The state of the global economy is finely balanced with the current situation in Europe and the state of the US economy. Although Australia’s economy seems to be stable, many businesses in the retail, manufacturing and tourism sectors are hurting. Could the trends of the recent past provide the insights for our future direction? Futurists have developed a range of techniques to study the future and predict general trends that can help individuals and businesses make the right decisions for their future. These insights also provide the power to design or create your desired future.

Following are a few techniques that futurists use to spot new opportunities and potential problems (extracted from World Future Society website These methods can give you and your organization an essential edge to help you succeed in a fast-changing world:

1. Systematically Scan the Media — Futurists often conduct ongoing and systematic surveys of news media and research institutes. These surveys help spot significant trends and technology breakthroughs. Futurists call this environmental scanning.

2. Analyze and Extrapolate Trends — After the trends are identified, the next step is to plot the trends to show their direction and development into the future. Trend analysis and extrapolation can show the nature, causes, speed, and potential impacts of trends.

3. Develop Scenarios — Futurists often describe the future development of a trend, a strategy, or a wild-card event in story form. These scenarios paint a vivid picture that can help you visualize possible future developments and show how you can prepare effectively for future risks and opportunities. Scenarios help you to blend what you know about the future with imagination about the uncertain. Scenarios help you move from dreaming to planning and then to accomplishment.

4. Ask Groups of Experts — Futurists also conduct “Delphi Polls,” which are carefully structured surveys of experts. Polling a wide range of experts in a given field can yield accurate forecasts and suggestions for action.

5. Use Computer Modeling — Futurists often use computer models to simulate the behavior of a complex system under a variety of conditions. For example, a model of the U.S. economy might show the effects of a 10 percent change in taxes.

6. Explore Possibilities with Simulations — Futurists create simulations of real-world situations by means of humans playing different roles. For example, in war games, generals test out tactics they may later use on the battlefield, or corporate executives can explore the possible results of competitive strategies.

7. Create the Vision — Futurists help organizations and individuals systematically develop visions of a desirable future. Visioning creates the big picture of the possibilities and prepares the way for goal setting and planning.

We need to be proactive, open our minds to study the current trends, and invest time to vision our desirable future.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Innovation is a highly interactive, multidisciplinary process which increasingly involves cooperation and partnerships between a growing and diverse network of individuals and organizations. We find increasingly more organisations innovate through partnerships and collaborations.

Collaboration is defined as the process where two or more people or organizations work together towards achieving mutually beneficial goals and objectives. Collaboration extends over a range of activities, including the provision and transfer of skills, sharing of information, conducting research and product development, accessing channels to market and creating new market opportunities.

The aim of collaboration is the co-creation of value through sharing, creating new insights, and leveraging existing resources. The diagram below outlines a continuum of collaboration intensity from traditional business approaches of engaging customers and suppliers, to a shared destiny of creating new competitive space.

Collaboration in Australian firms has been comparatively low as reflected in the 2010 OECD Working Party of National Experts in Science and Technology Innovation (NESTI) project data outlined in the graphic below. The graph shows the percentage of innovative firms with national and international collaboration on innovation during the period 2004–06.

Therefore, what could be the causes of the low percentage of collaboration. A number of issues and barriers can occur in pursuing potential collaborations, including:

  • Lack of professionalism on both sides of the collaboration, including poor project and intellectual property management
  • Diverging interests and cultures, including impulsive relationships
  • Problems over speed of negotiation, ownership of results and intellectual property, including exclusivity
  • Compensation for indirect costs and background knowledge
  • Equitable returns in the event of successful commercialisation

From a government policy perspective, a lack of incentivisation and program support for collaboration could also be a factor of low level collaboration in certain countries.

The concept of open innovation is worth re-visiting as collaboration plays a significant role. Open innovation implies that an organization has the willingness and desire to source and utilize external knowledge, ideas, intellectual assets and technologies, in addition to its internal capabilities, to identify solutions to problems, capitalize on opportunities, develop new technologies, create new products and services, improve processes, or design new organizational systems and business models. A great example of an organization practicing open innovation is Proctor & Gamble, where many of its products have been developed with external partners providing research, development and cross-licensing of intellectual property.

A number of benefits can be gained by firms and organizations through collaboration and open innovation:

  1. Reduced costs due to utilising others people’s experience, skills & equipment and sharing costs of research
  2. Higher quality research and development
  3. Accessing new and different skills, networks, contacts and distribution infrastructure
  4. Risk mitigation – collaboration can have reduced risk as it is shared
  5. Increased speed to market

How can we better collaborate to drive innovation?

Dr John Kapeleris

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Australia is now characterised as a high cost environment due to a number of factors, including increased labour costs, increased regulatory costs and the increased value of the Australian dollar. Many traditional businesses are struggling to survive in this competitive environment. For businesses to become more competitive and gain significant advantages in the current global environment, they must innovate their business models, not just focus on products and services.

According to Osterwalder, a business model describes the value an organization offers to various customers and portrays the capabilities and partners required for creating, marketing, and delivering this value and relationship capital with the goal of generating profitable and sustainable revenue streams.

Business model innovation involves the design and management of innovation at the organisational and systems levels of businesses. It involves re-thinking the business approach, focusing on the unique offering, servicing clients, re-designing the business and creating value. Innovation requires constant thinking, planning, experimentation and learning by doing, to create new capabilities and to successfully implement a new business model.

IBM’s global CEO study conducted in 2006 indicated that firms innovating their business model exceeded the growth of firms that were innovating their products, services, markets or operations. A summary of the results is outlined in the figure below:

A great example of business model innovation is Dell Computers. The computer hardware industry has become a highly competitive industry where we have seen a number of consolidations through mergers and acquisitions but also divestment of existing business, such as IBM making the decision to stop selling desktop and laptop computers. Dell however was willing to rethink its business model and develop a new approach to remain competitive in a highly dynamic business environment.

Dell’s business model was redesigned, refined and modified by focusing on the following components:

  • Direct customer relationships
  • Direct sales
  • Customer segmentation for sales and service
  • Build-to-order production

The Dell business model was refined by removing the elements and activities that did not create value for Dell or its customers. The following diagram campares the Dell business model with the traditional personal computer distribution model.

The business model innovation implemented by Dell has provided the following advantages for the company:

  • Increased market share for personal computers
  • Ability to deliver a “made-to-order” customised PC quickly to the customer
  • Increased client satisfaction
  • Reduced cost through minimising inventory
  • Increased profit by utilising a direct sales strategy

Businesses should consider reviewing their existing business models and determining whether business model innovation can create competitive advantage.

Dr John Kapeleris
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Idea Auctions and 3M

March 26th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas - (0 Comments)

New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the know-how (tacit knowledge) of employees and making this knowledge available to others within the organisation. Once the knowledge is shared and recorded within the organization (codified knowledge) it becomes a component of the corporate memory of the organization. What the organisation then does with the new ideas presented by employees will have the potential to add value to the organization. Although many organisations capture and record ideas they fail to develop these ideas further or fall short of converting these ideas into new products or services, new processes or new organisational systems.

The global company 3M, known for its unique innovative practices, encourages employees to spend 15% of their time to work on their own ‘pet’ projects. These pet projects allow employees to investigate and test their ideas, and subsequently develop these ideas into concepts or applications. Known as the ’15 percent rule’, 3M use this approach to stimulate unplanned experimentation that may turn into successful, but unexpected innovations. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may not have had the opportunity or the conducive environment to develop the 3M Post-it® notes.

In the spirit of 3M, organisations that generate and capture a large number of ideas through their employees could hold internal ‘idea auctions’. Idea auctions are essentially forums where employees present and showcase their own ideas to an audience of interested parties who might be keen on taking on the idea and working with it, either individually or in groups. The process allows employees who come up with the ideas to ‘sell’ their ideas to anyone within the company, especially where their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to support the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase.  Using a team approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective on whether the idea should be progressed or killed off.

What are you doing in your organisation to capture new ideas from your employees?

Dr John Kapeleris

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The Scale of the Universe

March 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Knowledge - (1 Comments)

I came across the following application which is innovative and entertaining. The enormity of the universe is phenomenal. Life is fantastic!

Click on the image below and press the start button.


Dr John Kapeleris

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“Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple”. Edward de Bono.

In today’s complex world many people are trying to simplify their lives but sometimes it becomes very difficult as we have built layer upon layer of interdependent complexity. Edward de Bono, creator of the Six Thinking Hats, stated at a recent seminar that simplicity is more innovative than complexity.

We are living in a world that has become more complex and we need to somehow make it simpler to allow us to focus on the more important aspects of business and personal life. The only way we will do this is through innovation. Edward de Bono in his book “Simplicity” outlines Ten Principles of Simplicity, summarised below:

  1. Assign a high value to simplicity. To get simplicity you have to want to get it. To want to get simplicity you have to put a high value on it.
  2. Continuously pursue simplicity. People quite like simplicity if it does not cost anything but are usually unwilling to invest resources in making something more simple.
  3. You need to understand simplicity. If you do not seek to understand a situation or process, your efforts will be ‘simplistic’ rather than simple. Simplicity before understanding is worthless.
  4. Design alternatives and possibilities. It is not a matter of designing the ‘one right way’. It is more a matter of designing alternatives and possibilities, and then selecting one of them.
  5. Challenge and discard existing elements. Everything needs to justify its continued existence. If you wish to retain something for the sake of tradition let that be a conscious decision.
  6. Be prepared to start over again. In the search for simplicity, modify if you can or start afresh if you cannot.
  7. Work through concepts. Concepts are the human mind’s way of simplifying the world around. If you do not use concepts, then you are working with detail.
  8. Break down problems into smaller units. The organisation of a smaller unit is obviously simpler than the organisation of a large unit. The smaller units are themselves organised to serve the larger purpose.
  9. Trade off other dimensions for simplicity. A system that seeks to be totally comprehensive may be very complex. You may need to trade-off that comprehensiveness for simplicity.
  10. Know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed. A shift of complexity may mean that a system is made easier for the customer but much more complicated for the operator.

What are you doing to make things simpler in your business and work life, or are you happy working in a complex world?

Dr John Kapeleris

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The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” – Jean Piaget

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a local primary school about future careers and new technologies. The school gave me a tour of some of the classrooms and I noticed  that Year 1 and 2 classes had Edward De Bono’s Six Thinkings Hats on a large poster on the wall. I was surprised and delighted that the school was teaching the Six Thinking Hats process to primary school children. However I quickly discovered that beyond Year 2 the Six Thinking Hats posters had disappeared from the later year classes.

I am a great advocate and believer that creative thinking as well as critical thinking and other types of thinking should be taught in our schools at an early age. However, we continue to develop new standardised curricula the same way we always have done but expect new outcomes. There must be a better way. I believe we should continue to teach creative thinking in our schools (primary and secondary) in an attempt to develop students with both the lateral and rational thinking styles.

I found the following video on “Changing Education Paradigms” very challenging and informative.

What are your thoughts on our education system?

Dr John Kapeleris

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I am going to stop putting things off starting tomorrow.” Sam Levenson

Procrastination is defined as the act of replacing high priority and important tasks with tasks of a lower importance, or delaying the actioning of important tasks to a later time. Procrastination may occur for a number of reasons, including the fear of failure, anxiety in starting or completing tasks, the need for an adrenalin hit as a result of self-imposed working under pressure, ineffective decision-making, perfectionism and ‘planning fallacy’, which means underestimating the amount of time required to complete a set of tasks.

Procrastination is very common amongst the population with many people procrastinating to some extent. Humans generally have a tendency to replace important tasks with tasks that are more familiar or fun to perform. Chronic procrastination is a more severe form that can be very damaging to a person’s life or career.

A number of steps can be implemented to manage or deal with procrastination:

  1. Recognising that you are procrastinating – You need to be honest with yourself in order to recognise that you are procrastinating. Characteristics of procrastination include: focusing on low value tasks and actions, being engulfed by your emails throughout the day, getting ready to begin an important task and becoming immediately distracted, waiting for the perfect conditions to begin a project, and keeping tasks on your To Do list for some time even though they were marked as ‘important’.
  2. Understanding the reason why you procrastinate – The mind has a tendency to convince yourself that a valid reason exists to procrastinate, often involving subconsciously lying to yourself. The reasons why you procrastinate could be due to either the type of work involved or your beliefs and behaviour. One of the reasons why people procrastinate may involve the work not being interesting, or a feeling of being overwhelmed by the tasks. Other reasons can include being disorganised which can result in anxiety in starting or completing tasks, or having a fear of failure/success stopping you from engaging the work. Being a perfectionist will also result in procrastination because perfectionists wait for the right conditions before they begin a task, or they try to achieve  the most perfect outcome thereby never actually completing the task. The final reason for procrastination relates to ‘planning fallacy’, which means underestimating the amount of time required to complete a set of tasks resulting in a delayed or slow start to actioning tasks, thereby escalating the required effort towards the end of the deadline. This is common with many university students who undertake assignments and examination preparation, and is often labelled as ‘Student Syndrome”. No matter how much time is provided for the student to complete their assignment they will take all the available time and end up cramming all the work just before the due date for the assignment.
  3. Implementing strategies to deal with procrastination – A number of strategies can be employed to deal with procrastination:
  • Keep a To Do list and ensure that you complete the required tasks quickly and efficiently
  • Break down the activities into manageable tasks in the form of an action plan that can be tackled quickly and easily
  • Utilise an Urgent/Important Matrix to identify high value tasks

  • Implement a reward system that is linked to the completion of important tasks
  • Start some easy tasks every day to fuel your momentum, which then allows you to tackle the larger more important tasks
  • Focus on goal setting, scheduling and planning to streamline your project management skills
  • Employ a mentor or coach to help you overcome procrastination or to encourage you to maintain your momentum on a particular project
  • Tackle the worst task in the whole To Do list first thing in the morning (e.g. Brian Tracy says ‘Eat the Frog’ – since this is the worst thing you could do everything else should be easy to undertake)
  • Repeat the cycle for 20 days so that it becomes a new habit

The longer you spend time without procrastination the better chance of breaking the habit.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The rapidly changing biotechnology environment, influenced by globalization, competition, financial pressures and the advancement of new technologies has impacted on the small to medium biotechnology firm. Entrepreneurship and innovation, in addition to collaboration, are the key factors that are needed to ensure emerging and small to medium biotechnology firms survive the discontinuous change.

Commercialization is broadly defined as the process of taking an idea to a successful outcome in the market, whether it is a product, service, process or organisational system. Commercialization should also include knowledge diffusion, consulting services and contract research rather than just the linear transfer of technology or intellectual property (IP).

The following five strategies for successful commercialization are founded on the three key factors of success: entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration.

Create an Entrepreneurial Culture

The small biotechnology firm is exposed to a number of challenges impacting on its survival and sustainability. Therefore, an entrepreneurial culture must be implemented to ensure the effective leadership and management of the limited expertise, resources and funding that may be available to successfully commercialize opportunities. Many small biotechnology firms are dominated by a research or academic culture that must quickly evolve to become entrepreneurial and commercially focused. Establishing an advisory board with the required business expertise will ensure access to a balanced resource pool. Furthermore, the small to medium biotechnology companies, at an early stage, need to start defining the products and services that will address a market need, rather than focusing on the technology itself. Companies that quickly develop the products and services that customers need or want will have a greater chance of success.

Undertake Early Stage Market Research

Biotechnology companies need to carry out market research early to identify the specific market needs in order to drive their product and service development strategy. Firms need to identify a differentiated market niche to ensure that a demand exists for the specific type of product or service. Market research therefore informs a market driven strategy that allows biotechnology firms to commercialize more effectively and rapidly. Speed to market of a first generation product for a defined market allows the biotechnology firm to leverage success in an initial market to further fund and develop core technology to migrate into secondary markets with similar customer needs.

Embed Innovation across the Organization

In today’s environment, to achieve success, embedding innovation across the whole organisation is required, not just within the R&D functions. Innovation should include process innovation, organizational innovation, business model innovation and marketing innovation, in addition to product and service innovation. Biotechnology entrepreneurs need to better understand the business aspects of biotechnology and what is required to ensure successful commercialization. They also need to think creatively in order to solve complex problems and to differentiate their business model from their competitors. The ability to leverage the intellectual capital of employees through idea capture and encouraging team participation will impact on the firm’s future success.

Establish Strong Alliances and Networks

Biotechnology firms also need to establish strong alliances, research collaborations and commercial relationships, if they are to be a significant player in the biotechnology industry. One of the impediments to converting biotechnology opportunities into tangible outcomes is the “commercialization chasm” that divides the early stage “proof of concept” from the latter stage translation of the technology to a product or service.  To overcome this chasm small biotechnology firms need to adopt an open innovation mindset that facilitates networking and collaboration in order to access expertise, channels to market and novel funding options; not just continue to rely on government support and funding.

Identify Novel Funding and Resources

A novel approach to accessing expertise, resources and funding that has successfully been used in biotechnology is the “stepping stone” approach to commercialization. The approach involves the small biotechnology firm establishing a collaborative strategic alliance with another larger, established organisation or institution to co-develop the technology. The technology is essentially “incubated” in the other organization where expertise, resources and funding can be applied to fast-track the development of the product or service. The small biotechnology firm will need to offer the other organization either an equity contribution or a percentage share (royalty) of the revenue generated by the product or service.  The terms of the arrangement will need to be established during the preparation of the collaborative agreement prior to forming the strategic alliance.

In conclusion, in order for a commercialization strategy to be successful it must be effective, efficient and focus on outcomes as soon as possible. A biotechnology commercialization strategy, specifically, should focus on creating an entrepreneurial culture in the firm, founded on early stage market research, leverage innovation and creativity across the firm, integrate strong alliances and networks, and incorporate novel funding and resources where possible.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Biomimicry simply means imitating nature. By observing and studying nature, its elements, processes, models and systems, through biomimicry, we can design, develop, engineer or emulate new innovations and technologies to solve a range of simple and complex human problems. An everyday example is solar energy which is essentially related to the process of photosynthesis – the solar cell is modelled on the function of a leaf.

The study of biomimicry can provide insights into nature and how natural elements and systems can provide inspiration and solutions for the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly innovations. One of the well-known serendipitous discoveries that is now used worldwide was the development of Velcro®. In 1941 Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral, after returning from a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps, noticed that burrs had stuck onto his clothes and also on the fur of his dog. Being curious he decided to view the burrs under the microscope to determine why these burrs were sticking to fur. He noticed a large number of little hooks on the ends of the burrs. De Mestral was inspired by these observations to emulate the function of the burrs using synthetic material. He settled on using nylon which was an emerging material at that time and invented Velcro® which is now used widely in a range of different applications.

Incorporating biomimicry concepts into design and innovation processes can provide a number of  advantages when developing new products or solving problems:

  1. Sustainable – Nature inspires products and processes that are natural and adapted to the environment.
  2. Efficient – The natural environment seems to be more efficient than the environments created by humans.
  3. Cost effective – Nature has a tendency to design structures and shapes that utilise materials efficiently thereby cutting down on materials and associated costs.
  4. Energy saving – Nature maximises the use of natural resources by using processes and systems that optimise energy usage.
  5. Minimal waste – In nature, materials and waste are minimised or recycled into value-added products.  Both waste and new materials are integrated in natural systems.
  6. Differentiated brand – Nature has a tendency to create its own unique shapes that define its brand which becomes enduring.

Leonardo da Vinci was an exemplar for utilising the concept of biomimicry through his observations of nature to bring to life his paintings and drawings. Many of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions were inspired by observations of natural phenomena. For example, Leonardo’s design for a flying machine was inspired by closely studying the wings and flights of birds, while his designs for a parachute and a helicopter resulted from his observations of seed pods and flowers falling from trees.

The Biomimicry Institute’s Student Design Challenge shows some amazing design’s inspired by biomimicry

I encourage you to take some time and connect with nature as a means to providing inspiration in your work and personal life. Who knows; your next idea for a new product or design may come from your observations of nature!

Dr John Kapeleris


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