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Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

The Economist “Ideas Economy” Conference at UC Berkeley

March 25th, 2011

This week the Economist sponsored The IDEAS ECONOMY Conference at the Haas School of Business on the Berkeley campus.  I attended both days and enjoyed meeting many innovation experts from around the world.

A  look at Twitter:#ideaseconomy provides some short insights from the conference and here are a few of my favorite tweets:

  • H Chesbrough – Opening up processes to include the customer is even more important with services #ideaseconomy
  • Paul Kedrosky (Kauffman Foundation): We think of ourselves as economic virus hunters #ideaseconomy
  • Elon Musk: Success = talent x drive x opportunity. If any of those goes to zero, success is impossible #ideaseconomy
  • RT @govlab: Aneesh Chopra on stage showing that govt, innovation, and entrepreneurship can go together. #ideaseconomy
  • Fun at Economist Innovation Summit! IRS asking question of Scott Cook (Intuit) then NASA asking Elon Musk (SpaceX) #ideaseconom

What were the “big ideas” from the event?  Here are my top four:

1) The World is turning into an Idea Economy- we have entered a period where the Democratization of Ideas seems more potent in many ways than technology, leadership, and geography.  In this new economy, one’s location (Silicon Valley, New York City,  Cambridge UK, Beijing, or Finland) is not so important as the way in which ideas are shared and collaborated on.  The concept of  Open Service Innovation is taking hold (see my Haas colleague, Henry Chesbrough’s new book on this topic,) – and innovative companies are getting their ideas, as well as their execution from all corners of the world.

2) Education will be radically transformed in the next 10 years – lots of examples were presented at this conference that indicate that the global education system is about to be transformed by technologies such as cloud computing, virtual classrooms, video conferencing, and distance learning tools.  This transformation will bring affordable teaching to third world and developing countries, but also represents an opportunity for major “brands” like Harvard, Brown, Cal, Stanford to take a leadership in creating the “virtual” campus to extend their brand.

3) Government programs for entrepreneurship seem to be a priority of the current administration – for example, entrepreneurs have a tax break and angel investors have a break as well (through the end of 2012) for angel investing (perhaps partially explains the rush of angel capital investments moving into start-ups these days). Other programs like Start-up America (this is a good video – done YouTube style)…. Aneesh Chopra, CTO of the United States was interviewed at this conference.  He was praised for how worn out his shoes seem to be. Point of fact, he seems to intimately know many of the entrepreneurs, angels and VCs here in the Silicon Valley.  A good sign.

4) Think nimbly, make mistakes, fail often – this theme was stressed at the conference in many different forms and seems to capture the mindset of today’s most successful entrepreneurs.  Marc Zuckerberg , CEO of Facebook has been said (in an interview in 2010) “move fast and break things”.   This is a radical departure from 15 years ago, when companies carefully thought out and planned software development.  Given costs associated with cloud computing, open source programming, and other technologies, companies can afford to experiment and fail often – as long as they are tracking the results on their customers and changing course to reflect customer needs quickly

In contrast to TED, The Economist conference is smaller and more intimate.  So, it’s easier to talk with leading experts. Unlike TED, the conference was attended largely by a group of corporate executives and writers who are all intrigued by notions of

I’ve enjoyed attending both TED and The Economist events this Spring, but I still miss the intimacy and power of the early TED events in Monterey, when only 400 people attended and one could more easily kibitz with founders from Yahoo, Google, Amazon, MIT Media Labs, Microsoft and more.

Four Key Elements of Innovative Marketing

November 27th, 2010

A tradition at my U.C. Berkeley class “Creativity & Innovation & The Entrepreneur” (ICE) is to set aside one class each semester to discuss “innovations in Marketing”.  I ask the students to each contribute 1-2 examples of highly creative, imaginative and innovative marketing and post them to a WIKI.  This year, we had over 70 postings and great discussion in class about the nature of the “creative” advertising agency, and what makes a marketing campaign highly innovative.

As a former marketing exec (IBM, Apple, Yahoo, Netchannel, Overture and others), I’ve worked with hundreds of highly creative people  – in fact, at a place like Apple, marketing seemed to be a never-ending game between creatives as to who could create the most innovative plan.

I learned that sometimes, just simple ingenuity and the element of surprise and delight works wonders…for example the simplicity of the Apple logo, the release of the Mac in 1984, the irreverence of the iPod and simplicity of iPhone advertisements, all underscore the innovative culture of Apple. Our class found several great examples of creative, yet highly simple, marketing campaigns in every-day advertising:

The game in marketing is to figure out who can create the most innovative ad campaigns, the most effective lead drivers, and the best branding and positioning. Naturally, with so many creative people in this industry, lots of creative ideas occur.  How many are truly innovative?

Top Four Elements of Innovative Marketing
This year in class, we tore apart several of the marketing campaigns to figure out what makes for truly innovative marketing.  Here are the five elements of innovative marketing that came from our Wiki this year:

1. Highly innovative marketing campaigns employ the age-old craft of story-telling, sometimes allowing the user to fill in the missing pieces of the story. Everyone loves a good story.  And, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites are perfect viral channels for the spread of a good story.  Here are several examples of highly viral campaigns that tell a great (and personal) story:

Google posted a particularly clever campaign during a period when it was under fire from the press for some of its practices.  5 million viewers have watched the viral video.  The video shows the “human” (softer) side of Google (often said to be a bit “tc in its culture) and the viewer is pulled into the story with a certain “that could be me” feel.

Not to be out-marketed, Facebook posted a similar video recently, although its viral effects have been minimal so far. But still, it’s fun to watch.

Another very effective campaign that tells a poignant story to get its point across is the Dove Evolution campaign that hit the ‘Net in October, 2006.  This innovative marketing example used stop photography to get its point across, leaving the reader to think about Dove in an entirely new light.

2. Highly innovative campaigns draw the user in …often engaging the user in the story or campaign. Given the nature of the social web today, the best way to engage many users is to draw them in on a personal level.  One of my all-time favorite viral videos “Where the Hell Is Matt?” (33 million views) does an amazing job at this.

One great example of this is the Pepsi Refresh project, which has (as of this writing) attracted 640,000 viewers. The project engages entrepreneurs around the country in submitting socially beneficial business plans.  The music and visuals suck you in and tell a motivating story.

This Nissan Sentra advertisement highlights the takes personalization to an new level, but actually showing the main character living out of his Nissan.  Young audiences could relate well to this.

3. Innovative campaigns draw their creativity from the intersection of 2 or more marketing devices. When one discovers the power of a new medium but leverages the legacy of an older medium, great things happen.  For example, Paranormal Activity was a run-away low-budget box-office smash, based on the incredible viral marketing the film used prior to theatrical introduction.  One key element of this was the combination of Twitter and viral video.  People “tweeted their screams”.

Here are several other, more recent, examples:

  • Groupon is combining crowd-sourcing with location-based marketing to craft campaigns that draw big crowds into locations for on-the-spot promotions
  • Volvo – teamed up with Double-Click to create innovative banner ads that incorporate live Twitter feeds
  • Ikea came up with a completely novel use for Facebook “tagging” by allowing users to claim prizes

The campaigns that are most innovative will come up with novel ways of combining 2 or more forms of existing marketing to arrive at new combinations.

4. Highly innovative marketing utilizes an element of surprise and delight , which crosses the expected with the unexpected.  The result is a campaign that people want to share among themselves and watch over and over.

  • Coke used this highly effective campaign to brand itself to happiness and fun – and who doesn’t want happiness and fun?
  • Burger King allowed people to “have it their way” by personalizing the experience, delighting and surprising their customers in the process
  • A favorite among the 20-something crowd is the Old Spice viral videos from 2009 which used surprise and humor to re-build the brand’s image.

These are four approaches to creating innovation in Marketing.  What other examples match up to these four findings?  What other sources of innovation defines the Marketing field?

Innovation in an 8000 year old profession?

October 16th, 2010

How do we identify Innovation in one of the world’s oldest professions?  No, not THAT profession, the other oldest profession: the wine-making profession. I’ve long had a love-affair with wine, not just because of it’s social lubricant qualities and enjoyment on the palette, but also because the process of wine-making is itself a CREATIVE endeavor, honed over 8000 years into both a craft and an enormous industry at the same time.

I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15)

Entrepreur_wine_bottle

Wine-making starts with selection & planting of a  terroire and vines. The soil that the vine is placed in is critical to the fruit it will produce.  The vine has to be trained, stressed, pruned, watered – nurtured just right.  The weather, over which the vintner has little control, dictates the region that one might choose to do this in. For thousands of years the wine-maker (typically trained by family over generations) would determine by touch, taste, smell, if the grapes on the vine were ripe for the picking. Each “varietal” of wine has to be harvested: de-stemmed, crushed, re-crushed, then  mixed/combined with the juice from other grapes (most wines are not 100% of one varietal), and finally set away in barrels to ferment and age.  All the decisions involved in each of these steps involve a certain creative/artistic approach. No two seasons or harvests (vintage) are the same, no two sets of produce are the same. By the time the wine is bottled and labeled with a branding message, the wine has gone through a considerable number of creative steps.  This is an annual form of creative problem solving process hat the wine-maker goes through each year: “in what way can I maximize the variables to produce the most optimal yield, quality and product for each vintage?”. The art of wine-making is a great example of the creative process at work…over the past 8000 years.

The quintessential Entrepreneurs

By the same token I have always found the wine-maker to be the perfect example of American entrepreneur in action. Part creator, part business-man, part risk-taker.  A successful winery involves a blend of art, science and management.

This week in class at UC Berkeley my students in “Innovation, Creativity & the Entrepreneur” class (ICE, as it is fondly known), were introduced to Steve Mirassou, founder of Steven Kent Winery (Livermore, CA).  Steve, who is as passionate about wine as I’d imagine his forefathers were, is a direct lineage of the OLDEST wine family in the United States – he is a 6th generation in the wine business. His great-great-great grandfather started one of the earliest vineyards in the US, which later became the Mirassou Family Vineyards in the San Jose area (sold to Gallo). Steve started his own winery in Livermore in the 1992 with his father.  Today the winery produces some ~30,000 cases of wine per year and offers 2 wine clubs (“direct to consumer” model), many varietals, and just launched a new high-end label called Lineage. Steve is a highly unique individual – a blend of business talent, artistic taste and PASSION for what he does for a living (we all want that!).  He lives and breathes wine.  Here’s a clip of Steven which is part of a video I took for my Creativity class:

Also joining Steve was another entrepreneur, Alyssa Rapp, founder of BottleNotes - a leading online start-up in the

AJR New Headshot

area of wine-making. Alyssa’s enthusiasm for wine comes out in a different form from Steven. She loves educating the public about wine growing, tasting and collecting.  Bottlenotes offers interesting new approaches to wine, using a unique mix of events, online information, social media, email marketing and more.  Alyssa spoke to our class about innovations, particularly in marketing and online media, in the industry over the past decade, but she also cautioned that the regulation of the industry by the government and the pressure on the industry by lobbyists is something is a constant check-and-balance to potential creativity and innovation.

Innovation in the wine industry

A key question that came up in discussions with Steve and Alyssa was the nature of innovation in an somewhat slow-growing and notoriously stodgy industry.  The wine business in the US and abroad has seen considerable consolidation in the past 25 years. Today, 80% of wine production in the US is owned by a small number of huge wineries.  Are these large players innovating or simply consolidating? Are mid and smaller wineries showing signs of innovation or creativity?

The question I pose here:  based on examples like BottleNotes, Steven Kent and others – is the wine industry showing signs of innovation in the past 5 years…or is it simply evolving?  I’d like to hear reader’s thoughts and in my next post will share some of my own thoughts on the topic.

Evolution and Innovation – where do Ideas come from?

September 17th, 2010

I’ve recently been giving thought to the evolution of  ideas …and how they lead to innovation.

Peter Drucker, in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, points to 7 “sources” of  organizational innovation – seven PLACEs where organizational ideas come from:

1) Unexpected consequences - there are many examples of this through history, but one well-known example was the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 is a classic.

2) Incongruities – Drucker points out that whenever an industry has a steadily growing market, but falling profit margins for its participants an “incongruity” exits – and some company will eventually exploit this incongruity by inventing a lower cost or more efficient way to compete – for example, process innovations in the steel industry.

3) Process needs -the excample of the Guttenberg press, is to me a major change in process.  It was borne out of the need for mass-producing the Bible and other valued writings, and it allowed for a major shift in the process of putting these writings to paper.

4) Industry & market changes – often innovation is born out of competitive necessity – your company either comes up with a more innovative business model, product, marketing campaign…or you die.  A great example of this is Salesforce.com – its cloud-based SaaS business model was more efficient for many customers than the competitors and it stole customers away from other players as it grew.

5) Demographic changes – in the mid 1990′s many first-time users were coming onto the web, causing a demographic shift to the Internet, which companies like Yahoo, Excite, AltaVista and Google created innovations around

6) Changes in Perception – we are living through a period in time right now, best described by Richard Florida as The Great Reset, in which Americans and Europeans are dramatically changing their perceptions of spending, real estate ownership, needs vs wants – and there are a variety of innovations that will likely be born out of this shift.

7) New Knowledge – many an invention has come from new knowledge of the materials, processes, or changing needs of the customer. For example, the computer chip invented by   Walk through the Computer History Museum in Santa Clara, CA and you can see many, many examples of how technology has progressed over the past 60 years as new knowledge of tubes, transistors, microprocessor became available through research labs.

One of the students in my UC Berkeley class claims an 8th source might be “male hormones” or pro-creation as he pointed out that the male species can be extremely CREATIVE in ways of approaching the opposite sex.

While this one seems a bit far-fetched to me, I personally believe that the Collective Conscience could be considered an 8th source of Innovation.  Jung first coined this term in pychoanalysis to refer to conscious thoughts and ideas that are not personal, but are a shared part of our culture or of being human. He called common ideas shared by humans “archetypes” and he claimed to find examples in his psychoanalysis of behaviors resulting from the “collective conscience” (a form of sub-conscience).   Ever wonder why several scientists seem to simultaneously come to a similar conclusion; or several entrepreneurs are working on a similar new product/service at the same moment in time?  My guess is that there is an element of our genetic make-up, that is embedded in the connections in our brains,  which is triggered by external/environmental factors.  When some change in our world occurs, or some challenge presents itself to the human species, a pre-destined response is elicited and the result is that a sort of “collective conscious” is released – several people in the right time, at the right place have the same epiphany.

How do Ideas Come About?
Whereas Drucker answes the question “From Where do Ideas Arise?,” he  does not quite answer the question of HOW ideas arise.  For example, one common view of new ideas is that they come about by some  sort of epiphany, stroke of luck, or being in the “right place at the right time.”  Newton was hit on the head with an Apple, Archimedes sat in his bathtub noticing how it overflowed, and the Reeses Peanut-butter cup came together when two people holding chocolate and peanut-butter collided :)

Perhaps it’s more Evolutionary than we think?

The invention of the world wide web is a good example to look at:  Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the creation of the world-wide web, and the general public views this as a major break-through innovation of the 20th Century.  But Berners-Lee seem to me to be the final/missing piece of a mosaic that included many other prior smaller discoveries. For example, the notion of “hyperlinking to other locations” had already been explored by teams at Apple, and researchers (Andy Van Dam and Norman Meyrowitz) at Brown University, well before it became a component of the WWW.  And the internet under-structure behind the WWW was long in place an used by ARPA and universities before it was exploited by Berners-Lee. The initial prototype website in 1991 and  The standards proposed by Berners-Lee in 1994 and beyond where the missing piece to the puzzle or mosaic of inventions that allowed for this “innovation” to take off.

And, all this was incremental and evolutionary.

Many major innovations in history seem to take this evolutionary path: electricity, the light-bulb, radio, television, the micro-computer, the Internet – all seem evolutionary and a product of several great minds.  There were a set of small discoveries made over time until such point that all the key pieces were in place for an “innovation” to occur.  A good example I like to use at UC Berkeley is the emergence of the PDA .

Many prior innovations added up to the innovation of hand-held devices or PDAs.  The Apple Newton device with its hand-writing recognition, the EO device (a start-up by industry veterans), and early prototypes at Xerox Parc.  But it was Jeff Hawkins and his team at Palm who put the final pieces of the puzzle together – using unique (Graffiti) software and the right combination of features – that lit the consumer market on fire with a new “innovation.”  Lots of smaller discoveries led to the success/launch of the PDA market.

I’d like to hear from others whether they believe innovation comes from serendipity, from epiphany, or from some series of evolutionary discoveries…

Searching for Synthia – hottest innovation of the 21st century

August 22nd, 2010

Introducing Synthia

So popular is she, that 3 months after her birth, she already has her own Wikipedia page. Synthia may be the hottest innovation of the 21st Century.Yet, for many of us, we read about it casually on May 21st on our iPads  or home-delivered newspapers, next to stories about the latest Giants-A’s series showdown and local murder trials.  If you happened to miss the news that day, read on, as you might want to become familiar with this innovation.

“Synthia” is the nickname for a brand new bacterium developed by Craig Venter and his J. Craig Venter Institute.  You may recognize Venter’s name – he led a team at  TIGR (The Institute for Genomic Research) which in is credited as first to fully decode the genome sequence for a free living organism, Haemophilus influenzae in 1995;  in 2001, Venter and his team along with Celera Genomics decoded the first human genome entirely.  After leaving TIGR, Venter went on to form the the J. Craig Venter Institute and several related companies, such as Synthetic Genomics.  Bottom line:  Venter is among the leaders in understanding how to decode the basic building blocks of life and has a significant advantage in combining creative ideas on how to use this information commercially in the future.  It’s no wonder several investors and VCs like Steve Jurvetson kept close to him.

Her Story

The story of Synthia is truly something out of a Robin Cook novel – but in this case, the technology that has been perfected may truly have lasting effect on our lives and the lives of our progeny. It’s no simply science fiction.

Synthia was created by a synthetic genome. The team at Venter’s institute essentially pieced together from DNA fragments a modified version of a natural genome (mycoplasma mycoides - a chromosome with some 1.2 million base pairs) and implanted the hand-made genome into the shell of a  bacterium.  The new organism essentially came to live and is self-replicating.  That means that it essentially takes on a life of its own.

Uses and Abuses

One can only image the possible uses of this new approach to synthesizing life, as Synthia only represents the very beginning in a likely long exercise in creating new life forms.

Other areas that Venter and his team are apparently already exploring, and hoping to use their approaches on are:  fuel/energy, vaccination production, pollution control/clean-up,cell production,

Since genomes are the building blocks of heredity and proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of cells, and cells are the components of complex systems (organs, etc) within living organisms, the implication is that a synthetic self-replicating organism can become the basic building block to almost any change in life one can imagine.

Shades of “Singularity”

The question that many have had is whether biologists will soon be playing God with this new-found approach.  The new technology ultimately leads the way to new forms of genetically produced bacteria, viruses, plants and animals – and since they would be new to our world there would be no way of predicting how they might affect our global environment, ecosystem or biosphere.

What  might occur when eventually the recipe for synthetic life falls into naive or evil hands?

This is the essentially the first time that an artificially-created organism can self-replicate. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the predictions by author Ray Kurzweil who has written numerous books predicting new innovations that will explode from the intersection of biology/biotech/genetics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology around the year 2030 (for more on this read The Singularity is Near by Kurzweil).

Love Her, Hate Her

So, that’s Synthia.  The bacterium you will come to love and hate.  Either we’ve unleashed a new “Manhattan Project” or we’ve got the beginning of a new Era in science.   Or, both.

I’d like to hear your impressions on this important innovation.