Review Of Idea and Innovation Software

February 18, 2009

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Useful recent mini-review here of 19 software tools for capturing, evaluating, marketing and selling ideas for product or service innovations.

Picture credit here.


Think Different And Work On Stuff That Matters

February 16, 2009

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It pays to think a little differently at times…

I recently read a couple of very motivating posts by Tim O’Reilly on Work on Stuff that Matters: First Principles and Stuff that Matters: Non-profit to For-profit (with videos here and here).

From the former, the key recommendations are:

  • Work on something that matters to you more than money
  • Create more value than you capture.
  • Take the long view

Whilst these types of thoughts have been promoted by many people in the past it’s good to seriously reflect on them in the present situation, where ‘playing safe’ may be the first and perhaps only option being considered (it may also, paradoxically, be the riskiest!).

It really does pay to think a little differently at times…

Picture credit (and more info on it) here.


Banks And The Full Sorry Story…

February 10, 2009

This item is not directly linked to the main themes of this blog but is very topical nonetheless.

Today, the former Chairmen and Chief Executives of The Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS appeared before the Parliamentary Treasury Committee to be grilled on the UK banking crisis.

Robert Peston’s take on it is here, including:

“Mistakes were admitted – but motivation was glossed over.”

followed by

“But they gave little clue as to why they made these remarkable errors.

Were their banks gripped by a get-rich-quick bonus culture that led them to take excessive risks in the pursuit of short-term profit?

There was a faint nod toward that, but no acknowledgement that the remuneration system that enriched the few at the expense of the many might have been a serious problem.

Did they lack the knowledge and skills to assess the risks they were running? They all denied that they weren’t up to the task of controlling their huge, complex and sprawling banks.

Were there inadequate checks and balances in place, lousy governance, the wrong people on the wrong board committees? They all looked a bit nonplussed.

Perhaps it’s too early to expect those in part to blame for our economic woes to fully understand the motivation that led to the calamitous meltdown of their banks and the near collapse of the entire financial system.

Perhaps they never will grasp fully what went wrong. But it matters that we learn the lessons, so we can design a sounder, safer financial system.”

However really learning lessons is an extraordinarily tricky business (even for much simpler situations) so I certainly wouldn’t bank on that as a realistic outcome (no pun intended).


Forecasting The Future – Some Rules!

February 9, 2009

Forecasting technological developments and their implications is naturally an important if uncertain activity!

Here’s a nice summary of a talk that Paul Saffo gave at The Long Now Foundation on “Embracing Uncertainty – The Secret To Effective Forecasting” (audio version of talk also available and video is here).

“Reflecting on his 25 years as a forecaster, Paul Saffo pointed out that a forecaster’s job is not to predict outcomes, but to map the “cone of uncertainty” on a subject. Where are the edges of what might happen? (Uncertainty is cone-shaped because it expands as you project further into the future— next decade has more surprises in store than next week.)

Rule: Wild cards sensitize us to surprise, and they push the edges of the cone out further. You can call weird imaginings a wild card and not be ridiculed. Science fiction is brilliant at this, and often predictive, because it plants idea bombs in teenagers which they make real 15 years later.

Rule: Change is never linear. Our expectations are linear, but new technologies come in “S” curves, so we routinely overestimate short-term change and underestimate long-term change. “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”

“Inflection points are tiptoeing past us all the time.” He saw one at the DARPA Grand Challenge race for robot cars in the Mojave Desert in 2004 and 2005. In 2004 no cars finished the race, and only four got off the starting line. In 2005, all 23 cars started and five finished.

Rule: Look for indicators- things that don’t fit. At the same time the robot cars were triumphing in the desert, 108 human-driven cars piled into one another in the fog on a nearby freeway. A survey of owners of Roomba robot vacuum cleaners showed that 2/3 of owners give the machine a personal name, and 1/3 take it with them on vacations.

Rule: Look back twice as far. Every decade lately there’s a new technology that sets the landscape. In the 1980s, microprocessors made a processing decade that culminated in personal computers. In the 1990s it was the laser that made for communication bandwidth and an access decade culminating in the World Wide Web. In the 2000s cheap sensors are making an interaction decade culminating in a robot takeoff. The Web will soon be made largely of machines communicating with each other.

Rule: Cherish failure. Preferably other people’s. We fail our way into the future. Silicon Valley is brilliant at this. Since new technologies take 20 years to have an overnight success, for an easy win look for a field that has been failing for 20 years and build on that.

Rule: Be indifferent. Don’t confuse the desired with the likely. Christian end-time enthusiasts have been wrong for 2,000 years.

Rule: Assume you are wrong. And forecast often.

Rule: Embrace uncertainty.

Saffo ended with a photo he took of a jar by the cash register in a coffee shop in San Francisco. The handwritten note on the jar read, “If you fear change, leave it in here.””

Paul Saffo is a forecaster and essayist with over two decades experience exploring long-term technological change and its practical impact on business and society. He teaches at Stanford University and is a Visiting Scholar in the Stanford Media X research network.


Hofstadter’s Law

February 5, 2009

I came across Hofstadter’s Law the other day, which states:

“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”

Some more info here, including:

“This self-referencing adage was coined by Douglas Hofstadter in his 1979 magnum opusGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. It is often cited among programmers, especially in discussions of techniques to improve productivity, such as The Mythical Man-Month or Extreme Programming. Behind its whimsical façade, Hofstadter’s Law is a profound statement of the difficulty of accurately estimating the amount of time it will take to complete tasks of any substantial complexity.”


European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009

February 2, 2009

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This year is apparently the European Year For Creativity and Innovation! As part of this an interesting and varied list of Ambassadors have been signed up and high-level debates on 6 themes planned:

“In each debate, high level speakers will introduce their views and experience in Creativity and Innovation. The debates will take place in Brussels.

The topics and the dates may be subject to change, so check this page regularly for updates:

  • Cultural diversity as basis for Creativity and Innovation
    Debate organised to explore Europe’s potential for C&I due to its intercultural nature.
  • Creativity and Innovation in the public sector
    Debate focused on innovation in the public sector through integration of technologies and innovation of processes, in particular in the fields of health, education and social services.
  • Education for creativity and innovation
    Debate on the importance of education for developing creative, innovative and entrepreneurial societies.
  • Creativity and Innovation and the knowledge society
    Debate on how the free movement of knowledge can both inspire creativity and innovation in Europe and contribute to an important modernisation of Europe in light of economic and social challenges. The event will deal especially with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
  • Creativity and Innovation and sustainable development
    Debate on eco-innovation with particular attention to climate change, security of energy supply and the issue of innovation and job-creation.
  • Creative arts and Industries
    Debate about the role of creative arts in industrial design and development.”

It’s early days, but I hope there are also some lively and organised sub-debates all around the EU as well as otherwise it sounds very Brussels-centric (I expect they’ll have live streaming or the recorded video on EUTube as well). It’ll be interesting to see what comes of all this, epecially in the light of the current economic climate!