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Archive for the ‘Innovative Ideas’ Category

What if everything you know about creativity and innovation is wrong?  What if incentives can actually hinder innovation?  What if brainstorming is not the best way to generate new ideas?  And most importantly what makes some companies and individuals more innovative than others?

All these questions and more are addressed in David Burkus’ upcoming book: The Myths of Creativity – The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas.

As someone who is passionate about innovation, I believe idea generation and creativity can differentiate good companies from great ones.  Innovation makes common sense to me.  Innovative companies are open to new ideas and continually challenge the status quo, turning their ideas into new successes.  Yet so many companies struggle with the concept of innovation and how to create a culture which successfully fosters creative output.  Given my passion around innovation, I was fortunate to be selected to be a part of the book launch team for The Myths of Creativity, which demystifies the processes which drive innovation.

In the Myths of Creativity, Burkus debunks 10 common innovation myths and describes how companies and individuals can act on the truths behind these myths to increase their creative output.  Myths analyzed include:

  • The Eureka Myth: Creative insights happen in a flash
  • The Expert Myth: Innovative solutions come from highly trained experts
  • The Incentive Myth: The more incentives given, the more innovation can be achieved
  • The Brainstorming Myth: Brainstorming is needed to achieve creative ideas
  • The Mousetrap Myth: If you have a great idea, the world will jump onboard

Interested in learning more about how your company can create an innovative culture where the best ideas, projects, processes and programs can be identified and achieved?  Or how you can become more innovative?  Check out the preview video of the Myths of Creativity below and consider pre-ordering the book on Amazon.

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Created by Canadian start-up Thalmic Labs, MYO may be a potential replacement to camera/movement tracking technologies. But what is MYO? MYO is an armband that detects gestures from muscle activity and motion sensing. The MYO armband uses Bluetooth connectivity to wirelessly pair with devices and send commands. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and an ARM processor, power the MYO armband. If the product lives up to expectations it could transform how we interact with digital technologies. Check out this video to see how MYO is expected to function:

Here are 5 reasons why I believe MYO could be a potential game changer:

1. It’s Non-Invasive

The MYO armband should be no different from wearing a watch (albeit higher on your arm). It’s not in front of your eyes, potentially getting in your way like Google’s Project Glass technology. My only concern regarding wear-ability is MYO’s “one size fits most” claim. I have thin arms, (a lucky problem to have in some instances) and can’t help but wonder if a MYO armband will fit looser and not function as well on my arm? Time will tell if Thalmic Labs may need to recreate the MYO armband in different sizes to guarantee optimal functionality.

2. Large Audience /Multi-Use Appeal

MYO can be used to interface with video games and for other entertainment purposes. It also has an educational application, enabling its user to sweep through PowerPoint presentations (without holding a remote or standing behind a computer) and circle data. In addition MYO can be used by runners and snowboarders for example to measure speed. MYO can also interact with devices to serve a mouse or remote type function. MYO’s large amount of uses, make this technology potentially accessible to a mass audience.

Pinterest _ Search results for MYO gesture

3. PC/MAC Compatibility

MYO will be fully compatible with PCs and MACs from launch, making it widely accessible. Thalmic Labs are also looking into offering Linux support.

4. It’s Affordable!

MYO is available for pre-order for $149 and can be shipped anywhere in the world for $10.

5. Open Source Development

Thalmic Labs have been smart enough to recognize that they will not be able to think of all the ways MYO could be used. As a result anyone can utilize MYO’s hardware to experiment, build and profit creating a MYO app.

My Recommendation

I think MYO could potentially be very successful. However, getting the armband into the mass market before an established technology company releases something similar (e.g. Google’s Project Glass), will impact Thalmic Labs’ success. I would recommend Thalmic Labs partner with a large technology company for example Microsoft’s Kinect to greater increase the likelihood of this technology having a fast impact. Educational partnerships with schools, colleges and technology centers could further ensure a successful launch.

Want to be an early adopter of this gesture technology? Click here to preorder a MYO armband. 

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Why Managing Sucks - Launch TeamLast year I wrote several posts on the results-only work environment concept and the benefits of this approach.  To recap a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management philosophy focused on employee results over presence.  With ROWE employees are free to come and go as they please and do whatever they want, so long as work gets done and deadlines are met.

The ROWE concept is pioneered by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler from consulting group Culture RX.  In 2008 Thompson and Ressler’s book on ROWE: “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week.  The concept has gathered acclaim from all over the world and Daniel Pink best selling author of Drive, describes ROWE as:

“One of the biggest ideas in talent in the last decade.”

Now Thompson and Ressler are back with a new book called “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It” that shows how management can be reinvented.  The book is described as “a results-only guide to taking control of work, not people.”  In addition to Thompson and Ressler’s narratives on ROWE and management, the book also features case studies written by Culture RX’s clients illustrating how the ROWE concept can “make an organization more entrepreneurial, more connected with the broader industry trends, and more willing to take smart risks.”  Indeed, organizations that have adopted ROWE have on average experienced increased engagement, a 35% increase in productivity and a 90% decrease in voluntary turnover.  Here is a trailer that sums up what this book is all about:

Last year my blog posts on ROWE attracted the attention of Ressler and Thompson and I was asked to guest post on the Culture RX blog.  Roll on a year and I am excited to have been asked to be a part of the book launch team for “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It!” Check out the first chapter today and consider purchasing the book to readjust your thinking on work.

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Traditionally companies communicated with customers through outbound marketing channels, blasting advertising messages at their potential customers. In recent years the rise of social media has enabled companies to have more of a conversation with their customers. New start-up AdYapper continues the inbound marketing trend by providing a channel for companies to get feedback on their television advertising campaigns. As a one-way communication medium, television-advertising feedback is typically limited to focus groups and sales analysis, but this could change.

So What is AdYapper.com?

AdYapper offers a platform to enable advertisers to gain opinions on their commercials. Brands can verify their accounts and obtain consumer feedback on their commercials. The site offers the opportunity for marketers to gain greater insights to avoid wasting money on campaigns that don’t engage the public. AdYapper aims to empower consumers to hold advertisers accountable by sharing their thoughts. Consumers can view commercials and click if they loved it, hated it or were indifferent to it and give their opinions. Consumers can also upload ads from YouTube, and give their opinions even if the brands have not joined the site. Current commercials on AdYapper include campaigns from Coca Cola, eBay, Adobe, and Nike.

The Challenge

I love the concept of providing a forum for brands to get consumer feedback on their commercials, but the challenge will be getting consumers to want to “yap”. AdYapper may need a compensation type program similar to e-rewards.com, where consumers could receive points towards gift cards or monetary compensation for viewing sponsored commercials. Another challenge for AdYapper will be how they can make money from the site. The start-up may need to keep some of their data private in order for it to be of enough value to sell to marketers. They may also need to start collecting demographic data from consumers, as currently the site only requires Facebook or Twitter log on and an e-mail address.

AdYapper offers an innovative way to transform television marketing in to an inbound marketing opportunity. Some refining will be needed to entice consumers to participate to gain enough feedback to be truly valuable to marketers. Time will tell if AdYapper could become like Yelp for TV commercials, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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As smart phones have grown in popularity, cellular network capacity has become increasingly stretched. As a result an alternative is needed to meet bandwidth demand. Hello, Wi-Fi. Today many cell phone carriers have Wi-Fi offload plans to limit the cost of expanding their capacity.

Take AT&T for example, the large carrier has set up approximately 30,000 of its own hotspots in Starbucks, McDonald’s and other public facilities in part to satisfy its subscriber’s media data network demand.

Small carriers however, are taking a more innovative approach to sourcing Wi-Fi capacity, by using a software called Devicescape. San Bruno, CA company Devicescape has identified an untapped opportunity to utilize unprotected public hotspots to expand cellular network capacity. David Fraser, CEO acknowledges this opportunity:

“There’s a huge network that’s been hiding in plain sight… Why not use it?”

How it Works

Devicescape have created a continually updated database of unsecured Wi-Fi routers owned by businesses and organizations. This database of usable hotspots is growing at a rate of 25,000 spots per day. Currently Devicescape has a database of 9 million unprotected hotspots. Devicescape’s software has been sold to mobile carriers such as MetroPCS and Republic Wireless. These carriers then install Devicescape software onto their network’s handsets. When these carrier’s subscribers make calls (unbeknownst to them) in many cases the Devicescape software will automatically detect and connect to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot with available bandwidth.

Benefits of Devicescape’s Approach

Devicescape offers significant client benefits enabling approximately 40% of their mobile data to utilize Wi-Fi hotspots. While customers won’t necessarily know the difference, Wi-Fi is typically faster and more reliable reducing connection disruptions.

Threats of Devicescape’s Approach

If every carrier adopted this software, many public free Wi-Fi hotspots would get flooded with users, slowing access speeds. This could then lead to greater use of password protection, reducing the number of hotspots available.

There are also legal risks surrounding the Devicescape software. Harold Feld Senior VP of Public Knowledge a digital rights group, acknowledges that while Wi-Fi siphoning is probably not illegal, it is nevertheless a gray area:

“It’s like a limo pulling up in front of a soup kitchen for the free food.”

Devicescape has been careful to measure hotspot traffic to avoid already overburdened Wi-Fi hotspots. Nevertheless, the company has received complaints from some business owners. In response to such complaints Devicescape’s database has been amended accordingly to abandon using those hotspots. So far this response has been sufficient and the company has not yet been sued. 

Mobile data traffic is expected to increase 78% a year through 2016. With increasingly scarce network capacity in busy (city) areas, Wi-Fi can enable cell phone carriers to offer additional bandwidth without substantially raising costs. Time will tell if Devicescape’s approach can be sustainable, but given AT&T’s increasing purchase of Wi-Fi hot spots; the use of Wi-Fi offloading by cellular carriers looks set to continue.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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If you’ve been to any popular tourist spot, chances are someone on your Facebook friends list has too. After all what frequent Facebook user hasn’t seen a friend’s vacation snap shots of somewhere they themselves have been at some point? Frequently people posts pictures in front of popular tourist haunts such as the Statue of Liberty, Buckingham Palace, with Mickey and Minnie at a Disney theme park or even with that Times Square cowboy. Perhaps such pictures are even better shots than yours. Maybe your Facebook friend had better weather; which lets face it is very possible with the Buckingham Palace example. With so many people having similar vacation experiences, which are now more visible than ever before, it may be harder than ever to have bragging rights when it comes to travel.

An article in the July 23, 2012 edition of Fortune Magazine, suggests that there is a growing trend of one of a kind travel experiences. The article claims that a growing number of companies in the travel industry are starting to offer travel experiences that go beyond generic tourist spots. Here are some company examples:

Frommer’s Remix: this successful travel guide company now offers itinerary creation based on destination preference and interests. Users even receive a custom-made book containing maps to the different activities based on the hotel they are staying at.

An AirBnB option in France, image courtesy of Pinterest

AirBnB: back in May I featured a blog post on AirBnB, a San Francisco start-up, which offers a wide variety of things to rent. The website’s diverse offerings include interesting places to stay and unique activities. There’s an experience for almost any budget. You can go on a street food tour of London with locals or go to an urban rooftop farm in New York or an architecture exhibition in Munich; the options when you think outside the box are endless.

Fortnighter: New York company Fortnighter utilizes the talents of over 100 freelance travel writers’ local knowledge to create custom itineraries based on a user’s interests and preferences. This company custom designs trips of any length and can even help you decide where to go. Here is an example:

“One client asked the company to structure a three-week road trip through New Zealand. He had heard of caves full of mesmerizing glowworms but didn’t know any details, so Fortnighter’s writer did the research, tracked down an outfitter to escort him through the caves, and found hotels for 10 stops along the way.”

Essentially the company creates customized vacations based on local knowledge to save people hours of research.

One&Only Resorts, image courtesy of Pinterest

One&Only Resorts: One&Only Resorts is an upscale hotel company that tries to create memories by surprising its guests. The company’s concept is based on details, if a guest mentions a favorite food or song, the company will find a way to surprise them accordingly, perhaps by playing that song at dinner and serving that favorite food item. Essentially this concept reminds me of creating magical moments, something I did in my days as a Disney cast member.

Based on a True Story: An option for the millionaires out there, Based on a True Story organizes just a few dream come true trips each year. Here is the description of what they offer:

“We take our clients to the most secluded, untouched and awe-inspiring locations on earth and create… a magic-carpet-ride of exclusive experiences…  all in utter privacy. A travel experience that is individually created and truly yours alone. Our holidays provide strategic and seamless discovery, encompassing an eclectic range of incredible events and activities enriched by exceptional private chefs, slick logistics and utterly exclusive and authentic accommodation.”

One group of past clients were enjoying a bonfire after a South African safari, only to be surprised by Zulu tribes people performing a battle and drum performance. Based on a True Story trips include a professional photographer who helps to create a book of the once in a lifetime experience.

What do you think of the growing trend of experiential vacations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Making the bed is definitely a daily chore for many of us. However, this task may become redundant in the future, for purchasers of OHEA’s “smart bed”.

Spanish company OHEA; have created a bed that literally makes itself. The video below previews the smart bed:

As you can see from the video the smart bed is very streamlined and simple and looks like a piece of Ikea furniture.

How it works

The bed is equipped with a device that triggers 3 seconds after an occupant has gotten out of bed. In just 50 seconds the side arms of the bed open up and a roller bed making mechanism is activated. To avoid the annoyance of having your bed remade every time you get up during the night, the device can also be set manually, to only make the bed when a “go” button is pressed on a remote control. For safety purposes the device will not function while any pressure is applied.

Target audience

The target audience for this product is ultimately any one looking to save a few minutes a day by eliminating this chore. However, the user that can benefit most from this technology is anyone who for health reasons cannot easily bend and make their bed.

Smart bed options

The smart bed is currently available in 5 different sizes. At this point in time the smart bed is not compatible with regular bedding. Each smart bed comes with two sets of smart bed compatible bedding.  The company anticipates having a broader variety of bedding options in the future. Certainly at this time the bed is very simple and given its lack of multiple pillows and blankets, it looks like the simplest kind of bed to make manually. As the technology progresses, this is inevitably likely to change.

The smart bed’s U.S. release date and pricing has not yet been announced. However, the company is accepting queries on their website, where you can also learn more about this innovative product that could revamp your morning routine. 

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Recently I wrote a blog post on “Donate your Desktop” a New Zealand organization that had thought outside the box and found an untapped advertising/social entrepreneurial opportunity. In this post I am going to write about Taxiback.com a British company whose similar innovative thinking has enabled them to find a new untapped market to offer consumers cheaper transportation.

So what is Taxiback.com?

Every day across the world taxis take passengers to the airport and other destinations, charge their fee, drop the passengers off and then often return to their base empty. Essentially the empty ride back to base is a missed opportunity, to gain additional revenue from potential passengers heading in the same direction. Taxiback.com has capitalized on this previous missed opportunity, by providing the technology to create a return load service which links taxi drivers to potential passengers.

How it works:

Potential passengers enter where they are traveling to and from and the site functions as an auction where taxi drivers can place bids. Within 24 hours the 3 lowest bids are sent to the passenger, who can then arrange their transportation direct with the taxi company they select.

The benefits:

The cab companies and their drivers’ benefit from extra revenue and tips they wouldn’t have otherwise received, while passengers benefit from lower fares. This concept is also sustainable saving fuel and time.

I think this start-up has a lot of potential and could work well in other countries. I particularly could picture it in the larger US cities. However, my take home message from this concept is for readers to consider what other missed opportunities may exist in their industry, to rethink a task in order to create new sources of revenue as taxiback.com have done.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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A screen shot of the True Office application

In recent months I have read several articles in he business press of forward-thinking companies who are incorporating the gamification trend in to their training programs.  Gamification in this context can transform a training program in to a story telling video game experience with progress-based scoring and rewards.  This approach if optimized correctly can greater captivate the employee’s attention and enhance the learning experience, to achieve greater knowledge retention.

Fortune Magazine recently featured an example of True Office’s compliance game training applications.  The applications take the form of an interactive story, told in a fast paced manner over the course of about 20 minutes.  Following the game’s completion, trainees complete a 10-minute quiz to confirm their understanding of the material. Here is the True Office demo:

True Office applications are delivered by the cloud and are compatible with almost any device.  The video below explains a little more about the True Office application software:

As you can see in the video above True Office consider their software to be a way to greater engage my generation the Millennials, when doing compliance training.  Since my generation has grown up with technology and are accustomed to interaction, True Office believe their applications which use tablets and mobile technologies are far more suited to engaging what they refer to as the ‘New Media Workforce’ than binders and videos from the 80’s.  I couldn’t agree more, this approach is very current and relevant to the 21st century business environment.

In addition to the obvious advantage of making compliance training less tedious for employees, the program also offers advanced analytics.  Companies using the True Office game are able to obtain exact figures of how long employees spend reading policies.  Such information is greatly helpful for compliance protection in the case of liability suits.  In addition the analytics can help companies to identify areas where additional training is needed.  For example, if employees consistently make the same mistakes on the quiz, areas of confusion can be addressed in additional training or can be sued to revamp the current training process.

The analytics and fun aspect of gamified training programs demonstrate great potential, but what do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Donate Your Desktop is an innovative application created in New Zealand, which enables Mac or PC users to donate their desktop background to raise money for charity.

The Opportunity:

When you think about it, your computer desktop is a wasted space that may at best display photos and at worst be a bland computer selected design.  Since people look at their desktops frequently this idle space represents a potential advertising opportunity.

How it Works:

Companies pay Donate Your Desktop to advertise on people’s desktops.  75% of advertising revenues are then donated to charity.  People can choose to download and install the Donate your Desktop application.  The download process is simple, no credit card details are required and all a user has to do is select a charity.  Current New Zealand charities include Oxfam, WWF, Breast Cancer Foundation and the Starship Foundation (which raises money for child healthcare).

The application does not disturb normal computer usage and it is risk-free and no access is permitted to any files on your computer.  The application merely sits on the system tray and allows the current desktop background to be replaced everyday with a new advertising image.

Each day on computers using the Donate Your Desktop application, a different wallpaper will be displayed advertising that day’s sponsoring company.  Advertised images have been designed to be attractive and visually appealing (see example advertising image to the left), to avoid user irritation.

The Vision:

Donate Your Desktop offers great potential to make a difference in the world as the company describes in their vision statement:

‘There are over a billion computer users across the world that could be helping those in need.  Our vision is to turn your collective efforts into large ongoing donations to our partner charities.’

While Donate Your Desktop is currently only available in New Zealand, there are plans to launch in other countries across the world soon.  If you would like to be notified once the application is available in your country please register your interest at this link.

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