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inspiration

inspiration (Photo credit: peevee@ds)

Branding: Dell Commercial Promotes IQ Development (Inspiration Quotient)

On December 3rd of last year, I published a post proposing that we all have an Inspiration Quotient (IQ to the nth power).  Innovation maps do not normally mention inspiration because of its perceived ethereal nature – how do you “get inspiration” when you need it?  The POV posited that we all possess the ability to develop our inspiration quotient by practicing the Arts and sharing our works. Why is this important? Breakthrough Innovation is not possible without Inspiration.

Dell‘s very recent Young & Rubicam Group commercial seen in the video below, very artfully encapsulates one passage from that post, excerpted below the video. Dell has long associated its brand with the term inspiration, and I find the “Meet Thomas: Creator of an Alternate Universe” commercial very appropriate for that purpose, engaging, and timely in a seasonal sense with Easter nearing. The imagery used is beyond what is normally seen in a commercial, and my guess is that the creators were equally inspired by JK Rowling’s personal experience, as I mentioned in my post, as well as her Harry Potter books.  The fact that they spotlight a non-descript District Manager named Thomas, who could be anyone, furthers the proposal I make in my post that we all have inspiration within us, and practicing the Arts will help us access it.

EXCERPT from 12/3/2013 EdRodPOV Post :

Ringo’s latest tweet on August 29, 2012 stated,

“I never studied anything, really.  I didn’t study the drums. I joined bands and made all the mistakes onstage.” – @RingoStarrMusic

… Take it from Ringo, you don’t need to be good at art, you just need to try, enjoy the trying and put it out there. Think of producing your art in terms of introducing the minimal viable product as described by Eric Ries and Steve Blank.  Make it a priority to keep sending it out there, along with healthy eating, exercise, etc.

Some people will never break through the inspiration wall. Life has not dealt them either the capacity to sit still and think about nothing (as in meditation), or the freedom from life’s extreme stresses for a walk, even for a few minutes a day, as required to exercise the inspiration muscle.  These are the people that should think most about practicing some form(s) of art and forcefully adapting it into their week because they should not completely ignore their humanity. (Any wonder why they call art ‘The Humanities’?) For instance, if you sit on the bus or subway everyday, bring a sketchpad or tablet and start drawing – it’s that easy.  Relax, you don’t have to be good, you don’t have to be efficient, effective, or produce results.  It’s in the doing that you allow the inspiration to take over.  This is arguably more important to your jobs than those dozens of daily news emails that will be forgotten tomorrow.  It will refresh your morning work re-entry by reducing stress and open the window to inspiration. If you can give away the sketches, make a friend and do so right there, when you reach the station every day. Frame them, sell them, or post them to a blog.  You need the reward of sharing to motivate you to make a habit out of something that can be thought of by many as a time waster.

Soundcloud posts testimonials from its artists on its Soundcloud tour page. There you’ll see comments like “responses to my work have been so encouraging I honestly believe it has directly impacted my productivity.” Sharing produces a self-reinforcing link. You take showers, right?  Sing in the shower every day, and sing it loud. Critics will come, and others will appreciate at least the effort, and that’s life. One day when you get off that train and get to your desk, you’ll capture a eureka moment that your colleagues will regard as genius. You can’t have genius without inspiration. Someone like JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was able to use her stress as a motivator.  She used art as an escape from the stress of being a single Mom and allowed it to drive her into a deep part of her mind, harvesting a brilliant talent. She practiced her art on the train every day for years, and allowed the inspiration to flow.  She’s worth a billion dollars now.  How big is your company? What’s your net worth?

End of EXCERPT -

I encourage anyone who is thinking about innovation, to read the entire POV post to understand the links between practicing and sharing the Arts, developing Inspiration, and achieving Breakthrough Innovation.

Branding: Dodge Dart New Rules Campaign Mainstreams Strategic Shifts

Dodge’s “New Rules” marketing campaign manifests the shift from strategic planning committees and waterfall product development to the “Ready-Fire-Aim-Repeat” agile product development that was the topic of my last full post :

2013 Is No Time For Strategy“.

The Dodge Dart introduction is clearly aimed at a 20-something target market segment who are expecting empowerment to make product decisions on the fly, trade off a high tolerance for failure for iterative speed to market, and fit a budget of under $16 thousand. In addition to the New Rules for how to build a car, there is a follow-on New Rules commercial for how to buy a car where a gift registry is created and the buyer’s friends and family can donate parts of the car – essentially crowd funding the car. Given the complexity and risks of designing and manufacturing a new car, the fact that a major automobile manufacturer has mainstreamed these new approaches in its marketing is in itself a telling illustration of the pervasiveness of the high-level shift from planning to doing.

Regardless of the success of this product introduction, or to what extent these product development methods were actually implemented in the design and manufacture of the car (I have not researched it), it is also telling that established industry is in some way placing newer, nimble competition on notice that they are reacting to a growing threat of disruption being felt in many vertical markets. It would be interesting to learn to what extent the halo effect of this type of product branding might help Dodge recruit more like-minded employees this year. Here’s the first commercial:

Planting Money

Planting Money (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

If #CrowdFunding becomes the new #seed funding, then will #Angel funding become the new A Round?

2013 Is No Time For Strategy

February 21, 2013

Investment Conference Investment Conference (Photo credit: Salmaan Taseer)

Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face – Mike Tyson

One of the tweets I received in January declared 2013 is “The Year of Doing”. I am just coming around to fully appreciating what that means.  We are in the midst of a trend of epic proportions toward execution over deliberation. This shift is very evident in strategic planning, project development, and capital investment.  As someone who has presided over many strategic planning processes, I am not sure I completely buy into this, but the trend is unmistakeable.

Traditionally, you could think of management as the planners, the doers, and the counters. The lines have blurred over time, but the planners’ specialty was targeting the hogs, while we all know the doers brought in the bacon. Until the recent past, in order for a venture capitalist or corporate leader to invest in an initiative, you had to build a pretty bulletproof, strategic business case.  It was expected that you would have done significant expansive research, pushed all of that data through a number of trusted strategic frameworks, come up with a shortlist of alternatives, and used logic and communication skills to prove the optimal business case to achieve corporate goals.  That understates a managed strategic planning effort that took months to create, enlisted diverse opinions, and required more months to diligence and gain approvals prior to any implementation.

Little to none of that strategic planning process appears to matter anymore. As the eminent thought leaders at the failed WebVan would attest*, regardless of your strategic planning proficiency, only hindsight is 20-20.

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Total Recall Tracking Device Total Recall Tracking Device Removal

Big Brother Mickey Mouse to monitor behavior via Disneys MyMagic+ RFID wristbands.

The Computerworld article by Darlene Storm (link above) is worthwhile reading. The article profiles the Spring 2013 introduction of RFID bracelets for visitors to Disney’s theme parks, under their “MagicBand” branding. I have never visited Disney, but have read they also fingerprint visitors, so are not averse to using biometrics to identify their patrons. In a sense, using ID bracelets to track your activity, enable purchasing, provide hotel room access, shuttle you through lines, and build up valuable preference marketing databases is less intrusive than biometrics. There are a number of services tied into these identifying bracelets, including social friending, and of course the consumer’s information is stored in the back end, not the bracelet. So this SoLoMo experience qualifies for the 2013 Hotel California scenario I outlined in a post late last year. It is equally interesting to read the reader reactions in the comments on other blog posts on this topic.  The most popular comments in terms of likes are skewed to privacy concerns and negative reactions to Disney’s marketing machine. Of course, one cannot ascribe any statistical validity to those who feel so strongly about issues as to comment on blog posts since those who see nothing wrong with it may not feel a need to post.

For full disclosure, I was instrumental in introducing a people tracking solution using a bracelet/watch like device for LoJack SafetyNet. However, this tracking is only done if a person with a pre-diagnosed risk of wandering due to something like Autism or Alzheimers is lost. It’s a great solution that has provided peace of mind to caregivers, helped rescue many people and helped optimize public safety resources.  If you have a loved one in that situation, I highly recommend you visit their site.

I think Disney’s bracelets must use a combination of NFC for purchases and ticketing authentication, possibly pairing low energy bluetooth or other rfid with nearby sensors for tracking throughout the park.  I assume Cinderella will have an earpiece telling her who you are and if its your birthday, etc., but am unsure if a human is needed on the other end to communicate that info or if it will be computer generated speech from a database. I am wondering how they minimize the lag time between identifying a visitor either approaching a character like Cinderella or shaking the character’s hand to informing her about the patron so it all seems natural and “magical”. Using a method like Google Glass combined with facial recognition would not work in this case because it would detract from the dramatic experience of seeing your favorite personalities in character. It’s one thing seeing Sergey Brin wearing Glass, but it would be another to see Cinderella wearing it – at least for now. I guess Pluto could have the glasses within the costume head, but security details might be a more appropriate use.

While this wireless identification bracelet system is being introduced in a controlled park environment, the obvious next question becomes, “To what extend will something like this be rolled out using your handset / watch / glasses / other wearable device to your local mall or Rodeo Drive / 5th Avenue type shopping area in the future?”  What about using it in ballparks, football stadiums and concerts? These venues can follow Disney’s lead by

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Wayne Gretzky, New York Rangers.

Wayne Gretzky, New York Rangers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear RIM Blackberry : You are not in the smartphone market any more than horse drawn carriage makers were in the carriage market. They were in the personal transportation market, and you are in the Personal Communications Market. (Nokia and Microsoft take note.)  See another Canadian, Wayne Gretzky, for proper strategy on skating to where the puck is going to be.

3/20/13 Post Script: This is promising! Lazaridiz invests in Quantum Computing as the next big thing.

Smartphone Wanna-be’s : See The Gretzky Strategy

Minority Report Minority Report (Photo credit: Henry.)

This is the fourth and final post on how the Hotel California Scenario for future social, local and mobile media, apps, platforms, devices, and solutions (SoLoMo) is being created. In the Hotel California scenario, the User is the Interface, The World is the Computer, and the Situation is the Network. This post’s short list of companies exemplifies the offerings that will transform our interactivity with the world around and disrupt just about every vertical market in the process.

When I started this four part blog series last year, I referred to the user’s point of view when contending that 2013 will be a pivotal year for a new degree of Social, Mobile, and Local (SoLoMo) solutions to be embedded in our daily personal and professional lives. Others have called this future transformation by a number of titles:

  • M2M – Machine to Machine
  • M2M2M – Machine to Machine to Man
  • The Internet of Things
  • Smart Services
  • The Contextual Web
  • The Sentient World
  • The Ambient Web

Referring to the Hotel California use case helps to avoid getting caught up in splitting semantic and technical hairs. Whatever moniker you prefer, 2013 will be the year businesses in just about every vertical market begin to be disrupted by a new form of SoLoMo, changing the way we do a lot in our daily lives.

SoLoMo Practical Use Case Examples

How will it all work? New sensors and devices in the world around you are about to identify entities, record events, send the corresponding data through any number of wireless networks (depending on the situation) to an application that will either generate another event or produce meaningful information sent to user(s) based on pre-learned and/or pre-set preferences.  Here are some examples:

  • Your favorite ladies apparel store app recognizes you approaching via a number of possible methods and sends your smartphone a route through the store that you could follow to see this year’s new spring fabrics and patterns matching your online social browsing, likes and wants.  Expect coupons, credits and gamification to intensify and influence your shopping experience.
  • Your glucose levels are monitored in near real time by a device adhered onto your stomach and results sent to your smartphone and then your doctor.
  • Your client is unexpectedly arriving in town with nothing to do tonight and an app on your smartphone pulls up a certain seafood restaurant for reservation and ticket availability for the ballgame, given his preferences.
  • A parking app knows the class you go to every Monday night and routes you to an open parking spot via mobile as you near your destination.
  • The thermostat in your house rises to a comfortable 70 degrees from an energy saving 55 when your car gets within 2 miles of home.
  • A smart container might message that the last gallon of milk is about to expire or be depleted, and that information could either update your shopping list or be sent directly to your grocer for fulfillment based on a pre-set contract.  Smart containers might be your fridge or a product itself.
  • Your insurer messages you that your bathroom scale, or the fitness monitor in your shoe or bike verifies that you qualify for a health insurance discount.
  • An airplane mechanic uses Google Glasses to pull up a schematic of the engine he is working on with an app that recognizes the image, and augmented reality allows him to find parts in house, order needed parts, view critical path for estimated repair time, calculate and send a time and materials proposal/bill, and show him a short video of the repair process.

We are now moving from the experimental stage to the commercialization stage of these and many other examples. The reader should not think of these as just consumer apps either. In each case, there are implications to the way product / service providers, governments and other organizations operate and/or market. There will be a wave of pure play B2B opportunities as well. As incredible as it sounds today, the real growth in hardware and related services will not be focused solely on Smartphones and Tablets, as there will be billions of new “devices” in the environment that will need to be designed, built, sold, connected/paired and managed. By way of example, I have listed a few companies that will enable some of the changes in my series of posts below. Think about what they are doing, how they plan to do it, and imagine how the integrated elements will create a new future.

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I thought it would be worthwhile to post this short comment that I made to a Pandodaily post by Francisco Dao entitled: When Dropping Out Might Be An Advantage. Like all comments, it could use more elaboration, and is good fodder for a future post. Pando forced me to sign up for yet another new commentary service and you can find it under username Pandocommentario.

Francisco, This is an interesting debate. IMHO, there are no hard and fast rules re what’s better to become an innovator, formal training/educaton or self-education. At the risk of sounding like a consultant, it depends on how you will innovate. There is innovation, as in application of existing knowledge for a new result. There is invention, and there is less of that possible due to so much documented knowledge. There is discovery, as in finding an unclassified plant from the Amazon and discovering its healing properties. There is also improvisation, creatively putting together x# of elements that ordinarily do not go together to achieve a goal – what we often saw Captain Kirk do, right? The drawback of formal education, is when you buy into the established mental models systemecized by formal education so deeply that you do not allow yourself as an innovator to consider all of these paths to innovation. (Andreesen did not buy in, in your example) Rather than focus on formal v informal education, I think the key element to being a breakthrough innovator is inspiration. I’ve written about this http://bit.ly/Vc9Lcs , and welcome comments. Extending this to entrepreneurship, you need a whole other set of traits, like drive, salesmanship, et al.

English: The monk Samten who came to Samye Lin... English: The Tibetan monk Samten who came to Samye Ling with Sherab Palden Beru around 1967. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog post is the third of a four-part series on the Hotel California Scenario for future social, local and mobile media, apps, platforms, and solutions (SOLOMO). In the first post, I likened lyrics from The Eagles Hotel California to a future SOLOMO scenario where the User is the Interface, The World is the Computer, and the Situation is the Network. The second post suggested that it will be increasingly possible to do an “end-around” your smartphone passcode lock to access the sophisticated, powerful and user-friendly data mining that play a central role in the highly personalized experience we are coming to expect. This third post explores legalities and practicalities of privacy rights, emerging use cases, and possible outcomes. I am not an attorney, nor consider myself an expert on digital privacy, but I can read the tea leaves on where we are headed.

Can Anyone Keep Up with Privacy TOS?

The companies creating what I am calling the Hotel California future want to provide you with offerings that you will pay for because they improve lives and business performance. There will be other less obvious costs as well, highlighted ahead.

New SOLOMO product introduction is rampant and adoption is rapid. Generally, this indicates that no one wants to be labeled a Luddite, and expectations are high that new technology delivers advantages. In this type of insatiable market setting, who has time to read every line of a Terms of Service (TOS) document, or to recheck boxes every time privacy rules change?

In the last post, I covered how data mining will be done regardless of passwords and passcodes. NetFlix just succeeded in changing a law to allow sharing of your viewing history on social media. This means, figuratively for now, that your television can watch and report on you, and most people do not even own connected TV’s yet.  There appears to be some sort of after the fact opt-in clause that is unclear to me, however, it must be renewed every 2 years.  Is the renewal of your privacy rights on everything from robocalls to social media platforms to television to perhaps offline shopping eavesdropping really going to be programmed into everyone’s to do lists?

Moreover, if you download an app that you only use once and then shelve with the other 100 apps, don’t be surprised if the TOS you agreed to when downloading the app allows continued data mining and/or rights to your data.  Repeatedly forgoing these rights, whether through the TOS or expiration of opt-ins, is a cost of your new free service or inexpensive app.

The free and freemium service platforms and apps that are so helpful to us can also require approving lengthy CYA terms of service so protective that you’d need a team of lawyers to distinguish the egregious from the simply liberal. Of course, a quick policy change can turn what is the simply liberal today into the egregious tomorrow.  At some point, regressive analytics turned into predictive analytics and that will soon give way to persuasive analytics – how do we get you to buy a product you would not ordinarily try, or go somewhere you would not ordinarily go?  This has been a core goal of any marketing for decades, but the manners in which it will be done are changing rapidly. For example, which friends can we enlist, knowingly or otherwise, to persuade you using new forms of digital multi-level marketing? Does anyone really think that last month’s Instagram policy over-reach on their rights to market using your photos will never be repeated by another friendly startup with an innocuous cartoon logo? Changing policies that affect how others view you are another cost of using free platforms.

Today’s Evolving Models of SOLOMO Data Capture

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Members of the San Francisco Gold Rush at 49er...

Members of the San Francisco Gold Rush at 49ers training camp at the team’s headquarters and practice facility in Santa Clara, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog post is the second of a four part post on The Hotel California Scenario for social, local and mobile media / solutions (SOLOMO). In my last post, I likened lyrics from The Eagles Hotel California to a future SOLOMO scenario where the User is the Interface, The World is the Computer, and the Situation is the Network.  The future depicted is one of personal empowerment unlike anything that has ever existed, and should be celebrated. 

There is enormous momentum driving startups and established companies alike to have a social strategy and go “mobile first”. The statistics on social usage are undeniable, and mobility is evolving and disrupting worldwide.  Read any tech blog or media resource and you will be deluged with a never-ending stream of articles on the benefits of mobility, brought to you by the newest network, user-friendly platform, device or app. I first envisioned and strategized over some of this evolution in the early 1990’s with my IT colleagues.  We used to call this “Any 5” meaning anyone getting anything, anywhere, anytime, in any form.  Now that mobile’s time has finally arrived, it occurred to me that industry practitioners and users alike should take a step back to also consider possible corollary costs that the always on, on demand, in your pocket, highly personalized, presence-based world of social/mobile might bring us.   

The Theatre of Security

This past weekend, a security expert being interviewed on major media explained that there is something known as “The Theatre of Security”. His example was that of a random number of people who are singled out for pat downs on the trains. He explained that this form of “security” really did not make anyone any safer, but it provided commuters with the illusion that they were safer, hence the theatre.

In terms of your privacy, and potentially your future security, the passcode on your smartphone will provide you with similar theatre.  Sure, it is helpful to know that if your smartphone is fleeced in such a way that the thief cannot unlock it, today’s run of the mill robber will not have access to your data. Mobile devices are becoming so central to our lives, that people prefer to lose just about anything except for their smartphone.  However, as my previous blog post depicted using the Hotel California example, your face will soon biometrically unlock your data, and the world, including cat burglars, will be programmed to receive.  So if you shudder at the thought of having your cat burgled, or you take comfort in having a passcode on your smartphone, read on.

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Cover of "Hotel California" Cover of Hotel California[/VISIONARIES!]

Let’s reflect on one possible post 2013 future of smartphones and social, local and mobile in the context of a few stanzas of a famous Eagles song. In this scenario, The User is the Interface, the World is the Computer, and the Situation is the Network. The smartphone, on the other hand, is no longer the lynch pin of the mobile value proposition. Having your face as the primary interface may make privacy-minded folks recoil, but don’t hold it against the Eagles for being so visionary.  Consider a part of their 1976 Hotel California lyrics:

Welcome to the Hotel California

Such a lovely place

Such a lovely face

They livin’ it up at the Hotel California

What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,

The pink champagne on ice

And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’

And in the master’s chambers,

They gathered for the feast

“Relax, ” said the night man,

We are programmed to receive.

You can check-out any time you like,

But you can never leave! “

The Business Trip Scenario

You walk up to a beautiful hotel in San Francisco, and the cameras outside the door initiate facial recognition. As you enter, you are welcomed immediately, both on the smartphone in your carry on luggage, and more importantly on the interactive digital signage display that everyone in the hotel lobbies and elevators can see. Immediately, and without prompts, your hotel arrival makes its way to your various location-based social apps (e.g., Foursquare, LinkedIn, Hotel discount club, and In-house and local restaurants via open table). You immediately begin receiving a daily Yelp list of offers and helpful content from everyone in town who fits your preferences and wants a piece of your wallet.

Your close friends on Google+ and Facebook who live locally

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Classroom layout Classroom layout (Photo credit: Penny Coutas)[/caption]
This has been the season of Sandy sadness.  First a hurricane levels the Jersey Shore and devastates surrounding areas, and now the tragedy that occurred in Sandy Hook, CT devastates us all.

This is a sensitive time that brings up a number of sensitive issues including mental illness, the desensitization of youth through ever more realistic violent films and digital games that reward the player for more violence, our mainstream news practices, the propensity for copycat criminals, the right to free expression and of course the right to bear arms and how the arming of America has led to so many more gun injuries and killings in the US versus other advanced nations. If I stated a position and an opinion on any of the above, they would be largely uninformed.  However, I’ll weigh in with a possible solution.

We all know it will take months and years to take a step back to analyze root causes and recommend productive action and pass new legislation.  In the meantime, with so many millions of firearms in circulation, the notion that your children are safe in schools is a fallacy. All of this adds up to an impossible situation, where we can sadly expect to see more incidents while the powers that be work through all of these and more issues.  One thing that should be extremely clear to a lot of us is that we cannot wait to better protect kids in school and provide them with new ways to evacuate what can unexpectedly turn a great learning environment into a war zone nightmare.  Recall what happened when IED’s were rampantly wounding our soldiers.  Soldiers took it upon themselves to begin welding donated armor to the bottom of vehicles deployed in the Middle East. They did not wait for congressional approvals and new budgets to catch up because lives were at risk. In my opinion, the entrepreneurial ecosystem can do this as well and help define and solve the school safety problem.

The U.S. is a country of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are uniquely qualified to solve problems quickly. They turn negatives into positives and see opportunity where others see problems. Entrepreneurs are action-oriented doers. While all of these issues are being discussed in Washington, I’d like to call on any entrepreneurs that read this to tweet or re-post an entrepreneur challenge to protect kids in our schools. We have the power of crowdsourcing, the power of networks and fully vested interests in coming up with ideas to protect kids in schools.  We have experience creating business models, getting them funded and implemented. There’s nothing wrong if someone makes a business out of this, as profit-generating efforts are self-sustaining.  The startup ecosystem can drive change, and here are some ideas to get started.

  • Crowdsource solutions
    • It would be great to have a web developer create a “Grand Central Station” for ideas from diverse experts, for donor commitments, state by state feedback, and progress updates to channel the solutions.
  • Commit capital
    • It would be great to see the capital folks, angels, venture capital and private equity, offer no strings grants to start companies throughout the states that focus on this problem.
  • Involve industry
    • It would be great for some security manufacturers and consultants to donate time and materials to solving the problem.
  • Think locally
    •  It would be great if local tradespeople who donated their weekend work installing systems could later write off the donated time on their taxes.
  • Consult Security Experts
    • There must be thousands of veterans throughout the US who can add value to the security problem after creating green zones and operating in dangerous environments
  • Consult Psychiatric Experts
    • There must be hundreds of psychologists that can add value as to how solutions can be implemented in a way that is interpreted as a positive by schoolchildren and teachers
  • Involve Teachers
    • Self-explanatory

In the end, all that matters is that the problem of kids’ safety in schools is solved rapidly, and without having to wait for all sides to debate and negotiate the issues.  The goal might be to arrive at a handful of standard solutions that can be authorized and implemented locally.

Let’s get the brainstorm going.

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English: Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone... Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)]

How many times does a hot new product or service come out and you say, “I could have thought of that” or “Why didn’t I think of that?”  Our high value US economy is increasingly dependent on innovation.  When people mention China’s economic rise, we depend on “innovation” as our figurative ‘USA, USA’ chant.  We are high-value, and everyone else is low-value, right?  (Not really, folks) There’s good money where innovation meets market need.  Everyone wants to capitalize on innovation, but in reality, inspiration leads to breakthrough innovation. Ere go, inspiration is the goal.

The Importance of Your Inspiration Quotient

This is a subtle but importance difference that business tomes rarely discuss because people think inspiration just happens to some people, and cannot be produced. I disagree. We all have an inspiration quotient, and in this blog post, I contend that practicing the Arts is the way to capturing inspiration in the art, in life, and in whatever endeavors you undertake.  If you want to hire, invest in or become an inspired innovator, hire, invest in or become a musician, painter, writer, sculptor or dancer.  If you want a company full of innovators, promote art as a central human development priority in your organization. Formalizing the practice of art in order to engender inspired innovation is not covered in your MBA text, and is overlooked in the general business media.  I’ve seen various innovation maps, innovation cycles, and innovation process charts, and none of them mentioned inspiration or the Arts. So, I’m putting it out there for business gurus to analyze, formalize, institutionalize and potentially monetize.  The pathway to inspired innovation is practicing the arts.

You might be thinking, great, another thing to add to my to do list of in order to be a top performer.  As you’ll read later, it’s only as time consuming as you want it to be, but here’s your scientific justification.  I’m a true believer in the line of thinking that one can change one’s success in many areas by disciplining yourself to adopt new habits that are out of your norm in other areas.  Said another way, if you drag your sorry ass out of bed and get yourself to work out early every morning, it will carry through to help you push through that next development cycle or to make the key point that lands a difficult sale. These habits can create actual physiological changes in your brain as well, if you want to get scientific.  Train your mind. So what?  We’ve heard that all before.  I’m busy, where’s the business rationale for art?

Well, the greatest disruptive innovations come from an ethereal asset that comes to us unexpectedly, and by seeming divine providence, known as “inspiration”.  Michelangelo had it. Benjamin Franklin had it.  Alexander G Bell and Marconi had it. Steve Jobs had it. You can’t learn it in business school.  You can’t order it on Amazon. You can’t force your engineers to engender it just because they listen to music or know a programming language.  I contend that great inventors like da Vinci and Steve Jobs achieved their greatness from inspiration, and that inspiration was due in great measure to their passion for practicing various forms of art. Historians might track back recognition of the importance of studying and practicing art to ancient Greece or Mesopotamia.  Inventors of the stature of a Ben Franklin, who began his professional life as a writer and lived his entire life as a satirist, were enormously multi-dimensional. Unfortunately, you can see a declining importance assigned to the Arts today in the tight budgets of US schools. We mistakenly view the study of art as a pathway to an artistic profession, rather than as a pathway to innovation in many professions.  Unlike Mr. Franklin or Michelangelo, we risk becoming a cradle to grave nation of intensely focused specialists on an org chart with an inhibited aptitude for the inter-dimensional imagining that is required for inspired innovation.  It is not critical thinking, it is imagining. Kids are born with a deep desire to make these neural connections, and we formulate that desire away. Think about this when you are discussing Arts budgets on your local PTA.

Inspiration – it’s already inside us all, but we don’t know it yet.  You can’t buy it, put your hands on it, or make use of it when you need to. We Americans hate that, and that’s why you won’t see it on any arrows or circles on mind-bending innovation process maps.  Imagine if an innovation consultant came in to tell your team “Ok, the first step is you want to get your hands on some inspiration.”  Like Peter Senge’s famous work on The Learning Organization, you’d recoil at the idea that everything from there on down would be built on the backs of turtles”.  Managers like to think they can process map everything. So if it’s not on our neat 3D process map, it must be superfluous.  The problem is, inspiration is the most essential element to great innovation.

How You Get Inspiration

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The answer to all world problems that will manifest themselves in grave ways in coming generations can be summed up in one word: Innovation. – Ed Rodriguez

Innovation

A quick note to articulate the importance of Branding as a separate link to Business on my blog. The cycle times for tech discovery and advancement are ever shortening.  Someone needs to come up with a Moore’s Law* for new offerings. Regardless of barriers like IP protection and network effects, the current state of open systems, usability design, process management, inexpensive global collaboration platforms, et al makes the potential for domestic and international copycats to rapidly deliver similar offerings to commercially successful ‘pioneers’ more and more likely.  In case you had not heard, copycats are longhaired nasty felines and pioneers are often the ones that end up with the arrows in their backs.

How can you, as a pioneer, compete with a newcomer that benefits not only from your lessons learned, but from the ability to possibly raise more money than yourself on the basis of the business model that your team has already proven is commercially viable?  Whether B2C, B2B, or B2G, one good answer is Branding.  It’s true that the best brands are built over substantial time, but there are things that start-ups can do to ensure the marketplace and investors understand that being first can mean that your team, your company and your offerings are better than followers’. Branding is becoming an increasingly important part of any start-up’s survival, and should not be overlooked by small entrepreneurial teams focused on going to market with MVP’s** and achieving market validation.

While I am not a Brand Manager, my instincts on branding have been validated. Future posts will elaborate.

*Moore’s Law is a widely held rule of thumb that integrated circuits double in performance every 18 months.

**MVP refers to Minimum Viable Product, i.e., the concept that to be the best pioneer one must go to market with an imperfect but viable product in order to gain market share and lessons learned as the “perfect product” is developed.

I’ve been living under a rock. The Sphero by Orbotix has been around for some time, and is worth checking out for a very cool glimpse of the future of Arkinetics™. Yes, I said it, “Arkinetics™”, the marriage of AR and Kinetics. Using Bluetooth messaging good for 50 feet, the clever team at Orbotix in Boulder has created a robotic sphere that can be manipulated via your Apple iPhone or Android smartphone to amaze old ladies in grocery stores, play fetch with Fido without getting the glob on your hands, and let kids play games of dexterity on AR playgrounds. I like this idea due to its simplicity, which is apropos for emerging technology. The team was smart enough to create an open platform for developers to create their own games / value propositions. Right now, this is no more than a novelty.  Kids can roll a ball to knock down bowling pins the old fashioned way, right? (But can their Mom do so with them from a hotel room in Tokyo?) I did not see any press releases on their site related to venture investment, but I did see a lot of cool factor recognition. Right now its just a candidate for Smarter Image, and hopefully not competing on the same shelf with the wireless Ferrari.

You can think back to how another robotic company branched out from their original robotic vacuum cleaner product, into defense and healthcare and who knows what else is on their agenda. On the face of it, and without any insight into their team or IP, I think this is the appropriate way to look at a company like Orbotix. Its not what the Sphero does now that counts, its what the team may do in the future. What applications are there for a low cost, handheld, remotely manipulated robot? Companies like this, that may not have a ton of funding (I have no idea if they do), but have a committed and passionate team are what start-ups are all about. They’ll live and breathe the monetization problem until they either come up with a eureka moment, or go on to apply their lessons learned at another outfit with a different vision. In all probability linking together mobility, AR and robotics will be more than just cool when a few more things fall into place. Can you ruggedize it more somehow? Can you attach lasers? Can you embed more robust sensors and a camera? Can you add magnetic strips to the outside of the sphere and create a hovering cover that gets left behind? Can you use an ultra-wideband chip to create an ad hoc network of Arkinetic drones? Will it receive verbal commands? What about changing the form factor completely? This is all top of mind.  Seeing something like this opens the flood gates of possibilities, and no idea is too out there. That’s what great about start-ups. Whatever the future for the Sphero, these guys can say they were at the forefront of Arkinetics™.  In the meantime, you can get some free beers by showing the crowd at the pub how you can move that orange with your mind.