Two Global Innovation Reviews For 2013

October 29, 2013


The Top 20 R&D Spenders (from the original Booz & Co survey)

Recently two interesting surveys on global innovation have come out.

Full details can be found at:

Global Innovation 1000 Study 2013: Navigating The Digital Future

PwC Innovation Survey 2013

Comment: Please note that the company formerly known as Booz & Company combined with PwC and is now Strategy&, part of the PwC network as of April 2014.

Image: credit here.


Thinking Through Your Fingers

October 27, 2013

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Isaac Asimov

Quite an interesting quote.

It’s usually easy to talk about new ideas and this is often helpful and sometimes crucial in the early, formative stages but I’ve often found that writing them down really helps to see how solid they are. Any gaps in reasoning (eg arising from the ‘we’ll sort that out later’ type of approach) become immediately and painfully apparent when you put pen to paper. Waffling on the page is so blindingly obvious!

At the same time, I’ve been surprised at how many people are quite reluctant to do this. My guess is that it’s partly because writing clearly and concisely is not a common skill and also because of the fear of the likely situation. Really, it should be viewed the opposite way round, an opportunity to appreciate and face up to problems a long time before they might appear and when they are easier (but still awkward) to handle.

A sort of low-key risk management, but far less formal.

On this general theme, see also here.

Inspiring Leadership

October 21, 2013

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

This is a more fluid definition of leadership than you usually come across. It implies lots of people are leaders, either knowingly or unknowingIy. I can certainly think of a wide variety of people that have had this effect on me, at least on occasions.

But, more importantly, do you have this effect, at least sometimes?

You may not be sure or you may not have even thought about it, either way if you’re brave you can always ask! You might be (pleasantly) surprised at the answer and it may be a whole new area you can develop.

Spotted here.

How To Make Children Intelligent

October 18, 2013

From a lecture by Neil Gaiman, on the importance of libraries, reading and daydreaming:

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

It’s an interesting article and challenges some common points of view:

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.

When I worked full time I never went to the local public library (I tell myself I was too busy). I got everything from the web or from books I ordered online, hardcopy or digital.

The library in my last employer got changed into (effectively) a coffee shop to promote conversation and interaction (not a bad thing, extremely effective actually, just quite different).

As I now work part-time, I decided to explore the local library and now go about once a week (for a few years now). Somewhat to my surprise, I always find something useful or interesting – it was there all along of course, I just didn’t appreciate it. I especially like the fact that I can order any book and get it, for a modest fee, quickly and efficiently (through inter-library loans etc). A superb service!

Sometimes focusing on the web closes eyes rather than opening them.

The UK Government policy on supporting libraries can be found here.

Writing Books

October 13, 2013

I’m currently attempting to write a non-fiction book but taking creative ideas used in the writing of fiction to spice things up a bit. I’ve written lots of technical articles for over 30 years and have also written for this blog for five but I’ve never written a self-contained book before. It’s really interesting learning about a whole new area!

With this in mind, yesterday I spent a pleasant hour browsing in a local book store as low-key market research. I ended up skimming through a few books in the ‘advice to aspiring authors’ section and came across loads of great ideas – it was really quite inspiring!

Bringing me back to reality, I also found this amusing remark

If all else fails remind yourself that lots of people want to write a novel but few do, and even fewer are published. As Peter Cook used to say when people told him they were writing a novel: ‘Really? Neither am I.’

Of the books on view, two that caught my attention were:

The Writer’s Little Helper by James Smith (not as basic as it sounds)

365 Ways To Get You Writing by Jane Cooper

Both are 5 stars on Amazon UK, albeit with a small number of reviews.

The Business Show 2013 (November 28-29)

October 10, 2013

The 30th Business Show will be held at Olympia (London) over 28-29 November 2013. Free tickets are available here.

The show will feature seminars/speakers, workshops and speed networking opportunities together with some special events such as the Angels Den and The Boardroom.

It’s aimed at people starting or expanding a business.

The two day event attracts more than 25,000 businesses who attend with the primary agenda of improving and expanding their business, and to anybody who has attended the show it will come as no surprise that it’s now the fastest growing business show in Europe.

I went to this show two years ago and found it quite interesting (particularly the talks by James Caan and Penny Power) – writeup here.

They give some practical advice for pitching at the meeting:

Tips for a Perfect Pitch Final


Pitching Creative Ideas

October 8, 2013


I’m in the process of writing a book. Well, more precisely, I’m in the process of researching and making notes for a book!

As part of this I’m reading various articles on the writing process. This covers not just the book itself but also pitching it as well as hopefully making it a success.

In a recent newsletter by the writing coach Jurgen Wolff, I came across this interesting extract:

Considering all the lip service paid to creativity you’d think the world is clamouring for new ideas. Well, actually it is – in theory. But if you come up with something new, more often than not you’ll find tremendous resistance.

I suspect this is true of all fields. I can certainly attest to it within the film and TV industry. More than once I’ve heard “We want something new, fresh and edgy!”

You pitch them a new, fresh, and edgy idea…

Here’s what’s going through their heads:

  • “This thing could fail. I’ll get blamed. Better play it safe.”
  • “If this is so great, why hasn’t somebody done it already?”
  • “I get it, but the people in marketing won’t.”
  • “I get it, but the audience/reader/average person won’t.”
  • “If we make it more like that thing that was a success last year it’s more likely to succeed, too.”
  • “I’ll leave in this little fragment of edgy, that’ll show I’m a creative thinker but I don’t go overboard.”

This raised a smile as it reminded me of the time when I was a bid manager. These bids (in leading-edge scitech areas) varied from the small and specialised to some very big and complex ones. However in nearly all cases the customer (often a government department) was adamant that he/she was looking for ‘innovative solutions’. Ideally they should have little or no risk and yet deliver high rewards!

Helpfully, in the context of books, Wolff goes on to suggest the following approaches to overcoming these difficulties (which could also be useful in other areas, the following is an extract):

How can you disarm these idea-killers?

You can avoid some of these traps if you follow these strategies in your pitch:

GO HIGH: Deal with the highest person on the decision-making ladder that you can.

RELATE: Compare it to something that has been successful.

INVOLVE: Try to get the other person to buy into the idea early.

ANTICIPATE: Think about what objections they might have and defuse them with the “some people might think” strategy.

REASSURE: If possible, show that somebody else already likes this idea or was willing to take a chance on it.

ACTION: If you are passionate about a project that has not found the necessary approval in the past, consider whether one or more of these strategies might lead to a different result.

Quite a useful checklist.

Picture credit: here.