Archives For innovation

executing a new idea to create value

The works of new composer Edward Giles can be found on Youtube here, which also includes video output of a 3D rendition of ray-tracing algorithm dealing with a high resolution terrain fly-over.  The musical compositions are also available on SoundCloud by following id523 here. The pieces contain electronically generated and sampled sounds in a richly layered tapestry of melodies and rhythms.

The pieces are complemented with complex fractal images, also generated by the composer.



It is easy to get lost in a crowd of educational theories and unable to see the alignment between the theories and common sense in the classroom. 

Whether we are leading a learning-by-doing (experiential learning) program or teaching a theoretical course, a foundation of education theories is useful.

In any such program of learning we should ask:

  • When the Program is complete, what has been added to the student?
  • How do we measure success?
  • How do we feedback to improve the Program?
  • Whose Program is it?

The work of various educational theorists is woven into the answer to these questions.

This short paper can be downloaded below. There are versions in English and Chinese.

Education 101 – Chinese

Education 101 – Teachers Learning

After reading these posts and looking around Innovation Commission, some useful questions are:
  • What do knowledge, skills, co-creation and values have to do with innovation?
  • How can I look to the ‘core’ of innovation so I can plan for the future?
Some theorists have tried to identify this ‘core’ by specifying ‘pillars of innovation’, so there are many views about what these pillars are:

In 2002 Douglas Watts identified 4 pillars (enabling pre-conditions), which have been applied to elementary schools in Canada (Pollack, 2008  “The Four Pillars of Innovation: An Elementary School Perspective“). These are:
1) people
2) culture and climate
3) structures and processes
4) leadership.

In a 2006 article, Larry Wendling at 3M identified 7 pillars (also pre-conditions):
1. From the chief executive on down, the company must be committed to innovation.
2. The corporate culture must be actively maintained.
3. Innovation is impossible without a broad base of technology.
4. Talk, talk, talk.
5. Set individual expectations and reward employees for outstanding work.
6. Quantify efforts.
7. Research must be tied to the customer.

More recently Ali & Bull (2012 ) identified 5 principles for successful business innovation:
1. Leadership empowers innovation
2. Interest networks are leveraged
3. Ideation and development occur as close to the customer as possible
4. Rewards and measurement systems are aligned
5. Underpin creativity with a structured process

These are all useful for devising checklists to see if your organisation ‘measures up’ now. However, they do not give a framework for devising future strategy as organisations evolve or a lens through which to view everyday developments and allow them to be fitted into your own planning framework.
The next requirement is to identify the foundation concepts or themes of innovation. Don Tapscott has used a succession of books, papers, blogs and speeches over many years to identify and track these themes, which I will call the ‘pillars of innovation’. A sample of these references will be available in the resources area of the site.

Tapscott (2012) Winning with the Enterprise 2.0 has studied the impacts of preparing for innovation on many functional areas of business and has identified ten main areas or ‘themes’ which he calls the ’10 Dimensions of Change in Firms’.
Theme 1: World View – Think Global, Act Global
Theme 2: Corporate Boundaries
Theme 3: Value Innovation
Theme 4: Intellectual Property
Theme 5: Modus Operandi
Theme 6: Business Processes
Theme 7: Knowledge and Human Capital
Theme 8: Information Liquidity
Theme 9: Relationships
Theme 10: Information Technology

Based on his book Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Tapscott appears to tie them back them back to just five ‘pillars’:
  • openness
  • collaboration
  • peering
  • sharing
  • acting globally
In Wikinomics he develops these, with many useful examples. There is an updated book entitled Macrowikinomics (2010). These pillars are very rich concepts which will be used repeatedly to analyse innovation strategies and innovation-related events. Simplified definitions are provided below:

A form of corporate transparency which can improve customer trust. It also summarises the increased likelihood, in this highly connected world, that companies doing the wrong thing will get ‘found out’. As Tapscott points out in the Huffington Post, compromise of individual privacy is not part of openness, which only relates to corporate entities.

Working with others to achieve outcomes not possible working alone. Collaboration can involve experts inside and outside companies for business as well as individuals pursuing social outcomes.

Collaborative production of innovative goods and services by self-organised groups who may gather for ideological reasons as well as economic gain. (eg Wikipedia as a competitor of Britannica).

A knowledge barter system which may involve knowingly trading corporate intellectual property for other business benefits.

acting globally
An understanding that the sizes of entities and their geographical locations are less important than the synergies or benefits they can bring. As a business, your customers, suppliers and competitors (large and small) are global and the barriers to entry have never been lower.

Afterthought: What do knowledge, skills, co-creation and values have to do with innovation?

These three parameters are a helpful way to audit your success as you you confront your own task of learning what you need to know about innovation for the benefit of yourself and your organisation. Educators are accustomed to breaking every learning episode into the requisite knowledge, skills and values required by the end. Innovation Commission is an innovation learning resource site designed to help you develop of these three elements.
Maybe you are thinking: “Why can’t we just cut through all of this background stuff and just go ahead, invent something and get rich?”

Thomas Edison definitely got rich from inventing the lightbulb, but his investors and employer got even richer. Maybe you’ve heard the the company that made its name from Edison’s inventions – General Electric? His investors included the Vanderbilts and J.P. Morgan.

Together they created the electricity industry from nothing, so as to support the sale of light bulbs. Before there was anything to sell, Edison needed to test 10,000 different filament materials before settling on tungsten. These activities are not consistent with inventing something and waiting to get rich. The nearest scenario offered nowadays is to produce a useful Internet technology and wait for a rich multinational to buy out your company in order to secure your intellectual property for their portfolio. Such companies have been acquiring proven winning ideas instead of participating in costly (and risky) research and development for many years. However, your idea needs to be commercialised and proven before your company is a takeover target. Developing and commercialising a new product is an expensive and highly multi-disciplinary undertaking – you need to tap a huge variety of skills and expertise and have great grit and staying power to be successful.

Apart from a few special human beings such as Albert Einstein, great ideas need a context. Even Einstein had spent many years in daily contact with great new ideas in the patent office before envisioning relativity. In your case, your innovation should have a context – a place it will fit in. It should improve a specific situation. Consequently you must be intimately knowledgeable of such a situation, so you can suggest a relevant innovation. Often such innovations come about from cross-disciplinary work. You must be in many situations or must have the benefits of many close collaborators in many disciplines. Such contacts will come in handy for the development and commercialisation phases. You need to ‘keep in touch’ with skilled and highly competent people routinely, establishing a degree of trust from collaboration.

Innovation is all about culture, context and a readiness to try new things. It may also be that the iceberg your company has been sitting on has broken free and is drifting and melting under you – it usually takes a sense of urgency to focus the mind on innovation!

Co-creation and media mashups are a form of innovation through collaborative activity using the two-way conversation which web 2.0 makes possible.

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Innovation is an active and collaborative process. It often takes place in loosely-organised groups of businesses who gather to do a project, usually communicating using web tools. Much of the progress made, (with consequent innovations) happens when specialists from different businesses attempt to solve problems they find when they try to create a product from an idea (execution).

These collaborating businesses can combine detailed, production-specific design capability with manufacturing systems and facilities. They work closely with the overall project manager to ensure that the product or sub-assembly they are making will perform as intended, whilst fitting and working as smoothly as possible with other parts of the product. There are also contractual aspects of the relationship which need to ensure compatible process time, delivery dates and a suitable price structure.
If the organisation you work in is part of such a project group, if you want to be valuable to the project you will need at least two types of knowledge:
  1. mastery of your discipline
  2. knowledge of how to work collaboratively
Mastery of your Discipline
If you are the engineer for a project you must be confident in your ability to find and use materials within their capabilities, solve spatial problems and represent your findings in drawings and documentation which is readily understood and used by others project members. If you are an accountant or lawyer you need to ensure that each new design iteration is within your company’s capabilities and is profitable.
You must know how to use communication and collaboration tools to fully understand the challenges and opportunities for your company and then how to contribute ideas and solutions back to the project group. You must also know which of your company’s intellectual property (IP) can (and must) be released for the benefit of the project and which IP must be kept in-house to protect your company’s competitive position.
Communities of Practice – Mutual Assistance
Hopefully you will be a participant in specialist communities of practice related to your area of expertise, building relationships, trust and a reputation for specific expertise with fellow professionals. You will be donating your time (or your company’s time), your specialist expertise and maybe some company IP to help other companies to solve their operational problems. This offers you a great opportunity to keep an eye on what competitors or potential customers are doing, which you can report back to your manager. It also offers you and your company an incredible free resource of specialists who you can call on occasionally to solve technical problems in your own work.

Human needs & aspirations, jostling competition and a problematic world have plagued individuals for a long time. The potential for global insights delivered alongside a world responsive to our uniqueness are new features, recently enabled by the Internet.

It is a cruel irony that the machines that we looked forward to in the 1950s and 60s to save us from drudgery and provide an easy life have taken over the routine jobs and pushed many of us into more complex service-based roles, especially in the West. In order to maintain progress towards our rising life expectations, we must constantly hone our skills and deliver the fruits of higher order thinking at work to keep our place in the system.

This peculiarly human contribution to the world which we strive for is called innovation. It is usually a collaborative pursuit and it can be learned by individuals and organisations. In order for innovation to occur, the individual and the organisation must both play their roles. Although the innovative idea probably came from one person, some form of interdisciplinary collaboration will be required to execute it and to where it is taken up and used.

Businesses can become innovative by emphasising the tentative nature of daily operations, running production facilities as if they are complex, interconnected scientific experiments. The aim being to optimise the entire production process on a continuing basis. More info about the techniques of action research can be found here and about the Toyota Production system can be found here.

Talk of innovation can have a lot of buzz and mystique.

The most important things are:
  • Grasp its core meanings
  • Make sure we each have the necessary skills and knowledge to play our role.
Here is a definition:
Innovation is executing a new idea to create value.
There are three parts:
Executing…: Having a bright idea or inventing something is not enough! It must be developed so it can be produced or carried out and it must be distributed or communicated to those who can benefit from it. The world generally has more than enough new ideas.
…a new idea…: It must actually be new in your context. Thomas Edison was not the first person to patent the light bulb – his was the twenty-fourth patent! He perfected the light bulb and then went one step further and created the situation for light bulbs to be used. His company built power stations then put wiring into his customers’ homes and businesses so they could use his company’s light bulbs. Edison executed!
…to create value: There must be a compelling reason for people and businesses to adopt your idea or technology. The world with your innovation must be substantially better than the world without it.
Solving the problems to make your invention real, providing the necessary complementary systems and ensuring it is distributed and ‘catches on’ are all important for innovation.
This work requires a great deal of knowledge, many skills and a special attitude to innovation.