Archive for the ‘Innovative Ideas’ Category

In recent years many people have expressed concern regarding Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy and use of user data to generate advertising revenue. A few years ago a small group of New York University students came up with an idea to try to create a new kind of social network where users rather than companies, own their personal data. The students called their idea of social freedom Diaspora and posted a thrown together amateur video on crowdfunding website Kickstarter to try to raise $10,000 to create this social network. The video far exceeded expectations raising $200,641 before coding had even begun.

The Original Diaspora Concept

The student founders of Diaspora envisaged an owner-centric social network, where users didn’t have to be concerned about their data being exploited. On Diaspora, users could store data on a server of their choosing (either their own or sign up on for someone else’s) and use, share or delete the data whenever they chose.

Using open source software the founders hope that Diaspora can challenge Facebook and destroy the notion that only one social network can dominate the market.

The Challenge

Currently Diaspora is a private site with a small dedicated following. Without any marketing more than 600,000 people have requested invites to the site. However, this is obviously a miniscule number of people in relation to Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users. When Diaspora opens to the public later this year, they will need to be able to offer other reasons beyond data ownership to entice people to join.

Potential Differentiation Opportunities for Diaspora

One idea the company is exploring relates to the possibilities that could open up for people who own their own social network data to greater analyze, learn and profit from it. Along these lines a data locker model is being explored where users can choose to share their data selectively with businesses they trust.

Diaspora is also working to add greater artistic ownership to the site, to allow users to control how each post appears visually, in order to greater display their personalities on their profiles. Once this prototype becomes a reality users will be able have creative control over their page and status update layout, font, and how photos and videos are displayed. The idea is to allow users to create innovative page imagery that they could be proud to share. Users can also share their Diaspora profile on other social network sites, which will help Diaspora to recruit new users.

Diaspora’s Potential

A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek on Diaspora suggests that:

‘The data economy’s “disregard for individuals” is a ticking time bomb, that increasingly large security breaches and that feeling of being tracked will slowly shift consumers to demand more control. And that could mean a larger audience for Diaspora.’

In June Diaspora will join the startup accelerator program Y-Combinator. Y-Combinator has helped launch cloud storage site Dropbox and house/vacation sharing website Airbnb which I wrote about last week among other companies. It is hoped that Diaspora will evolve during its time at Y-Combinator with a possible public launch later in the year.

The recent success of Instagram illustrates that users like creative control, which suggests that Diaspora could be successful by giving users design freedom. However, so many social networks have failed to compete with Facebook. MySpace for example, offers users more creative freedom than Facebook, (albeit not as much as Diaspora is proposing) and is no longer popular. Time will tell how Diaspora performs, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Meanwhile if you would like to learn more about Diaspora check out the project website and to request an invite to join click here. 


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Airbnb PinterestE-commerce company Airbnb, began in 2008 in San Francisco as a house-sharing website, helping people to find a place to sleep for the night when local hotels were sold out.  Today Airbnb has over 100,000 listings in 192 countries and has expanded to incorporate other rentals such as parking, storage, bikes, cars etc.

The video below sums up Airbnb’s basic concept:

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, intends Airbnb to become an online marketplace enabling small businesses and entrepreneurs to participate in what he refers to as the “sharing economy.”  Current users are typically independent and have an average age of 35 years old.  It is hoped that Airbnb can eventually enable its users to locate or offer almost anything they want to rent, while managing the transactions through Airbnb’s online transaction management system.  Chesky, recognizes that Airbnb’s scope is potentially endless, though caution is needed:

“There are so many things we can do; the most challenging part of this is to figure out what not to do.”

Airbnb PinterestThe current issue of Fortune magazine suggests that Airbnb may even have the potential to become the next eBay.  Indeed, this e-commerce company has made money from day one, by charging a commission fee of 6 – 12% on each transaction.  The company has certainly been successful in winning the support of high-profile investors including actor Ashton Kutcher and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

Whether or not Airbnb can realize their vision will like any other company be based on their ability to outpace their competition.  Imitation websites for bikes, ride shares, office space and other things have emerged and as the company diversifies it will also face competition from other websites that allow small businesses to have online storefronts such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy.  Airbnb hopes to differentiate themselves by paying close attention to detail to all aspects of their service, by being user-driven, and by focusing on ease of use with their 3-step buyer and seller transaction process.

Interested in learning how to use Airbnb? Check out the video below:

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Ever since I began this blog 3 months ago, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to do an entire post on a new innovative idea from one of my favorite organizations: Disney. Fortunately for me given Disney’s innovation and creativity it didn’t take long. This week Disney began testing their high-tech FastPass (part of their NextGen project) at their Magic Kingdom park.

The current system: Since 1999 Disney theme parks have offered a virtual queuing system through use of a FastPass. Guests insert their park ticket into a machine at one of the busiest attractions and receive a ticket to return later in the day and skip the line. Typically guests can only get one FastPass every two hours and only a certain predetermined number are issued each day. FastPass holders cannot use their FastPass prior to its listed time, but in spite of its one-hour time slot it is unofficially (based on my experience as a cast member and guest) valid at any time throughout the rest of the day. The FastPass is essential for some attractions such as Soarin’ over California which in my experience typically has long lines.

The proposed system: Disney’s NextGen project is a “next generation experience” technology project rumored to cost over $1 billion. Part of this project is expected to result in the creation of guest wristbands implanted with RFID microchips. Prior to arrival guests may be able to pre select a number of attractions for FastPass, reserve show seats, book character-greeting slots etc. This information would then be downloaded into the RFID microchips, to interact with sensors located throughout the Disney parks and resorts. Additional attraction interaction features may also occur based on the information obtained on the chip on the guest’s specific interests.


The “test sensor posts” and the current FastPass

The current test: This week at Disney’s Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, FL blue RFID sensor posts with a Mickey mouse symbol have been temporarily installed throughout the park. A small number of selected guests have been given bands to scan and test. As they scan their band, reservation data is sent to a cast member’s iPad. The bands are intended to provide faster access to attractions than the current FastPass system.

The full extent of what Disney’s NextGen experience could be, is still under wraps. But one thing is for sure the scope for what RFID technology could do to enhance the Disney park’s experience is potentially endless. I know I would love to test this technology, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Of all the innovative ideas I’ve written about in this blog, BuyMyFace.com may be the most bizarre. BuyMyFace was created in September 2011 by two University of Cambridge graduates Ross Harper and Ed Moyse. Faced with a tough economy and poor job prospects the pair created a one-year innovative project to pay off their student loans of £50,000 (approximately $80,000). Beginning on October 1, 2011, every day for 366 days Ross Harper and Ed Moyse are selling advertising space on their faces. Harper explains:

“Companies can literally buy advertising space on our faces. We then paint whatever they’d like: a message or logo onto our faces,”

Each day photographs are taken of the pair’s faces and posted onto the home page on their website. The video below sums up the experiment:

Advertising rates initially started at £1 (approximately $1.59) a day and have since increased substantially based on demand. The rate to advertise on May 1, 2012 for example is £900 (approximately $1425). At the end of the 366-day experiment the website will be transformed into an online calendar offering continuous exposure for all buyers.

By optimizing social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and writing a blog, this human billboard experiment has been optimized into an effective advertising campaign. As crazy as the idea may sound it has been a big success. Robert Dinsey from Altitude Solutions Ltd. sums up his company’s results from using BuyMyFace:

 “The two days we sponsored through BuyMyFace remain the highest traffic levels our website has experienced this year, with a massive concentration of new visitors.”

Some of the sponsoring companies have sent Ed and Ross to fun innovative places to generate greater buzz. For example Altitude Solutions sent the pair Skydiving. While one of BuyMyFace’s biggest sponsors Ernst and Young sent them on a ski trip, which the pair documented in a youtube video:

Unique daily website hits have reached as high as 8,500 a day. With the website receiving press from all over the world. Harper and Moyse have also received job offers for when the project is over. Better still advertising revenues as of April, 15 2012 cover 69% of the pair’s student loans, putting them well on track of reaching their target.

While BuyMyFace could definitely use a Pinterest account to generate further traffic, the idea seems to have working exceptionally well. For more information on this quirky campaign check out the BuyMyFace website.

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If you’re an innovative company, it’s smart to convince your customers that such innovation is going to keep coming and continue to exceed their expectations. This week Google released Project Glass. Project Glass represents a vision through video and photos of how technology in the future might be created to work for you, when you need it and how you need it to. Want to know if that train is going to be late? It will tell you and offer alternatives. See something remarkable and want to share it with someone, go ahead. Want directions inside or outside a building at any given moment? (Something the geographically challenged such as myself could greatly benefit from) this glasses type device will provide that and more. Here is the Project Glass video:

What Google are doing with Project Glass is sharing their ideas of future technology and using crowd sourcing to adapt and create something that best meets consumer needs. Google are actively seeking customer input on this and anyone can add insights on the Project Glass Google+ page.

Upon sharing the Project Glass video on my Facebook page, a friend shared an alternative vision of a glass future from world leader in specialty glass: Corning Inc. In Corning’s vision there are technologically engineered glass flat panel screens everywhere from your house to the office to your car or even outside! Imagine reading from a thin flexible transportable piece of glass or organizing your schedule with a few touches of your bathroom mirror or chatting through interactive video from your kitchen counter top. This company has been researching a vision that could change how we communicate, collaborate and connect in the future. President of Corning, Inc. Jim Clappin explains the company’s vision:

“The consumer trend driving our vision for tomorrow is very clear. We all want to be connected with what we want…when we want…anywhere…and with great ease. Corning’s innovations in glass will enable this journey to continue.”

Watch Corning’s video to see their vision:

Both Google and Corning have innovative visions for the future, but what do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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In my last post I gave an overview of a revolutionary work environment concept called the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) pioneered by consulting group Culture RX. Today I wanted to finish my 2-part ROWE mini series by summing up the organizational benefits of ROWE:

  1. Leaders are forced to clearly define expectations: So often in the workplace employees are unclear about their manager’s expectations. ROWE requires competent, strong leaders who can clearly communicate their expectations to their employees.
  2. Improved communication: ROWE resulted in employees at the Best Buy headquarters learning to communicate more effectively, working together in new ways, in order to plan around one another’s schedules.
  3. Greater cross training: Employees working in organizations where ROWE is in place, are more willing and able to learn additional skills, in order to fill in for coworkers when needed.
  4. Greater engagement and productivity: With ROWE employees are more engaged, less distracted and more productive.
  5. Healthier employees: With ROWE employees no longer have to race to get to the office at 8. Employees can attend doctors’ appointments without feeling guilty, take care of their health and catch up on sleep when they need to. ROWE provides enough flexibility to eliminate situations such as the example of an employee faking a sick day shown in the video below: 
  6. Elimination of under performers: ROWE weeds out poor performers, resulting in an increase in involuntary turnover during the transition stage. Mediocre, incompetent, time-wasting employees will not be able to survive in this kind of environment. However, why would your organization want to keep these employees anyway?
  7. Empowerment: ROWE creates an environment of trust where employees are treated as adults accountable for getting work done on their own schedule. Employees in ROWE environments are also empowered from knowing that their superiors trust them to get the job done.
  8. Greater talent retention and acquisition: After migrating to ROWE Best Buy’s strategic sourcing and procurement team boosted employee retention by 27%. The work-life balance that ROWE offers can greater help organizations to attract and retain the best talent.

The video below adds to the reasons I’ve listed above by enabling you to see organizations’ experiences and results achieved with ROWE:

For more information on ROWE visit Culture RX’s websiteblog and read Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’s book: ‘Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution.’

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Back in February I wrote a blog post about companies that offer their employees unlimited paid vacation time. The unlimited paid vacation time concept is a part of a greater concept called Results-Only Work Environment, which I intend to explore further in this post and in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Many of us have experienced working with individuals who while they may seldom leave their desks and may even be the first to arrive and last to leave, don’t seem to accomplish much work. While most organizations pay great rhetoric to the importance of employee results, many traditional organizations fall into the trap of rewarding face time over results. As this video mocks:



Pioneered by consulting group Culture RX and in practice at Best Buy’s Minneapolis headquarters, 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.  As the authors of the book ‘Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution’ Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson explain:



For a ROWE to be achieved there should be unlimited paid vacation time, no mandatory meetings, no schedules and employees should have the freedom to come and go as they please without judgment from their coworkers and managers on how their day is spent.

ROWE enables organizations to create an environment of trust, which quickly helps to differentiate the employees that are getting work done from those that aren’t. This concept is most suited to knowledge work environments, which are task and project focused. It is unlikely to work in a service environment.

Here are a couple of examples of how employees can use ROWE:

Example 1: Jane works from 8-12 in the morning before spending the afternoon enjoying the nice weather at the park, before logging back in to her computer to work from home in the evening.

Example 2: Joe completes an entire month of work in 2 weeks and apart from checking in with work by e-mail or cell phone, enjoys the rest of the month with his kids who are on break from school.

So what do you think of this concept? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and look out for my next blog post on the benefits of ROWE tomorrow.

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Nike’s new lightweight running shoe the Flyknit exemplifies a new cost efficient manufacturing process, which could shake up the shoe industry.

The process

The Flyknit is made by computer-controlled technology, which knits the upper part of the shoe ready to attach to the sole. This process which Nike call “micro-level precision engineering” eliminates the labor-intensive process of workers assembling numerous machine cut pieces. The technology also enables detailed design aesthetic and fit adjustments to be easily made. In addition the process is more efficient, cutting production time and enhancing profitability. It’s also sustainable with wasted materials weighing in at 1/100th of a pound (about as much as a sheet of paper).

What this means…

The labor-intensive nature of shoe making previously led to the process being outsourced to countries with cheap labor. By eliminating or significantly reducing the labor-intensive part of the process, the shoes will no longer have to be made in countries with cheap labor. As Nike president Charlie Denson acknowledged in this week’s Bloomberg Business Week:

“This is a complete game-changer, the process cuts costs so much that eventually we could make these shoes anywhere in the world.”

Thus if this process lives up to expectations Nike could do some of their shoe manufacturing here in the U.S. Though operating and labor costs would be higher here relative to Nike’s factories in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, shipping costs would be lower. Another benefit, which would help offset costs, is faster market response time allowing greater flexibility to changes in demand in the american market.

In the long run this flexible technology could result in customers being able to purchase shoes customized to fit their feet through use of a foot scanner. What I liked about this technology is that further down the line it should also offer customers the ability to design their own shoe down to a single thread.

All in all I think it will be interesting to see if this new technology lives up to its expectations.

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

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Imagine having one day a month at work where you’re free from your daily responsibilities and meetings to do something different. Perhaps you would work on a new idea, pursue an area of interest, learn new skills in a different area of the company, volunteer in the local community, or just do something fun for the day with your coworkers while getting paid. Such a concept is the reality for LinkedIn’s employees.

One Friday a month LinkedIn’s employees enjoy an inDay where they could do any of what I just described and more! Each inDay has a theme based on employee suggestions. A suggested team direction and vision for how employees can spend the day is given but is not mandatory. Employees can also choose to work on their own projects during this time. The goal is to learn something new, get inspired, have fun and take a break from day-to-day responsibilities.

Past in-days have included:

Volunteer day: employees picked their favorite charities and volunteered for the day giving back to the community

Benefits fair: during open enrollment employees had an entire day to attend a benefits fair and learn from inspiring health and wellness speakers and participate in team activities

Innovator challenge: on the ‘Innovator’s challenge’ inDay, employees were given a day to focus on new idea generation. Employees then got to present their ideas at an informal event with a panel of judges formed from the executive staff, who offered feedback, advice and recognition. The best ideas were awarded prizes and some were even implemented.

“Top Chef” challenge: based on the Bravo TV show, different departments competed against one another to create outstanding dishes.

So what do you think about inDay? Does your company do something similar? Would this idea excite or annoy you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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This past week saw the launch of Kony 2012 by non-profit organization Invisible Children. The campaign was hard to miss and even with my hectic work and grad school schedule I could not avoid seeing mentions of the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and news sites.

So what is Kony 2012?

Kony 2012 is a campaign to increase awareness of Ugandan LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony in order for him to be arrested during 2012. The campaign’s video has become the fastest spreading viral video ever. As of yesterday evening (March 10th) the youtube video had received over 67,000,000 views.

Why am I talking about it on a business ideas blog?

Well I will start by saying I’m not political in the slightest and as a green card holder I can’t even vote! But I wanted to talk about Kony 2012, as it illustrates the game changing power of social media marketing. In this post I will talk about the characteristics of what makes this viral video successful.

It’s shareable

Kony 2012 is informative and shocking in a way that makes the viewer want to share it with others. It’s a video you could send to your friends, colleagues and family.

It has the Hollywood touch

The Kony 2012 video is inspiring, heartbreaking and uplifting, like any good movie. It’s also beautifully filmed with constant screen changes, different settings and music. The use of the narrator Jason Russell’s son Gavin humanizes the cause further. Typically viral videos need to be short (about 2 minutes) to capture attention, but Kony 2012’s emotional roller coaster style filming makes its 29 minutes watchable. From a viral video perspective Kony 2012 is probably the exception when it comes to video length not the rule.

It shows how individuals can make a difference

The video has several calls to action and viewers are asked to share the video. The Kony 2012 website lets you copy the link or click for a link to embed. Viewers are also instructed to write to the 20 designated culture makers (film, music and sports stars etc.) and 12 policy makers. What is cool about it is that when you click on the individuals you are not given old school mailing and telephone details, but formatted tweets, which can be sent with a click of a button.

Other calls to action include donating to the campaign and buying or downloading a campaign kit. One purpose of the kit is to blanket every street on April 20, 2012. The posters and bracelets are geo tagged and each unique tag number can be entered online to show the campaign’s reach. At the time of writing this blog posts the kits are currently sold out, though can still be downloaded.

It’s time sensitive

The video will expire on December 31, 2012 demonstrating the organization’s goal of getting Kony arrested before the end of the year. The expiration date adds a sense of urgency to the campaign.

Kony 2012 viral video     

Here is the video everyone is talking about:

I would encourage you to watch and share the video if you haven’t already seen it, to learn what Kony 2012 is all about. 

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