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How Many Ways to Kill Innovation?

February 21st, 2012

One of my favorite posts on the topic of Innovation-Killers, comes from the innovative blogsite, ThinkJar, created by Ben Weinlick.  Ben attended The Intersection 2012 and has created a great site for convergent and divergent creativity.  Take a look at this post on 21 Ways to Kill Creativity, written by Michael Michalko (author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques).

I would like to add one or two of my own creativity-killers:

1) don’t ever, ever, listen to your children’s ideas

2) immerse yourself in lots of television (especially sitcoms, game-shows, and reality tv series) and mobile games.

What other innovation-killers are you experience at home or work?

The New Garage Renaissance and emergence of C2B businesses

April 10th, 2010

As a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur and “mentor” capitalist , I like to look for bets in new spaces and keep on top of industry trends…and historically I’ve placed my bets on software- and Internet-oriented companies, with the occasional excursion into biotech, med device, or cleantech.

What’s caught my attention lately is a shift I perceive in manufacturing and hard-goods spaces - perhaps something set to become a revolution in the coming 10 years – one that could potentially lead some traditional venture capital away from software and back to manufacturing and hardware.

The revolution is in the global manufacturing space and in the ability of “micro-entrepreneurs” to design products from their home/garage, easily prototype their ideas, and eventually produce the products in small lots using a global supply chain that is available, for the most part, online.  This revolution has recently been enabled by a global marketplace (enabled by the Internet), 3D design and printing technology,  and a more flexible approach to manufacturing in the US, China and other parts of the world.

This was the “Old Paradigm” for producing physical products :  an inventor comes up with a concept – sends ideas or sketches to product design house which uses sophisticated CAD programs to design the blueprints for the product – then sends designs off to China to have a prototype build and shipped back. If prototype looked good, show to distributors/channels and take advance orders (or raise money for manufacturing on spec) and use advance orders to hire a manufacturing facility (in East) to produce first run of products. If first run sells out, expand capacity, take additional advance orders and make more goods.  Overall time to market – months or years.

The “New Paradigm” emerging is radically different:  inventors and designers anywhere in the world collaborate over the social net on new designs, and use crowd-sourcing to come up with the best ideas – then rapidly prototype their ideas using 3D printers.  The prototype is modified to match market needs and individual parts are ordered from a global smorgasbord of manufacturing options, assembly occurs in China or perhaps locally (“en garage“), and enough product to fulfill real-time need is producted in JIT fashion.  Products can be modified, customized in small batches. Overall time – weeks or months.

The recent Wired Magazine article by Editor in Chief Chris Anderson calls this new world of manufacturing, “The New Industrial Revolution”.  It’s democratized industry, combined with new ways to rapidly prototype and visualize solid-state models of ideas, and online approaches to open-sourcing just about any part, labor, or manufacturing process needed – right off the web. As Anderson puts it: “Atoms are the new bits“.  The diagram to the left is from the Wired article and spells out the New Paradigm.

You’ve  heard of B2C (business to consumer), and B2B (business to business) – well, this is “C2B” – Consumer to Business – millions of garage entrepreneurs who are close to the consumer , crowd-sourcing ideas for future products and THEN manufacturing them.

I spoke with Ross Stevens, world-renown designer who teaches at Victoria University of Wellington and has a passion for this new culture he calls the “Maker Revolution”. We looked at his way-cool website of design work that he and students at Victoria University are working on futures projects which you can see here.

Stevens, who teaches a course called “Materials & Processes”,  believes that in the coming years, we will be able to make or “print” just about anything we can conceptualize — right to our home  on a low-cost printer. Check out this company that Ross suggested I review:   Ponoko, based in SF calls itself: “a creative place where you can make your ideas real … and sell them to the world. The Ponoko website is like having your own personal workshop and factory … and online showroom to sell your designs.”

Other companies and sites I’ll be tracking in this “maker-market” space include:

  • Makerbot Industries – company makes open-source, low-cost 3D printers and has a great blog on the top of “garage Renaissance and 21st Century manufacturing”
  • Reprap wiki - intriguing community site for sharing “designs that create designs (or self-replicating machines)” – go hear to learn how to print a printer that can print another printer that can print another printer…well you get the idea.\
  • ThingyVerse – a site for sharing 3D printable design and connecting to the global supply chain
  • Panjiva Corp – one of the leading marketplaces for the global supply chain, particularly for small-lot work

…………………


After reflecting on this “new industrial revolution”, printers that print themselves, and the future of 3D design and small lot manufacturing, I have just one question:  when will they invent a 3D bakery printer that can print a truly great cup of coffee and top-notch bagel each morning for me?

The “Gratitude 365″ Project

January 28th, 2010

Here’s something that borders on “creative” and spiritual (a good fit for me, given who I am).

During 2010, I’ve undertaken a hybrid between my personal life goals and study in the use of Twitter, twogging and other social media.

Typically at the start of any given year, I take a long stare at my life “mission” statement and basic values – which I’ve honed over many years and adjust slightly as life passes by…and then create goals for the coming year that relate to each area/role in my life:  teacher, catalyst, investor/entrepreneur, father, husband, musician.

Twogging on my Mind

This year, I was reading Twitter Power by Joel Comm  (http://www.twitter.com/joelcomm) and was actively thinking about the many new and innovative uses of Twitter.  Companies using it for tracking customers, individuals using to create their personal brands;  start-ups using it to create a “voice” online.  While I see the merit in all these things, it also seemed to me that Twitter could be an interesting way to personally journal one’s life.  What happens when you flash backward at the end of the year and could visually capture all the items you’ve Tweeted (or as I like to say Twogged – see my previous piece on this) ?

So, I decided not to create goals for each area of my life this year, but to replace this with ONE GOAL for the year – a goal that would help set a perspective for all the TASKS that I do anyhow and put everything in perspective.

Challenging myself to use technology more

Here’s the challenge I’ve given myself:  I call it Gratitude 365 ….each day I’m using technology to remind myself what I’m grateful for in my life.  I’m using ping.fm to broadcast one gratitude per day, and it is sending out to Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Ning, WordPress and Twitter.  One thought broadcast to many channels.  And, sometimes it’s a silly personal thing that others may or may not want to hear about. Sometimes I am able to link the gratitude back to this blog or to the area of Innovation, Creativity and Entrerpreneurship.

For example, today’s Gratitude:    #Grateful (28) for highly #innovative branding and healthy food at one of my favorite eating establishments in the Bay Area –> link to this post. This allows me to Twog – blog about something of interest in the creative realm, but tie it to something I”m grateful for in the personal realm.

You can follow along VISUALLY here on my Picasa page.

Or you can go to my Twitter feed to see the Tweets related to gratitude since Jan 1, 2010.

What have I learned so far?

So far, only a month into the process, I am finding several fun things:

1)  I’m finding plenty to be grateful for: I am waking up thinking about things to be grateful for; I am spending time in meetings looking around and noticing others around me that I feel grateful for; I am arriving home at night and noticing things I’m grateful for; and I realized that each birthday of a valued friend, relative and companion in life is a chance to acknowledge my gratitude.

2) My lens has changed: overally, it seems like my life “lens” has shifted to looking at things that matter more in my life.  It’s easier to remind myself when I’m focused on something “worrisome” rather than positive and also easier to see the good in other people.

3) I‘m focusing less on complaining :about things I’m IN-grateful for, and spending more time focused on the positives. This is making me a bit more pleasant for those around me.

4) I’m marking my gratitudes with hash # marks in Twitter, so am making friends with others that care about life gratitude and have received lots of great compliments from friends/family who are following along.

At the end of the year, I think it will be great to see the entire year captured in a Slide Show on Picasa – so I can look back and see what I’ve been grateful for and keep my eye on the ball. I’m also considering using FastPencil to create a image/photo book when I’m done with this.

After all, we only live once and it might as well be enjoyable.  This is a good way for me to thank God for all that I have and at the same time to learn about the latest innovations in online social media.

Wish me luck – this could be a lo-o-o-o-ng, but grateful year !

Hey, what’s the Big Idea?

January 5th, 2010

How many times have you read a good book and thought to yourself “That’s a good idea, I should apply that to my own life“….but invariably you did NOT apply it to your life because you had no specific way to do so, or you forgot, or you were just too lazy to do so?

Big Ideas in Short Bites

Brian Johnson probably had these thoughts too, but he decided to do something about it…so he’s spent the past 18 months (much of it in Bali – SWEET!) reading his selection of the Top 101 books of all time in philosophy, self-help, business/leadership, and spirituality…and created short compendium notes (think: “cliff notes with actionable items”) of the best-loved books of all time.

Want to apply principles of Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Mihaly Csikszentmihayi or Don Miguel Ruiz to your life? Then go get the overviews at PhilosophersNotes , sign up — and gobble up great learnings in short bites.  Brian’s made if available in written, audio and (sometimes) video versions. He’s entertaining and genuinely a nice guy :)

How Creative is this really?

For those of us who suffer from CNG (a.k.a. “Cliff Notes Guilt” as in: “I really should have read the whole book for class but I used cliff notes to get me over hump”), the question you are probably asking is “So… where is the creativity or innovation here”?

I think Brian is onto something very creative – see  this video on his latest project called “LIFE 101″

He has begun to map out the storyboard for a future book/series that will mesh together the great ideas contained in the first 101 books he’s read and reviewed.  This seems to be a creative idea that perhaps others have thought of, but has any one single (other than a book reviewer) actually chosen, read, digested, analyzed, and re-formulated the top 101 philosophy books? That seems useful to me.

See Brian’s blog for more on this…

From “Creativity to Innovation”

If Brian is able to create a Mash-up of the top 101 books, what is the result? Is it possible he will create new connections and intersections (see my past post on Intersectional Creativity and Mashups) that others have not seen before.  Yes, probable. The exciting thing is that by having created a forum in Philosophers Notes where others can view and take action on these books, I think he’s actually using today’s technology in a very innovative way – to turn Ideas and Creativity into actionable results.

Looking forward to Master Brian’s results in the coming year!

“Intersectional” creativity & Mash-ups

December 22nd, 2009

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun… Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14)

One of my students at UC Berkeley (thanks, Vikram!) pointed out in his Final paper (“personal innovation plan”) the similarities between mashups and “intersectional” creativity.

What is Truly Intersectional?

“Intersectional” creativity is that which occurs at the intersection of several cultures, realms, or even business departments. Frans Johansson, in his book The Medici Effect, presents some strong arguments as to how many great “inventions” and new ideas of our generation come out of this confluence/intersection/convergence/collision of pre-existing ideas.   This, as opposed to a “directional” innovation that is born out of evolution.

Some examples of intersectional creativity:

The intersection between 2 cultures: Trip Hawkin’s (founder of EA) company Digital Chocolate combines a team in Scandinavia (Finland to be exact) with a team in India, a team in Spain, team in Mexico and a team in San Mateo, CA, to create award-winning social games.

The intersection between Realms of knowledge: an Architect in Zimbabwe,  borrowed ideas from desert-living termites (who keep their hills at constant temperature throughout the day, despite several changes in the weather) to design and build a cost-effective, energy-efficient apartment building that stays cool without the use of air conditioning (source: The Medici Effect)

- The intersection between company departments: Pixar is well known for what CEO Ed Catmut describes as the “Collaboration Culture” (see my previous blog on Pixar).  Departments in creative, technology and business fields must work closely together to ensure success of the company’s films.  The result: 10 out of 10 major films of this company have been huge hits by industry standards – no other company in the entertainment industry has this record.

Of Mashups and Men

We’ve seen a crop of new Mashups over the past  few years based on Web 2.0 technologies – some (not all) of which I would term “creative.” For practical purposes, I refer to a Mashup as an application that integrates the best of one or more web services/applications to form something new (and hopefully useful).

One might argue that  the biggest example is Twitter.  The Twitter team came from a history of web 2.0 mash-ups, namely Odeo.  Odeo was originally a pod-casting company, but like most p-casting companies, it fell to the way-side because the usefulness of p-casting requires ubiquitous hardware and a change in basic consumer behavior.  However, the Twitter team discovered that internal mashup between instant messaging technologies and short blogs (or status updates like Facebook) could provide a real-time link between team members. This “intersectional” discovery came from the need for internal members of the Odeo team to communicate with one another. It then became clear that it might be productized.

Google Maps & Earth are another great examples of  mashups.  Google was already mashing geographical data (satellite and terrain) with street/address coordinates  before the company acquired KeyHole Software.   Now Google is adding StreetViews to maps and geo data for even more detail.  And, Google Earth takes its original mash-up between available satellite data from around the world and geographical interface to a new level by allowing 3rd parties to add models of specific buildings and entire cities around the globe.  Other companies are racing to be the first to map INTERIORS of each building (mashup of architectural data and building coordinates).

Thousands of Mashup examples

And of course, there are thousands of other mashups developed by small and large developers that have not yet gained the visibility of Twitter or Google Earth.  Here are a few examples:

  • musical mashups in which video and audio from various sources is mashed together, like the mixes from MashupTown
  • video mashups combining sound, video and images from various sources, like this quite popular one of George Bush and Tony Blair
  • e-commerce mashups such as
  • location-based services, that use GPS or mapping information to identify or meeting up with near-by friends, such as Loopt
  • “augmented reality” mashups that overlay real-life data on top of virtual visual data, such as the newest application from Yelp that overlays its data on top of Google Maps/Earth data

An interesting, but not complete, directory of web 2.0 mashups is found at WebMashup.com and many application-oriented mashups at The Programmableweb.com