Creating an Ideas Factory

February 13th, 2013 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas | Innovation - (1 Comments)

Ideas FactoryMany people come up with ideas on a daily basis. However, they don’t capture the ideas in a written or electronic journal and the ideas soon dissipate.

The process of generating, capturing and implementing ideas is the basis of innovation. Ideas can solve problems within organisations but can also generate opportunities for new products and services, innovative business models and organisational systems, and novel marketing concepts. Ideas also help organisations keep an eye on the future by anticipating future trends and technologies and applying these ideas to deliver the needs and wants of the future.

The concept of an “ideas factory” can be implemented within an organisation to capture the wealth of ideas generated by individuals but also ideas that come from customers and other external sources. Some of these external sources could include the internet, publications, competitors and suppliers.

How do you create and implement an ideas factory within your organisation? Following are some of the key steps in creating and implementing an ideas factory within your organisation:

  1. Create a culture that supports and encourages the continuous generation and flow of ideas. The continuous flow and capture of new ideas provides organizations with a source of new products and services, product improvements, and novel processes that contribute to the organization’s survival and growth. Creativity is therefore an important key driver of innovation by providing new ideas and new ways to solve organizational problems.
  2. Develop a well defined ideas management process – Generating, Capturing, Processing, Evaluating, Implementing and Measuring Outcomes. Organizations need to adopt a formal ideas management process to capture, develop, evaluate, protect and implement ideas and suggestions, which form the foundation of new opportunities that satisfy needs and wants in the market.
  3. Provide the skills and tools for employees to develop competencies. Harnessing the creativity of the workforce forms a critical component of an innovative culture. Professional development of employees should include skills development in creativity tools and techniques. Furthermore,  creating an environment that encourages participation, learning and fun allows new ideas to be generated and improvements implemented.
  4. Evaluate the ideas using a set of pre-defined criteria – impact, strategic fit, value, cost, risk, timeframe etc. In evaluating ideas an initial feasibility should include a preliminary market, technical and risk assessment to determine the viability of the opportunity. It should also include an intellectual property search to determine whether someone else has already patented the idea, and to confirm that you have the freedom to operate.
  5. Implement the ideas to solve a problem, capitalise on an opportunity or transform your organisation. One of the most difficult steps is the implementation phase. Implementation requires the development of a project plan and then the execution of the plan through action. A typical implementation process may involve:
    • clarifying the objective,
    • developing the plan,
    • identifying key processes and tasks,
    • prioritizing activities,
    • resourcing and budgeting,
    • funding,
    • assigning responsibility, and then
    • doing it!

An ideas factory will require top-down management support, in addition to committed and disciplined champions who can drive the processes and methodology. Collaboration will also be an important element in the ideas factory. Champions can also make a significant contribution to the implementation stage.

Dr John Kapeleris

 

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Entrepreneurship is defined as the process by which a new venture is created when an entrepreneur identifies a new opportunity in the market to create economic products and services. An entrepreneur is therefore someone who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation in the market. The innovation could be in the form of a product, a service, or a novel business concept or model.

The typical characteristics of an entrepreneur include:

  1. An enthusiastic person with a vision
  2. The ability to identify new opportunities
  3. Calculated risk-taking
  4. Responsible in decision-making
  5. Overwhelming urge to succeed
  6. Discipline and persistence
  7. Confident and persuasive communicators
  8. Driven by the sense of accomplishment
  9. The ability to coordinate and manage scarce resources (time, money and people)

Studies according to Arthur Cole (1959) have identified four types of entrepreneurs:

  1. The innovator
  2. The calculating inventor
  3. The over optimistic promoter
  4. The organisation builder

Entrepreneurship is a very difficult undertaking, where many new businesses fail. Only a very small percentage (approximately 1%) of people who go into business succeed. Entrepreneurial activities range from solo businesses, many now being created online, to establishing large businesses, such as mining, employing large numbers of people. Entrepreneurs can also exist within existing organisations who identify new opportunities able to grow the existing organisation or alternatively are involved in spinning out new businesses. These entrepreneurs are referred to as intrapreneurs. An innovative high performing organisation should nurture and support the development of intrapreneurs as this activity can create significant growth for the organisation, either through the internal development and commercialisation of new ideas or through the creation of subsidiary businesses. If organisations do not identify, nurture and support intrapreneurs then many will leave the organisation and create their own businesses.

Entrepreneurship has been identified by many economists, including Joseph Shumpeter, as a driving factor that creates value in the economy through the following benefits:

  • Creating new jobs
  • Expanding new markets
  • New products and services
  • Satisfying domestic consumption
  • Developing new and existing industries
  • Income generation and economic growth
  • Healthy competition creating higher quality products
  • Supporting the existence of government and their budgets

Dr John Kapeleris

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Design integration is defined as the concept of creating breakthrough innovations in business by applying design thinking to corporate strategy and business processes in a coordinated way. Design thinking applied to business is a methodology utilising a creative, solutions-based approach to solving business problems and capitalising on market opportunities.

Design integration has the potential to drive product, service and business model innovation in an organisation, and redefine the way the business interacts with customers and the market to create competitive advantage. Design integration creates value (Bucolo, 2008) through:

  1. A deeper understanding of customer insights, needs and experiences
  2. Expanding the business vision and purpose with customers and stakeholders
  3. Mapping insights to all aspects of the business
  4. Challenging and redefining business models and processes
  5. Design driven, innovation oriented people

If applied as an integrated strategy, design can provide a number of advantages to an organisation including:

  • Products and services aligned with the needs of customers
  • A differentiated market position
  • Increased market share
  • A more compelling brand awareness
  • Creating new market segments
  • Reduced production costs
  • A sustainable competitive advantage

For example, Apple uses design thinking in an integrated way across all aspects of their business model to differentiate its product and service offering. Apple has focused on creating a compelling and seamless user experience through design integration by utilising a user interface that transcends traditional hardware and software models. The following video extract provides insights into Apple’s business design:

 To learn how design integration can increase growth and productivity to transform your business a number of Design Integration Workshops are being delivered by the AIC in partnership with QUT. For more details refer to the link Design Integration or register online.

Dr John Kapeleris

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In a previous blog I introduced Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique. The simple approach that encourages parallel thinking within a group or team environment has been useful in solving complex problems but can also increase productivity in meetings where decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, the tool is not used widely because many people don’t feel comfortable in using the technique (could be due to a number of reasons) or they don’t value the tool’s ability to deliver enhanced outcomes.

Having used the tool for over two decades I have seen the power of parallel thinking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, I have also seen the tool challenged by a number of senior managers who don’t support the use of the tool because they don’t believe in it. The key to experiencing the power of the tool is to start using it and developing a deeper understanding of the power of the Six Thinking Hats. The best approach for applying the tool is to firstly understand the sequence of the coloured hats to use.

When I used the Six Thinking Hats in a workshop to work on the global problem of “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” I used the following sequence of coloured hats and associated questions:

When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process I like to encourage the use of the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. Sometimes we can identify the positive elements of a problem or issue. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. I then encourage the use of the RED hat again to gauge the feelings of participants after considering the problem or issue. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation now feel more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to develop conclusions or to evaluate and summarise the solutions to move forward on the issue or problem. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.

An example using the six thinking hats to solve the problem “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” can be found below (summary extract of the workshop).

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.

Regards,

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 http://www.biomimicrydesignchallenge.com/gallery.

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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Recent global events are causing ripples of concern across many countries of the world. Globally we face many challenges (energy, water, food, climate change, economic stability, ageing population etc), but how are we going to solve some of these complex problems that currently exist. Many of these complex problems have networked dependencies, meaning that if we make changes in one domain this could cause a “butterfly effect” in other domains, which could make the current situation worse. There are numerous examples where government policy was implemented to solve one particular issue, but resulted in initiating or worsening  problems in other areas – the  result of many government agencies working in isolated silos.

In starting to consider some of these complex problems we need to understand what are the new emerging trends that can be utilised to leverage solutions for these complex problems. I came across the following article by Andrew Maynard posted in Dec 2009 that summarises the Ten Emerging Technology Trends of the Next Ten years.

What can we expect as we enter the second decade of the twenty first century? What are the emerging technology trends that are going to be hitting the headlines over the next ten years?

Ten years ago, at the close of the 20th century, people the world over were obsessing about the millennium bug – an unanticipated glitch arising from an earlier technology. I wonder how clear it was then that, despite this storm in what turned out to be a rather small teacup, the following decade would see unprecedented advances in technology – the mapping of the human genome, social media, nanotechnology, space-tourism, face transplants, hybrid cars, global communications, digital storage, and more. Looking back, it’s clear that despite a few hiccups, emerging technologies are on a roll – one that’s showing no sign of slowing down.

Here’s my list of the top ten technologies I think are worth watching. I’m afraid that, as with all crystal ball gazing, it’s bound to be flawed. Yet as I work on the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies, these do seem to be areas that are ripe for prime time.

Geoengineering

2009 was the year that geoengineering moved from the fringe to the mainstream. The idea of engineering the climate on a global scale has been around for a while. But as the penny has dropped that we may be unable – or unwilling – to curb carbon dioxide emissions sufficiently to manage global warming, geoengineering has risen up the political agenda. My guess is that the next decade will see the debate over geoengineering intensify. Research will lead to increasingly plausible and economically feasible ways to tinker with the environment. At the same time, political and social pressure will grow – both to put plans into action (whether multi- or unilaterally), and to limit the use of geoengineering. The big question is whether globally-coordinated efforts to develop and use the technology in a socially and politically responsible way emerge, or whether we end up with an ugly – and potentially disastrous – free for all.

Smart grids

It may not be that apparent to the average consumer, but the way that electricity is generated, stored and transmitted is under immense strain. As demand for electrical power grows, a radical rethink of the power grid is needed if we are to get electricity to where it is needed, when it is needed. And the solution most likely to emerge as the way forward over the next ten years is the Smart Grid. Smart grids connect producers of electricity to users through an interconnected “intelligent” network. They allow centralized power stations to be augmented with – and even replaced by – distributed sources such as small-scale wind farms and domestic solar panels. They route power from where there is excess being generated to where there is excess demand. And they allow individuals to become providers as well as consumers – feeding power into the grid from home-installed generators, while drawing from the grid when they can’t meet their own demands. The result is a vastly more efficient, responsive and resilient way of generating and supplying electricity. As energy demands and limits on greenhouse gas emissions hit conventional electricity grids over the next decade, expect to see smart grids get increasing attention.

Radical materials

Good as they are, most of the materials we use these days are flawed – they don’t work as well as they could. And usually, the fault lies in how the materials are structured at the atomic and molecular scale. The past decade has seen some amazing advances in our ability to engineer materials with increasing precision at this scale. The result is radical materials – materials that far outperform conventional materials in their strength, lightness, conductivity, ability to transmit heat, and a whole host of other characteristics. Many of these are still at the research stage. But as demands for high performance materials continue to increase everywhere from medical devices to advanced microprocessors and safe, efficient cars to space flight, radical materials will become increasingly common. In particular, watch out for products based on carbon nanotubes. Commercial use of this unique material has had its fair share of challenges over the past decade. But I’m anticipating many of these will be overcome over the next ten years, allowing the material to achieve at least some of it’s long-anticipated promise.

Synthetic biology

Ten years ago, few people had heard of the term “synthetic biology.” Now, scientists are able to synthesize the genome of a new organism from scratch, and are on the brink of using it to create a living bacterium. Synthetic biology is about taking control of DNA – the genetic code of life – and engineering it, much in the same way a computer programmer engineers digital code. It’s arisen in part as the cost of reading and synthesizing DNA sequences has plummeted. But it is also being driven by scientists and engineers who believe that living systems can be engineered in the same way as other systems. In many ways, synthetic biology represents the digitization of biology. We can now “upload” genetic sequences into a computer, where they can be manipulated like any other digital data. But we can also “download” them back into reality when we have finished playing with them – creating new genetic code to be inserted into existing – or entirely new – organisms. This is still expensive, and not as simple as many people would like to believe – we’re really just scratching the surface of the rules that govern how genetic code works. But as the cost of DNA sequencing and synthesis continues to fall, expect to see the field advance in huge leaps and bounds over the next decade. I’m not that optimistic about us cracking how the genetic code works in great detail by 2020 – the more we learn at the moment, the more we realize we don’t know. However, I have no doubt that what we do learn will be enough to ensure synthetic biology is a hot topic over the next decade. In particular, look out for synthesis of the first artificial organism, the development and use of “BioBricks” – the biological equivalent of electronic components – and the rise of DIY-biotechnology.

Personal genomics

Closely related to the developments underpinning synthetic biology, personal genomics relies on rapid sequencing and interpretation of an individual’s genetic sequence. The Human Genome Project – completed in 2001 – cost taxpayers around $2.7 billion dollars, and took 13 years to complete. In 2007, James Watson’s genome was sequenced in 2 months, at a cost of $2 million. In 2009, Complete Genomics were sequencing personal genomes at less than $5,000 a shot. One thousand dollar personal genomes are now in the cards for the near future – with the possibility of substantially faster/cheaper services by the end of the decade. What exactly people are going to do with all these data is anyone’s guess at this point – especially as we still have a long way to go before we can make sense of huge sections of the human genome. Add to this the complication of epigenetics, where external factors lead to changes in how genetic information is decoded which can pass from generation to generation, and it’s uncertain how far personal genomics will progress over the next decade. What aren’t in doubt though are the personal, social and economic driving forces behind generating and using this information. These are likely to underpin a growing market for personal genetic information over the next decade – and a growing number of businesses looking to capitalize on the data.

Bio-interfaces

Blurring the boundaries between individuals and machines has long held our fascination. Whether it’s building human-machine hybrids, engineering high performance body parts or interfacing directly with computers, bio-interfaces are the stuff of our wildest dreams and worst nightmares. Fortunately, we’re still a world away from some of the more extreme imaginings of science fiction – we won’t be constructing the prototype of Star Trek Voyager’s ‘Seven of Nine’ anytime soon. But the sophistication with which we can interface with the human body is fast reaching the point where rapid developments should be anticipated. As a hint of things to come, check out the Luke Arm from Deka (founded by Dean Kamen). Or Honda’s work on Brain Machine Interfaces. Over the next decade, the convergence of technologies like Information Technology, nanoscale engineering, biotechnology and neurotechnology are likely to lead to highly sophisticated bio-interfaces. Expect to see advances in sensors that plug into the brain, prosthetic limbs that are controlled from the brain, and even implants that directly interface with the brain. My guess is that some of the more radical developments in bio-interfaces will probably occur after 2020. But a lot of the groundwork will be laid over the next ten years.

Data interfaces

The amount of information available through the internet has exploded over the past decade. Advances in data storage, transmission and processing have transformed the internet from a geek’s paradise to a supporting pillar of 21st century society. But while the last ten years have been about access to information, I suspect that the next ten will be dominated by how to make sense of it all. Without the means to find what we want in this vast sea of information, we are quite literally drowning in data. And useful as search engines like Google are, they still struggle to separate the meaningful from the meaningless. As a result, my sense is that over the next decade we will see some significant changes in how we interact with the internet. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this in websites like Wolfram Alpha that “computes” answers to queries rather than simply returning search hits, or Microsoft’s Bing, which helps take some of the guesswork out of searches. Then we have ideas like The Sixth Sense project at the MIT Media Lab, which uses an interactive interface to tap into context-relevant web information. As devices like phones, cameras, projectors, TV’s, computers, cars, shopping trolleys, you name it, become increasingly integrated and connected, be prepared to see rapid and radical changes in how we interface with and make sense of the web.

Solar power

Is the next decade going to be the one where solar power fulfills its promise? Quite possibly. Apart from increased political and social pressure to move towards sustainable energy sources, there are a couple of solar technologies that could well deliver over the next few years. The first of these is printable solar cells. They won’t be significantly more efficient than conventional solar cells. But if the technology can be scaled up and some teething difficulties resolved, they could lead to the cost of solar power plummeting. The technology is simple in concept – using relatively conventional printing processes and special inks, solar cells could be printed onto cheap, flexible substrates; roll to roll solar panels at a fraction of the cost of conventional silicon-based units. And this opens the door to widespread use. The second technology to watch is solar-assisted reactors. Combining mirror-concentrated solar radiation with some nifty catalysts, it is becoming increasingly feasible to convert sunlight into other forms of energy at extremely high efficiencies. Imagine being able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight and an appropriate catalyst for instance, then recombine them to reclaim the energy on-demand – all at minimal energy loss. Both of these solar technologies are poised to make a big impact over the next decade.

Nootropics

Drugs that enhance mental ability – increasingly referred to as nootropics – are not new. But their use patterns are. Drugs like ritalin, donepezil and modafinil are increasingly being used by students, academics and others to give them a mental edge. What is startling though is a general sense that this is acceptable practice. Back in June, I ran a straw poll on 2020 Science to gauge attitudes to using nootropics. Out of 207 respondents, 153 people (74%) either used nootropics, or would consider using them on a regular or occasional basis. In April 2009, an article in The New Yorker reported on the growing use of “neuroenhancing drugs” to enhance performance. And in an informal poll run by Nature in April 2008, one in five respondents claimed “they had used drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus, concentration or memory.” Unlike physical performance-enhancing drugs, it seems that the social rules for nootropics are different. There are even some who suggest that it is perhaps unethical not to take them – that operating to the best of our mental ability is a personal social obligation. Of course this leads to a potentially explosive social/technological mix, that won’t be diffused easily. Over the next ten years, I expect the issue of nootropics will become huge. There will be questions on whether people should be free to take these drugs, whether the social advantages outweigh the personal advantages, and whether they confer an unfair advantage to users by leading to higher grades, better jobs, more money. But there’s also the issue of drugs development. If a strong market for nootropics emerges, there is every chance that new, more effective drugs will follow. Then the question arises – who gets the “good” stuff, and who suffers as a result? Whichever way you look at it, the 2010’s are set to be an interesting decade for mind-enhancing substances.

Cosmeceuticals

Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals inhabit very different worlds at the moment. Pharmaceuticals typically treat or prevent disease, while cosmetics simply make you look better. But why keep the two separate? Why not develop products that make you look good by working with your body, rather than simply covering it? The answer is largely due to regulation – drugs have to be put through a far more stringent set of checks and balances that cosmetics before entering the market, and rightly so. But beyond this, there is enormous commercial potential in combining the two, especially as new science is paving the way for externally applied substances to do more than just beautify. Products that blur the line are already available – in the US for instance, sunscreens and anti dandruff shampoos are considered drugs. And the cosmetics industry regularly use the term “cosmeceutical” to describe products with medicinal or drug-like properties. Yet with advances in synthetic chemistry and nanoscale engineering, it’s becoming increasingly possible to develop products that do more than just lead to “cosmetic” changes. Imagine products that make you look younger, fresher, more beautiful, by changing your body rather than just covering up flaws and imperfections. It’s a cosmetics company’s dream – one shared by many of their customers I suspect. The dam that’s preventing many such products at the moment is regulation. But if the pressure becomes too great – and there’s a fair chance it will over the next ten years – this dam is likely to burst. And when it does, cosmeceuticals are going to hit the scene big-time.

So those are my ten emerging technology trends to watch over the next decade. But what happened to nanotechnology? And were any other technologies on my short list?

Nanotech has been a dominant emerging technology over the past ten years. But in many ways, it’s a fake. Advances in the science of understanding and manipulating matter at the nanoscale are indisputable, as are the early technology outcomes of this science. But nanotechnology is really just a convenient shorthand for a whole raft of emerging technologies that span semiconductors to sunscreens, and often share nothing more than an engineered structure that is somewhere between one to one hundred nanometers in scale. So, rather than focus on nanotech, I decided to look at specific technologies which I think will make a significant impact over the next decade. Perhaps not surprisingly though, many of them depend in some way on working with matter at nanometer scales.

In terms of the emerging technologies short list, it was tough to whittle this down to ten trends. My initial list included batteries, decentralized computing, biofuels, stem cells, cloning, artificial intelligence, robotics, low earth orbit flights, clean tech, neuroscience and memristors – there are many others that no doubt could and should have been on it. Some of these I felt were likely to reach their prime sometime after the next decade. Others I felt didn’t have as much potential to shake things up and make headlines as the ones I chose. But this was a highly subjective and personal process. I’m sure if someone else were writing this, the top ten list would be different.

And one final word. Many of the technologies I’ve highlighted reflect an overarching trend: convergence. Although not a technology in itself, synergistic convergence between different areas of knowledge and expertise will likely dominate emerging technology trends over the next decade. Which means that confident as I am in my predictions, the chances of something completely different, unusual and amazing happening are… pretty high!

Update: Something’s been bugging me, and I’ve just realized what it is – in my original list of ten, I had smart drugs, but in the editing process they somehow got left by the wayside! As I don’t want to go back and change the ten emerging technology trends I ended up posting, they will have to be a bonus. As it is, drug delivery timelines are so long that I’m not sure how many smart drugs will hit the market before 2020. But when they do, they will surely mark a turning point in therapeutics. These are drugs that are programmed to behave in various ways. The simplest are designed to accumulate around disease sites, then destroy the disease on command – gold shell nanoparticles fit the bill here, preferentially accumulating around tumors then destroying them by heating up when irradiated with infrared radiation. More sophisticated smart drugs are in the pipeline though that are designed to seek out diseased cells, provide local diagnostics, then release therapeutic agents on demand. The result is targeted disease treatment that leads to significantly greater efficacy at substantially lower doses. Whether or not these make a significant impact over the next decade, they are definitely a technology to watch.

 

How will these emerging technology trends affect your current business to help solve your problems, identify new opportunities, and help you develop the products and services for your future markets?

Dr John Kapeleris

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The wider development of your individual abilities will achieve greater confidence in your life and ultimately the happiness that everyone seeks to achieve. The first step is to identify your abilities and map out a program for developing them. Even if you do not know the direction that you should be following in your life or career it is good practice to be exposed to new experiences and learn new skills.

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow studied the behaviour of people who were confident and happy in nature regardless of the problems that confronted them. He described these people as “self-actualisers”. Self-actualisation is defined as the state of being where a person achieves their full potential when all basic and mental needs are fulfilled. In other words, becoming the person you desire by maximising your full potential and abilities.

Self-actualisers have the following set of identifiable characteristics:

  • Recognise that their life is their own responsibility
  • Concentrate on the present state to improve their future situation and do not dwell on the past
  • Cope well with reality but can also tolerate uncertainty
  • Accept themselves and others for what they are
  • Creative, have a sense of humour and unbound by convention
  • Appreciate the everyday pleasures of life

To move towards achieving self-actualisation you can implement the following actions:

  1. Assume full responsibility of your own life
  2. Identify your abilities and map out a personal development program
  3. Expose yourself to new experiences (try new things)
  4. Listen to your own inner true feelings when considering life experiences
  5. Be prepared to express your own views, even if they are not in accordance with the majority of people
  6. Avoid pretence and game playing when dealing with other people
  7. Work hard and smart at everything you do
  8. Develop a positive attitude and eliminate negative thoughts
  9. Seek and accept constructive feedback from other people

Begin the quest to become the best you can be by deciding what you want from life and then doing what is necessary to achieve it!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Implementing Ideas the 3M Way

May 30th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas - (2 Comments)

New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the 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 and new opportunities for the compsny. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may have not had the opportunity and encouragement 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 when their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to back the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase.  Using a group approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective.

A key success factor to successful implementation and exploitation of ideas within an organization is the availability of funding to support projects based on new ideas. Establishing a central organizational fund would relieve departments and business units from the responsibility to risk their existing operational budgets on new ideas. Such a fund would remove any financial obstacle to pursue ideas as the funding comes from a non-departmental budget. Subsequently the investment criteria for this fund would be different to the normal investment or product development criteria as the risk threshold associated with the investigation and development of new ideas would be elevated. 3M for example have provided up to US$50,000 in the form of ‘Genesis Grants’ which are internal venture capital funding for developing prototypes and market testing of new ideas and opportunities.

Generally, financial managers in many organizations would find it difficult to fathom the establishment of an internal investment fund to be used solely for the investigation and evaluation of new ideas.  Their first request would be for someone to justify the return on investment for such a fund, however, it is generally accepted that playing with the notion of exploiting new ideas is a risky business. The core management philosophy of 3M established in the company’s infancy by its then General Manager William McKnight has overcome any challenge to justify a return on investment. William McKnight developed the following founding principles at 3M back in 1914 which continue to influence the culture of 3M today: 

  1. Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it might sound at first.
  2. Encourage; don’t nitpick. Let people run with an idea.
  3. Hire good people and leave them alone.
  4. If you put fences around people you get sheep. Give people the room they need.
  5. Encourage experimental doodling.
  6. Give it a try – and quick!

McKnight’s approach was to encourage individual initiative that would produce the ‘raw material’ for new innovations. He also understood that along the way mistakes would be made, especially when giving employees the freedom and encouragement to act on their own initiative, however the organization as a whole would be continually learning.

A culture conducive to the generation, evaluation and exploitation of ideas is therefore a key success factor to driving innovation. Take a look at 3M today with over US$27 billion in revenue and a large number of innovative products servicing a wide range of industry sectors. For further information refer to the 3M website.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creativity is the ability or aptitude by which individuals or groups generate or conceive new ideas, or adapt existing concepts into new principles. Many ideas have led to successful businesses and innovations. For example, these ideas may be a new solution to a problem, a new business model, a new method or a new product concept. By stimulating the creative process within individuals, new ideas and concepts can be generated that can lead to the achievement of new innovations.

The creative process was first described by Graham Wallas back in 1926. He proposed a systematic model that usually follows a sequence of phases: preparation; incubation; illumination; and implementation. However, we find today that many people do not have the interest or inclination to develop their creative thinking capacity. They feel more comfortable with their analytical or logical thinking.

Creative thinking (or divergent thinking) provides the means to generate new ideas and the identification of new opportunities. However, once ideas are generated they must be captured, screened, evaluated and finally implemented, which takes significant effort. This is reflected in the statement made by Thomas Edison that, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

So what can we do to develop our creative abilities that will contribute to competitive advantage for ourselves and our organisation? Following I have outlined ten ways to enhance and stimulate your creativity:

  1. Connect with people. Creativity is about people therefore you need to expand your networks through LinkedIn, facebook and twitter and develop creative communities and social networks that can provide creative inspiration. You could also seek a mentor or join a mastermind group with like-minded individuals. A great way of engaging people in the workplace to become more creative is to establish a creativity club.
  2. Take control of your workspace. Create an environment that is conducive to creative thinking e.g. this could involve setting up a den with a large mahogany desk, a library and a soft leather chair, or it could be a quiet and relaxing retreat to read and think quietly without interruptions
  3. Learn new creativity tools and techniques. This can be done through self education or through courses and online resources. You can also attend seminars and workshops on creativity, and become familiar with a selection of creativity tools and techniques that you can begin to implement and use (e.g. brainstorming, mindmapping, Six Thinking Hats, Why-why-why, SCAMPER, random word, force field analysis, creative visualization, synectics, morphological analysis, imagination, intuition)
  4. Expand your mind through reading. Reading articles and publications on creativity and innovation will help you to better understand the topics and the power the knowledge can bring when applied to your personal and business life. You should also read references on  personal development and topics that may be unrelated to your own interests.
  5. Engage in fun and humour. Engaging in brain games and puzzles is one way of stimultaing your creative abilities, however, engaging in outdoor activities, such as bike riding and walking can also have a positive effect. You could also attend sporting events, comedy shows or other live performances. Watching your favorite DVD movies can also create an escape for creative imagination.
  6. Stimulate your artistic flair. Take up the arts through drawing, painting, music or drama. I don’t mean become the next music star or Leonardo da Vinci; just set aside some time to engage with the arts.
  7. Visit inspiring places. Museums and art galleries provide an excellent environment to stimulate creativity and learning. Visiting awe-inspiring locations of interest around the world, such as the Louvre, Tuscany, ancient Greek locations or the Great Pyramids can also stimulate creative thinking. A simple relaxing holiday location at a beach resort is also a great way to free your mind and think creatively.
  8. Understand and utilise the power of your subconscious. Take advantage of the alpha dynamic state and its positive influence on your thinking abilities, or the power of creative visualization to enhance your creative abilities.
  9. Think on paper. Escape from the current dominance of the digital environment by keeping a journal, an ideas notebook, or just grab a pen and paper and write down the problems you want to solve, or the opportunities you want to develop. You can also apply creative thinking techniques and creative problem solving processes on paper.
  10. Convert ideas into action. One of the most rewarding activities is to take the ideas you have captured, develop them further and implement them to achieve successful outcomes.

You don’t need to try all ten suggestions above. The important thing is to make a commitment to enhancing your creative thinking abilities by taking action and trying a few of the suggestions. Dan Pink author of a Whole New Mind, stated, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“.

Dr John Kapeleris

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