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Archive for November, 2009

Online tools and sites for creative problem solving

November 22nd, 2009

There are a variety of great tools available on the web today to use in the Creative Problem Solving Process. Below are a few of the tools that my class at UC Berkeley identified this past semester and used in creative problem solving.

Sites that provide numerous tools and techniques

Some sites are just great resources for a variety of problem-solving topics and techniques, such as:

Tools for the Problem Solving Process

Here are some online tools that can be used during the collaborative process itself to enable groups to track their ideas, solutions and options:

  • MindMeister – great online tool for mind-mapping
  • Linoit- online sticky notes that you can use to group ideas in brainstorming
  • Digital Dreamboard- lets you visualize an outcome or set up a dream or desired goal
  • Group Systems- team collaboration tools for individual, small group or larger company innovation
  • Evernote – allows you to track and organize group notes
  • Wet Paint – easily create wiki that group can share  to track the entire creative process
  • Tag Crowd – use this tool to “converge” on a wide range of ideas that you have as a group – it organizes and allows you to group your responses
  • Google docs – if all else fails, your team can always collaborate through the use of shared documents on Google !

I would be curious to hear about other tools not mentioned above!

Smart phone <--> Netbook: Innovation is Needed

November 19th, 2009

A “goldie-locks” battle is likely emerging in the space between “Netbook PC” and “smart-phone”.

My smart phone keeps getting smarter, and my portable computer keeps getting smaller….and there seems no point, soon, in my owning BOTH.

The Tablet Computer

I had a talk with a well-known CEO not too long ago…he, like myself, is an avid Tablet Computer user — I’ve been using one for 8 (that’s right “EIGHT”) years.  I like the visual element of it, and I love being able to cradle the computer in one arm, while “computing” in another. It is similar to the experience that a violinist must feel when converting from many years of playing the piano.violin2

But the Tablet computer lacks some of the advantages of a small netbook – first of all price is still sky-high:  $1500-2000+ for a good tablet.  $400 for a reasonably efficient netbook.

Second, there are times when we need to quickly get something written, or responded to, and the Tablet can be slow for these kinds of tasks.  Of course, if you like to draw, think visually, and use your hands in majestic ways, then the Tablet frees your mind and makes you an “Artifex” (Latin: “creator”).

The shrinking PC and the mighty smart-phone…the Goldie-Locks battle
Meanwhile, the little phone keeps getting more and more powerful thanks to Apple iPhone, Google Droid and others.  And, if you read Michael Arrington’s post on Nov 18th , you’ll find that the Google Phone has only been warming up.

But, from an innovation point of view, where the computer and the phone CONVERGE, something new in interface design has got to occur.  Because:

* the screen we all are carrying around for a computer is Too Large, and the screen we are carrying around for the smart phone is Too Small

* the Querty keyboard seems outdated and not of use in a form factor that can be carried on one’s person

* the typical screen is either too big (computer) or too small (smart phone) – we probably need one that expands to fit the need

What’s needed is the Goldie Locks of computer – something that is innovative in its UI and ergonomic design so that it is “just right” to a good many people.

I came across this video from an Israeli developer. It has the makings of something in the right direction ….

This prototype addresses the need for a new design or interface to the computer that is portable, expandable, versatile, and flexible – with some new approach to avoiding the traditional mouse, keyboard, and rigid screen.
Build me one!

Advertising meet Adver-FLYsing – innovative marketing

November 4th, 2009

It’s getting harder and harder to get your message across to others over TV, radio, or Internet.  But this company seems to have come up with another way to get their message out “over the air”.

One of my students at Cal, Yahel Ben-David, shared this video with me – taken from the German advertising site Adland.

This is an interesting example “intersectional creativity”  I referred to in my September 4, 2009 on “Where is Creativity Found.”  We’ve all had experience with flys …they can be annoying, distracting and upsetting…but they definitely have a way of getting one’s attention (unless you are a cow out on the pasture).  The company that set up this “innovative’ approach to marketing simply combined the annoyance of a fly with the novelty of nano-messaging – to create a very bizarre and attention-getting mixture.

Now, the question I have is “how do you actually TARGET your market using this invention”.  For those geneticists out there, this seems like an intriguing problem. Can one develop a FLY strong enough to carry a larger sign? Can the fly be pre-dispositioned to fly toward a particular target?

Certainly and unnerving example of mixing biology with aerodynamics and advertising!

HIC! – Automattic.com is innovative

November 2nd, 2009

Last week I had the great pleasure of talking with Matt Mullenweg, of Automattic Inc.

mullenmattMatt is one of those young entrepreneurs who creates his businesses out of his love for the “game” – in this case the “game” being the blogosphere and the open source tools supporting the growth of the growing online news industry. Mullenweg is the founding “developer” of WordPress Inc.  WordPress, while not the first  technology innovator in the blog space, is certainly well-designed and refreshing in the way that it has paid close attention to the needs of its customers and has built life-long believers. Mullenweg was a big part of that.  But, Mullenweg’s mother ship, Automattic (formed in 2005) is something innovative in my mind based on the new types of tools that it is producing and spinning out each year.  In its 4 years of start-up existence, Automattic has launched many products for online writers including:

  • Akismet – open source tool for monitoring spam, that helps
  • bbPress – forum/discussion software to enable stickyness on the blog
  • IntenseDebate  (acquired)- open source add-on that super-charges reader/commentor feedback
  • PollDaddy (acquired) – an innovative online surveys/poll add-on
  • Gravitar (acquired) – portable avitars you can create/use as your persona on multiple web services
  • VideoPress – slick video encoder/player that can be used on WordPress and other blogs

All of these companies complement WordPress ….and all these entities come under the umbrella of wordpressimageAutomattic — thus, I view Automattic as the “IdeaLab” of the blogging and Opensource world (“thou shall not use the world “incubator” in 2009 in vain”).  Funded initially by angels, True Ventures (SF-based), Polaris Ventures and the NY Times are the dominant investors in this company-of-companies.  The last round of $30M in 2008 gives the company a development and acquisition war-chest…and Seems like a GREAT FEEDER of INNOVATION for the NY Times.

Recently,  Automattic announced the acquisition of  “After the Deadline“. Available under Opensource license, AtD uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology to find writers/bloggers’ errors.  It then offers suggestions for replacing words or gramattical errors.  What’s unique is that the technology makes use of the neuro-net to “learn” from mistakes others’ have made and so it gets SMARTER over time and the more it is used.AtD is a spell-checker. This is a spell-checker that plugs into the braincells of the Internet in a very new way…and it hints at the future of shared knowledge for writers and/or other artists over open-source.A high-level overview of AtD can be found here.

Packed with a lot of bright young net-savvy writers, programmers, and creatives – I pick Automattic.com as a HIC (highly-innovative company) that will be rewarded in the future by the market for its unique approach to harnessing Open Source and the broader neuro-network of the web.