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Archive for the ‘Funding 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…

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

Want to Make a Difference as a Volunteer, Without Leaving Home?

Posted by Plish on February 7, 2012

I recently was followed by @benrigby over on Twitter.  I checked out his profile and was  intrigued to say the least.

You see, Ben is the CEO of Sparked.com, a microvolunteering platform.  I had heard of microfinance, but microvolunteering?

So, I went over to his site, checked it out, and was thoroughly impressed.

Such a simple idea and such an elegant solution.

I joined on the spot and began reading about the challenges people have…and shared some proposed solutions.   The best thing about this site is that once you start reading about what people need, it’s almost impossible not to help and give your two cents, because Sparked.com has made it so simple. (The only thing that I can’t find, but that would be really helpful, is a way to bookmark individual challenges that catch your eye but you can’t get to at the moment.)

You can also use the Sparked platform to engage your employees  or your customers in volunteer causes.   What better way to build a esprit de corps or brand identity, than through volunteering?

Check it all out for yourself.  You’ll be glad you did!

Posted in Crowdsourcing, Design, Funding Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

An Innovative Model for Fundraising and Fomenting Change

Posted by Plish on October 5, 2011

This week I’m sharing a guest blog post (with a video showing some of their work) from Jimmy Lee, a co-founder of CreatePossible*.   He’s an inspiring dynamo of a person whose words, vision and innovative perspectives will surely inspire you.  So, without any further ado…

***

It has been almost four years since I left the White House in Washington DC and three years since I decided to run for the United States Congress in the State of Illinois. Since that time I decided I would come alongside strategic leaders in communities around the world to help them fulfill their vision of making a difference in communities they are a part of.

Two years ago my brother and I came together to start a company called CREATE POSSIBLE  to do just that . Together we were able to help numerous organizations/leaders raise $22 million dollars last year through three core values we believe in: relationship building, sustainability, and also partnerships.

As I’m learning from those around me (who are doing this so much better than myself) I thought I would find a way to share those lessons with you.

Each of you have been someone I have worked with in the past and I know your heart is to help the organization you are a part of to be strategic and innovative.

First lesson: What are some questions your organization should be asking in relation to your donors/investors?

1.) How is a donor/investor/corporation growing and reaching their own “personal” goals through their partnership with you?

2.) Is your organization measuring success by the number of givers/investor you attain or by funding amounts? What should success for the work you are doing be measured by?

3.) Do you only communicate with your givers/investors when you need money or when you are fundraising? How else can you be caring for them, communicating with them, and building a relationship with them?

4.) Do you still value your friendship and relationship with potential givers/investors even if they decide not to give to me? Is your relationship with these people based primarily on that?

5.) Do you have opportunities for givers/investors to donate outside of financial means – what does it look like for them to donate their time, their skills, their relationships, their network, etc…

6.) If you wanted a giver/investor to be an advocate for you to their network and their friends- would they be able to do that? What does it mean for someone to be an advocate of the work you are doing? Are we providing opportunities for that and coming alongside so they are successful in being able to share with their friends?

7.) Are you learning to be innovative as an organization in the different areas of development – or are you just copying from other models because it works and you assume it will work for us as well too?

8.) Are you too broad in what you are doing – do you need to be more specific and focused as you are looking to be more strategic in utilizing your resources?

9.) Are you learning to take steps one at a time – valuing the journey you are taking with your giver/investors and helping everyone in your network learn and learn through your partnership together?

10.) And finally, do you have too much staff and not stewarding your resources wisely? Are you raising money for the sake of raising money and quite honestly need to be cutting instead of adding?

What do we believe:

Old Model of Fundraising/Development

Organization —— Network —— Fundraising

In the old model of fundraising an organization accesses their network for the purpose of fundraising.

Success is defined by the number of donors attained and the amount of money that is raised.

New Model of Fundraising/Development

Organization —— Network —— Advocates —— Investor

We believe there is a more strategic model where success is defined by mutually beneficial relationships, partnership, and accountability. Here an organization accesses their network so they can become advocates of the organization and eventually investors to the organization. We look for opportunities where the network is valued for more than just their financial resources but valued for their own personal network, their skills, time, etc….The goal of the model is to create investors who are accountable and deeply involved in helping the organization fulfill the vision it was created for.

 

*- The CreatePossible site is glitchy in IE v9, but runs beautifully in Chrome.

Posted in Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, innovation, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Society, Start-Ups, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

In the Medical Device Industry? – Check Out Knobbe Medical Device Group

Posted by Plish on July 28, 2011

Are you a medical device start-up?

If not, are you looking for:

– news about medical device companies?

– medical device oriented conferences in your area?

– legal insights into the world of medical devices?

– suppliers, manufacturers and consultants that know their way around the medical device industry?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above then check out KnobbeMedical.

Started by the Intellectual Property attorneys of Knobbe Martens, the website is a great resource for those in the medical device industry.

Personally, I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the information that’s available. If there is anything negative about the site it’s that the page design isn’t overly friendly.  There is so much information that it can be somewhat laborious to drill down to get the information you need. 

Nevertheless, don’t let that discourage you.  It’s well worth spending some time at the Knobbe Medical site.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, innovation, Medical Devices, patents, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons in Design Process from the Egyptian Pyramids

Posted by Plish on October 26, 2009

Since the ancient Egyptians didn’t technically document their design process, I decided to do some reading and tease out the process that they used to design and construct the pyramids.  What I came up with is diagrammed below.  

pyramiddesign michaelplishka2009

Click to See Full Size

Their overarching concern was obvious: build a suitable eternal home for their ruler in a limited time

These constraints (italicized in the above sentence) bounded their design/build process.  If we agree with video game developer, Dino Dini, that the definition of a design process is, ‘the management of (negotiable and non-negotiable) constraints,” then in fact the Egyptians were indeed using a design process as they were accutely active in managing some very basic constraints:

1.  Materials

2.  Workers

3.  Guiding Perspectives on the Afterlife (Providing for the needs of the dead)

4.  Manufacturing/Construction/Artistic Techniques (Technology + Art)

5.  Time

Of the above 5 constraints,  two constraints  were non-negotiable: ‘Guiding Perspectives on the Afterlife’ and ‘Time’.

Their Perspectives on the Afterlife dictated what must be contained in the tomb from foodstuffs to boats, to how the tomb was constructed. 

Time, or rather, time to the death of the ruler, was a powerful, non-negotiable constraint.  The structure basically had to be completed in time for the entombment.

These two constraints impacted the other three constraints as is clear from the archeological record.   The materials used, the technologies chosen for building aspects of the tomb, the abandonment of various aspects of the tomb and focus on other areas, the use of more or less workers, the change in architectural layout during the course of construction, all these were done in response to the non-negotiable constraints.

While managing these constraints they were basically following the User Centered Design process as spelled out in ISO 13407 and summarized below:

Courtesy of devx.com

Only they were doing it over 5000 years ago…

Posted in creativity, Design, Funding Innovation, imagination, invention, Life Stages, problem solving, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Invention the Mother of Economic Recovery

Posted by Plish on June 28, 2009

comic

Great Op-Ed piece over at the New York times.

Thomas Friedman, inspired by a conference he recently attended,  waxes about ways of getting out of the current economic crisis.  He paints an interesting picture of Russia as a one-trick pony, economically speaking – in essence, oil is Russia’s only business and when oil prices are low, they’re in trouble.

He ends with this great quote:

Lately, there has been way too much talk about minting dollars and too little about minting our next Thomas Edison, Bob Noyce, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Vint Cerf, Jerry Yang, Marc Andreessen, Sergey Brin, Bill Joy and Larry Page. Adding to that list is the only stimulus that matters. Otherwise, we’re just Russia with a printing press.

Humans are inherently creative-they want to create and express themselves in some way.  One of the best countries (if not the best) for people to express their creativity and make a living from it is the United States of America.

Seems to me that with the right environment, an environment empowering people instead of rewarding colossal failure,  recovery would be on the way.

What do you think about these perspectives?

Posted in Design, Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, innovation, invention, Nature of Creativity, Start-Ups, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Joy de vivre, Inc – Crowdsourcing Product Development

Posted by Plish on March 23, 2009

Do you have a design or product you’d like to see manufactured and sold?

Joydevivre.orgis a crowdsourced innovation portal for people to submit product ideas and eventually make money from them. 

The concept is simple.  You send them a design.  They pre-sell it.  If they sell enough, they make the tooling and invest in the manufacturing using the proceeds from the pre-sales to cover costs. The original designer gets a royalty from the sale.

What do you think of this idea?

Posted in Crowdsourcing, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, innovation, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Guy Kawasaki On The Need To Innovate

Posted by Plish on February 26, 2009

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

Came across this interview with Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, who is the founder of alltop.com.

According to Kawasaki:

Innovation isn’t a lightning bolt of inspiration in the middle of a muse. More often than not, it’s a process of grinding, cogitating, and doubting. There truly is no shortcut to innovation.

True indeed!

He continues:

The most beautiful trend in innovation is that it’s getting cheaper to innovate for many types of products. Two gals in a garage using MySQL, PHP, Rails, and WordPress can do a lot of damage now-indeed, this puts large companies at risk. A second beautiful trend is that you can deploy innovation faster and cheaper now with Web-based products and services compared to the old days when you physically shipped out upgrade kits and manuals.

Very accurate as well.

What I would like to add though, is that people need to to innovate outside the internet as well and the road seems more rocky for them and harder to chart.    I realize this interview is in an IT magazine, but in general, it seems to me that innovation is become more synonymous with techinnovation.  I believe this is happening because, as Kawasaki pointed out, tech innovation is more accessible to the masses-  heck we use it every day!

Then there is the financial allure of getting out of the corporate craziness…

So, given what Kawasaki points out about innovation, especially in the tech realm, my challenge to all is this:

How can innovation that is not web based get the same leverage as web-based, tech innovations with low start up costs, low overhead, etc?

Posted in Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, Guy Kawasaki, innovation, Interviews, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Funding Innovation – A Plan That People Will Support

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2009

(Michael Plishka 2009)

copyright 2009

I don’t remember who it was that turned me on to this Facebook group.  Whoever it was, “Thank You!”

The plan is simple: Provide millions of dollars to fund start-ups through venture capitalists (or other efficient mechanisms) instead of trying to bailout the BIG Failures (GM, etc.).  If even a small percentage of these start-ups hits, that’s some major job creation. 

No hocus pocus, no waste…Just innovation at work.

Thomas L Friedman over at the New York Times wrote this  op-ed piece that consolidates and solidifies the plan. Says Friedman:

If we are going to be spending billions of taxpayer dollars, it can’t only be on office-decorating bankers, over-leveraged home speculators and auto executives who year after year spent more energy resisting changes and lobbying Washington than leading change and beating Toyota.

I personally am in touch with multiple start-ups in the High-Tech and Medical markets that are screaming for funding.  A million spent on each of these would do more than a billion in the pockets of GM.

What are your thoughts on this innovative plan and use of tax payer money?

Posted in culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, innovation, Politics, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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