything other than the simplest parts.   At the end of the design process, if someone isn’t willing to plunk down from $500-$5000,  the model has to be sent to a place like Ponoko to be made.

So what does that mean?

There are some cool applications for 3D printing, especially in the medical realm. Still, the perfect fit for something that’s built layer by layer hasn’t been found.

Which brings me to another technology that’s slipped under the radar.  While 3D printing’s promise of “You can make anything for yourself at any time!” is capturing headlines, this other technology is low-cost and capable of creating more than just toys.

~Arduino~

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform.  The parts are easy to find at a Radio Shack or online.  To bring those parts to life, one needs to learn to program, and programming is a language.

Learning this language is within the reach of anyone with access to the internet or bookstore.  With some basic knowledge, and tapping into a wealth of online expertise, you can design interactive products and environments.

Here’s a video from one of the founders of Arduino.  He echoes many of my sentiments but one line is particularly memorable:

“You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.”

The whole concept of intellectual property and patents will face some serious reckoning in the next 10 years.

Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Open Source, software, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When US Healthcare Delivery Meets The Cheesecake Factory: The Stuff Innovation is Made of

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2012

 

What do the U.S. healthcare delivery system and The Cheesecake Factory have in common?

According to Dr. Atul Gawande, potentially a great deal.  The Dr. recently penned an article over at The New Yorker called, “Big Med.”  Inspired by his experience at The Cheesecake Factory (TCF), he wondered if perhaps there weren’t some way that the system at The Cheesecake Factory could be used as a pattern for US healthcare delivery.  After all, TCF delivers millions of meals in a cost-effective and profitable manner – why couldn’t the healthcare system treat millions of people in a cost-effective and profitable manner?

The Dr. shares that, indeed, there are already some clinicians implementing TCF-esque solutions.  While the Dr. doesn’t bring it up,    this article over at The Economist, highlights how healthcare delivery is undergoing innovation in India - reflecting in many ways, Dr. Gawande’s TCF inspired vision.

In response, Steve Denning at Forbes, wrote an article entitled: “How Not to Fix US Healthcare: Copy The Cheesecake Factory.”  Mr. Denning thought that Dr. Gawande was way off base using The Cheesecake Factory as a pattern.  He cited Innovation Scholar, Clayton Christensen, and then claimed that Dr. Gawande’s argument is flawed in these ways:

1.Wrong question
2.Wrong knowledge model
3.Wrong management model
4.Wrong conclusions about scaling

In actuality the above discussion is  both/and vs. either/or.  When trying to come up with truly innovative solutions, the goal is to take two or more ideas/metaphors, slam them together, and see what comes out of the mix.

Personally, I think Dr. Gawande’s perspective is highly provocative and has something going for it. His thinking isn’t ‘pie in the sky.’ There is, as the Dr. demonstrates, plenty of room for standardization and better management of spending/costs without sacrificing care.  Precisely because the TCF model is, on first blush, so different from the healthcare world and yet similar with regards to servicing millions in a cost-effective, profitable manner, that we will benefit greatly from creating a synthesis between healthcare delivery and what goes on in The Cheesecake Factory.

We should smash the TCF metaphor up against current healthcare practices and see what comes out of it.  That’s where great innovation will come from!    After all, the Cheesecake Factory IS successful and is doing something right. Many healthcare institutions in India ARE doing something right. The doctors in Dr. Gawande’s article ARE doing something right, saving money and improving outcomes.   There’s got to be something we can learn, be inspired by, and perhaps  implement and test, when metaphors dance into a tertium quid.

It doesn’t further discussions, and in fact limits solutions, to caricature Dr. Gawande’s insights.  Instead of claiming, as Mr. Denning did, that everything is “wrong” with Dr. Gawande’s vision, the discussion would be furthered by full-hearted listening, combining of metaphor, and dreaming of what can be.

I think the discussion would be even better if done over a meal at The Cheesecake Factory.

Posted in Best Practices, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Healthcare, innovation, problem solving, Service Design, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

An UltraShort Video Course in Innovation

Posted by Plish on August 10, 2012

People tend to have preconceptions about what innovation means.  Here’s one way of looking at it.

Posted in Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Great New Tool for Collaboration (and More!) – Use a ‘Big Marker’

Posted by Plish on July 19, 2012

What do GoTo Meeting, Dropbox, and Ning have in common?

Not much really.

So, if you want to web conference, share files and create a community presence on the web, you need to subscribe to all the above services and maybe more.

Enter Big Marker.

BigMarker.com is a one-stop shop – and the majority of features are free.  Those that aren’t are very reasonably priced. And, there’s nothing to download; it’s all web-based.

Seth Godin describes a tribe as, “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea;” it’s people with, “a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Big Marker is essentially a tribe builder.

Public or private, project management or social widgets, educate or elucidate, Big Marker can help you innovate!

~Would love to hear your experiences using Big Marker~

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Education, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Start-Ups, Team-Building, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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