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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“Everything that can be invented has been invented. Charles H. Duell, (Commissioner of U.S. patent office, advising President McKinley to close the U.S. patent office in 1899).

We live in a time where more and more ideas are converted into successful outcomes that create value for society. We need people who come up with ideas and new inventions (inventors), but also the people who are able to convert these ideas into successful products, services and businesses (entrepreneurs). Generally both inventors and entrepreneurs are able to come up with new ideas, and share some common characteristics, however, the key difference is that inventors are usually focused on the tangible invention, while entrepreneurs are more focused on the business opportunity. Off course some inventors are also entrepreneurs and vice versa. Inventors are interested in developing a novel product but not necessarily bringing it to market (i.e. commercializing it). Entrepreneurs procure, organize and manage resources (human, capital and other) through a new venture to bring a product to market, without necessarily having invented the product.

Therefore, how can we be more entrepreneurial in spotting patterns and trends, and seizing opportunities that can provide the next breakthrough concept, service or product? The simple answer is that we need to develop our entrepreneurial mindset and the characteristics associated with entrepreneurship.

Following are some of the characteristics of the Entrepreneurial Mind:

  1. Serendipity – The aptitude to identify opportunities through observation or by accident e.g. Scotchguard, Velcro, penicillin.
  2. Flexibility – The ability to change your business to accommodate changes in the external environment e.g. business model innovation
  3. Ingenuity – Possession of original thought allowing new concepts and clever adaptations e.g. Apple iPod.
  4. Niche picking – Identifying specific customer needs and wants that you can deliver faster, cheaper and better e.g. Dell computers.
  5. Speed and multiple agendas – Moving through multiple “gates” and “corridors” faster than the competition e.g Microsoft.
  6. New channels – The ability to notice and exploit expanded or new distribution channels e.g. Amazon.com.
  7. Hypothetical thought – The ability to re-evaluate an existing product or service through questioning e.g. Leonardo da Vinci
  8. Comparative thinking – The ability to see what competitors or other businesses are doing successfully and applying these to your business.
  9. Radical thinking – Developing totally new opportunities that no one else has considered e.g. Apple iPad.
  10. Action and discipline – Developing an action plan, and having the discipline and commitment to implement successfully.

To achieve the above entrepreneurial characteristics we need to undertake further education, mentoring and on-the-job learning. A great service that can assist inventors to better understand the entrepreneurial process in taking their ideas to market is the AIC’s Inventor Service.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creative Hothouses Part 2

March 7th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity - (6 Comments)

A colleague asked me to provide further information on history’s “Creative Hothouses”, such as ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian cafes and salons (early 1900s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933). Following is a summary of history’s creative hothouses.

Ancient Athens

The Athenians during the Golden Age of Greece (500 – 300 BC), created forms of history, mathematics, democracy, political science, philosophy, drama, architecture and sculpture, that continue to influence our world today. The hothouse of Athens was able to fuse a number of cultural domains into distinctive forms such as buildings, literature and politics. Thousands of years later the achievements of Athens played a crucial role in inspiring the Renaissance.

European Renaissance

The Renaissance Period (1300 to 1600), particularly in Florence, was characterised as the age of exploration with an emergence of new knowledge that influenced art and science. The knowledge from the ancient Greco-Roman period, that had lay dormant for a millennium, suddenly gained a renewed interest that further influenced the explosion of art and science. Advances in a number of industries occurred, including, travel, metallurgy, optics, ballistics, construction and agriculture. An exponential growth of wealth and knowledge also drove the emergence of the nation-state, each with its increased military power. The legacy created by the Renaissance Period was in the form of art. Life-like oil paintings and sculptures, the use of perspective, and the design of visually inspiring architecture was developed during the Renaissance.

The Parisian Cafes and Salons

During the early twentieth century, following the Paris World Fair in 1900, an industrial boom occurred in Europe and the United States, bringing new technological developments such as the horseless carriage, the wireless radio, widespread use of the telephone, and the proliferation of electric light bulbs. It was also the time when Albert Einstein published his first paper on the Theory of Relativity. During the early 1900s the Parisian cafes were social hubs fuelled by coffee, wine, and creative passion, where people would meet in an environment conducive to sharing mutually stimulating ideas and conversations. Gertrude Stein’s apartment also became one of the significant hothouses in Paris in the 1920s, with gatherings every Saturday night (salons) and visits throughout the week. Stein collected paintings of notable artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Braque before they became famous. The apartment became a salon of creativity where artists, poets and writers (Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ernest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder to name a few) came together to share their experiences and fuel creative inspiration through the process of osmosis.

German Bauhaus

The German Bauhaus (1919-1933) under the leadership of Walter Gropius provided a workshop experience for architecture, sculpture, art and design. It also became the creative hub that bridged art and business where new creations could be transformed into products for the market. It brought together the cultural and physical landscapes to develop and stimulate students through transfering the skills of the masters. Many students then became masters teaching their learnings and experiences to future students. In 1934 when the Nazis declared all modern art to be ‘un-German”, the Bauhaus moved to Chicago where it became the New Bauhaus and later the Institute of Design.

Common Characteristics

The hothouses in history had a number of characteristics that were common, particularly the ability to accomplish the following (extracted from “The Hothouse Effect”):

  1. Sustain a high level of innovative creativity for a significant period of time
  2. Draw on the knowledge and innovation of the broader cultural community to which it belonged
  3. Spawn geniuses whose achievements climax the work of many other practitioners at all levels of achievements
  4. Establish a new paradigm, that is, a new way of doing things that informs its creative products and establishes new principles, procedures and standards.
  5. Achieve wide recognition and establish a lasting legacy to which future generations continually return to emulate.

It may also be interesting to study some of the more modern creative hothouses, such as Silicon Valley, and learn how intellectual exchanges led, in this example, to the development of the “dot.com boom”.

You may also know of other creative hothouses, local regional or national, that you would like to share.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Leonardo da Vinci is remembered by most as an artist with realistic paintings such as the famous Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, that dominated the Renaissance period. However, when you study the life of Leonardo da Vinci you uncover more than just the artist. You find a multidimensional person who contributed to art, science, medicine, engineering, the military, town planning and politics.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in Vinci in 1452. His father was a notary in Florence and his mother a 16 yr old servant girl. He grew up in his grandfather’s vineyard and orchard overlooking the valley of the River Arno. In his early years Leonardo was educated by the local priest, asking many questions and challenged the existing beliefs of the time.

Leonardo eventually moved to the bustling city of Florence, which was a key city of the Renaissance period. He studied as an apprentice in the studio of Andrea del Verrochio where he worked on various art projects. Leonardo da Vinci worked with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. Leonardo made a significant contribution to refining the art of realism and the use of linear perspective. Leonardo was asked to complete one of Verrochio’s paintings and when Verrochio viewed what Leonardo had completed, he was astounded at the high level of detail and realism that Leonardo achieved. Verrochio had vowed that from that moment on he himself would not paint again. It is clear from the painting below the artistic contribution that Leonardo had made (the detail in the image of the left angel and the distinctive rocky background).

The Renaissance period followed the Middle Ages and began around the 1400s. The period was dominated by learning, discovery and inquiry. Ancient Greek and Roman knowledge was revisited and revised from the perspective of the Renaissance period. One of the key movements during this time was the transformation of two-dimensional Middle Age art to a three-dimensional perspective, creating a sense of realism in artwork. Furthermore, the Renaissance period spawned new discoveries in art, science and adventure. For example, new lands were discovered by Christopher Columbus (1942) during this time.

From an early age Leonardo began to draw and record his thoughts on paper. He kept numerous notebooks of his drawings, designs and observations. He also recorded a number of questions and then tried to answer them as part of his quest for knowledge and understanding. One of Leonardo’s peculiarities was writing many  of his notebook entries  in mirror image (reverse text) demonstrating superior spacial skills. It has been postulated that he wrote many entries in reverse to try to hide some of his notes, thoughts and ideas from prying eyes, or simply because he wanted to prevent smudging as he was mainly left-handed (although he was also ambidextrous).

Leonardo displayed certain distinct characteristics common amongst creative people, including:

  • Curious and open-minded
  • Challenged assumptions and sought the truth
  • Optimistic
  • Tolerant of ambiguity
  • Comfortable with imagination and intuition
  • Viewed problems as opportunities
  • Persevered and didn’t give up easily
Michael Gelb in his book “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” identified seven principles demonstrated by Leonardo da Vinci:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Demonstration
  3. Sensing
  4. Ambiguity
  5. Whole-Brain Thinking (art and science)
  6. Physical Being
  7. Interconnectedness

Leonardo utilised the seven principles to achieve a number of outcomes. For example, in 1502 he worked as a military engineer for Cesare Borgia the son of Pope Alexander VI at a time where many Italian city-states were always at war. Leonardo’s job was to design new devices to better kill the enemy. He also came up with ways to remove, redirect or poison enemy water supplies.

Leonardo also identified and recorded a number of observations in his journals, and designed a number of inventions before their time:

  • 40 yrs before Copernicus – wrote that the earth is not the centre of the universe
  • 60 yrs before Galileo – large magnifying lens to view the moon
  • 200 yrs before Newton – theory of gravitation
  • 400 yrs before – concept of flight, parachute, helicopter, submarine, tanks, recoil-less gun and other inventions

By studying Leonardo da Vinci we find that we can identify a number of learnings from his life that we can adopt in our personal and working life, including:

  • Be curious and open-minded – a wealth of opportunities emerge when our mind is prepared to be open to ideas and curious about our surroundings
  • Ask questions to solve problems – asking “Why?” is a great way to solve problems by finding the root cause or causes
  • Capture ideas and experiences in a journal – thinking on paper by keeping a journal is a great way of expressing your internal creative spirit
  • Balance art and science – get the best of both worlds through reading and creative activities
  • Harmonize body and mind – use whole brain thinking techniques by stimulating and reprogramming your subconscious mind
  • Appreciate nature and our surroundings – enjoy and protect our world by considering the implications of increasing waste and carbon emissions
  • Set goals and aspirations – ensure you set SMART goals that are backed by action to create successful outcomes
  • Create a harmonious work-life balance – both work and play are important for humans, therefore ensure that your work and personal life are integrated and balanced

To continuous learning and creative inspiration!

Dr John Kapeleris

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The year 2011 is technically the start of a new decade. Therefore, one of the questions on my mind has been, “What will be the focus or trend for the new decade?” I spent some time doing some research online to identify the new trends and found that three things will definitely occur in the new decade:

1. There will be more change in the world than ever before
2. There will be more competition
3. There will be more opportunities available.

I also identified that the emerging theme or trend, particularly in the complex digital age, will be “thinking”. The use of computers and the escalation of digital handheld devices has removed the human element from interactions and transactions. Technology in the last decade has limited our ability to take time out to spend on thinking – thinking about our current situation, thinking about our goals, and thinking about the future. Instead we spend significant amounts of time watching shows in front of flat-screen TVs, playing games or surfing the internet on computers, and tapping away on handheld devices.

Many decades ago Thomas Edison stated, “There are few people who think, a few people who think they think, and then there are the great majority, who would rather die than think“. Interestingly, this quote is still relevant today. We either avoid making the effort to think, or we have essentially allowed technology and computers to do our thinking for us. Humans, in general, have also become more complacent by focusing on the present rather than thinking about the future. Thinking provides the ability to make better decisions which translate into better actions, and ultimately better results.

One of the characteristics of successful and insightful people is that they are future-oriented. They set aside the time to think about changes and trends that will impact on the future. They use these trends and factors to identify new opportunities providing first-mover advantage. Future-oriented people believe they can create their own future and influence their destiny by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Thinking can also change the way we perceive a problem. We can think of a problem as an undesirable situation that needs to be rectified. We can also take this undesirable situation or problem and view it as a challenge that can stimulate motivation for us to take action. Ultimately, we can perceive a problem as an opportunity and take advantage of what it can offer.

John C. Maxwell in his book “Thinking for a Change” describes the eleven different styles of thinking that can change your life:

  1. Acquire the wisdom of big-picture thinking – holistic thinking that extends beyond your domain
  2. Unleash the potential of focused thinking – concentrated thinking to clarify the issues
  3. Discover the joy of creative thinking – thinking laterally outside the box to identify breakthrough opportunities
  4. Recognize the importance of realistic thinking – asking whether your thinking has a solid foundation
  5. Release the power of strategic thinking – thinking about the future and the potential opportunities it brings
  6. Feel the energy of possibility thinking – possibility thinking can help you find solutions to complex problems
  7. Embrace the lessons of reflective thinking – thinking about the past or your current situation to better understand and learn from your experiences
  8. Question the acceptance of popular thinking – understand the current trends of common thinking in society
  9. Encourage the participation of shared thinking – engaging others to expand and sharpen your thinking
  10. Experience the satisfaction of unselfish thinking – considering the needs of others in your thinking
  11. Enjoy the return of bottom-line thinking – staying focused on results and outcomes from your thinking

To engage in the thinking process, set aside some quiet time in the right environment with a clear and relaxed mind, together with pen and paper, using the following step process:

  1. Determine the purpose of your thinking – What is the objective that you are trying to achieve?
  2. Focus on the topic, issue or opportunity – Take the time to focus so that you can achieve clarity.
  3. Explore the possibilities using some of the thinking styles above – Identify the different alternatives available by using different thinking styles.
  4. Synthesize your thoughts and ideas – Combine, adapt, modify, substitute, eliminate or reverse your thoughts and ideas to create new opportunities.
  5. Record your thoughts and ideas on paper – Think on paper! Get back to basics by using a pen and pad or journal to write down your thoughts and ideas, also allowing you to get things out of your head.
  6. Act on the outputs and opportunities resulting from your thinking – Take action and implement your ideas.

If you focus on thinking about the future an unlimited number of possibilities and opportunities become available that can create a new direction and a more desirable life.

Dr John Kapeleris

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In my previous company Panbio Ltd, one of the key success factors of the company was embedding innovation across the whole organisation and not limited to the R&D Department alone. One of the initiatives that I implemented to drive innovation in the organisation was the establishment of a Creativity Club. The main objective of the creativity club was to stimulate creative thinking in individuals and encourage the use of creative thinking tools to come up with new ideas, and to solve problems in the organisation and for our customers.

The original objectives that we brainstormed at our first creativity club at Panbio are outlined below:

The format and structure of the creativity club included the following:

  1. The creativity club was open to all employees of the organisation. Everyone was invited to deliver presentations, and to share their knowledge and experiences.
  2. The creativity club was held either at lunchtime or before work (lunch and breakfast were provided which was a great attraction for employees).
  3. The agenda of each meeting consisted of the following:
    1. Ice-breaker – each participant would be asked to describe a creative experience or reading since the last meeting (those participants that could not describe a creative experience would be asked to tell a joke – right brain thinking)
    2. Formal presentation – a theme was chosen as a focus of each creativity club including: Introduction to Creative Thinking, Serendipity vs Synchronicity, Idea Management, Creativity Tools, Imagination, Innovation case studies (3M, Dupont, Lotus Corporation, Ideo etc), Creative Problem Solving, Intuition, Chaos Theory, etc
    3. Informal discussion – this session included open discussion about the specific topic presented and the practical application of the learnings from the presentation
    4. Action planning – the creativity club concluded with the recording of action plans that each participant could take back to their department or functional area and implement
  4. The creativity club was modelled on the Dupont OZ Creative Thinking Network and the Parisian Salons (creative communities) of the 1920’s. The creativity club included a number of games and puzzles to stimulate the creative juices of participants. It also provided a fun environment conducive to the sharing of knowledge and ideas that could be further developed or implemented. A database was set up within the Knowledge Management system of the organisation to capture and record the presentations, knowledge, ideas, learnings, discussions and action plans arising from the creativity club.

The creativity club at Panbio also spawned the development of Creative Problem Solving Hit Teams. These teams consisted of cross-functional team members that would work on solving problems both inside and outside the organisation. When an internal functional area or an external customer could not solve a particular problem then a Creative Problem Solving Hit Team was deployed. The cross-functional nature of the team allowed a wider range of skill-sets to be incorporated in the team, providing a diverse perspective when investigating each problem. The team included people directly involved with the problem but also people who had never been exposed to the problem. Team members were also equipped with a variety of creative problem solving tools and resources. These teams became so effective that we started to provide this service beyond our existing clients and domain areas of expertise.

Enjoy!

Dr John Kapeleris

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“Invention refers to new concepts or products derived from an individual’s ideas or from scientific research. Innovation, on the other hand, is the commercialization of the invention itself” – Daniel Scocco

The words invention and innovation are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they are quite distinct, although not mutually exclusive. An invention is a new creation, device or process, derived from an individual’s ideas or from scientific research, while an innovation is the practical application or commercialization of a new idea or concept (it could be an invention) into something of value in the marketplace, whether it is a new product, process or organizational system. The creation or development of the invention alone does not translate to an innovation. The invention must create value for it to become a successful innovation. We find that many inventions that are patented do not result in successful innovations in the market, in society, in the community or in an organization.

Both invention and innovation begin with a creative process. A curious and open mind, that identifies an opportunity or makes a discovery, is the basis of developing an invention or an innovation. Inventors such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Shunpei Yamazaki have created a number of new inventions, but only a percentage of these have been successfully commercialized. For example, Leonardo da Vinci was a great inventor but he did not commercialize any of his inventions (e.g. the parachute, personal flying wing, military tank etc). Some of his inventions were successfully commercialized by others hundreds of years later.

 

It can be argued that the iPod is an innovation rather than just an invention, because it includes an innovative operating system, pleasing aesthetics, ease of use and a link to the online iTunes software providing value through a complete user experience. The early MP3 players, however, were simply inventions, some of which later became succesful innovations.

I have often wondered what have been the “Top 10 Inventions” of all time. Particularly inventions that have become significant innovations adding enormous value to humans and society. Following is my list of the top 10 inventions of all time (OK, maybe twelve):

  1. Steam engine
  2. Printing press
  3. Light bulb
  4. Telephone
  5. E=mc²
  6. Automobile/Airplane
  7. Penicillin
  8. Transistor/silicon chip
  9. Computers
  10. Laser

What are your “Top 10 Inventions” of all time?

Dr John Kapeleris

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“In the field of observation chance only favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

Tacit knowledge has been defined as non-codified, intangible know-how that is acquired through the informal adoption of learned behavior and procedures.  Polanyi describes tacit knowing as involving two kinds of awareness: the focal and subsidiary.  While individuals may be focused on a particular object or process, they also possess a subsidiary awareness that is subliminal and marginal.  Tacit knowing also involves subsception, that is, learning without awareness and this is associated with serendipity.

Serendipity is defined as a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept when the individual is not actively seeking an idea i.e. without awareness of a problem or need. While a discovery that involves focused awareness is usually termed synchronicity since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Serendipity has resulted in a number of accidental discoveries producing innovations that have contributed to significant value for society. For example, penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming when he observed an anomaly on a bacterial culture. Another example of an accidental discovery was Scotchgard by Patsy Sherman when she accidentally spilled a polymer on her tennis shoes. The table below shows a number of innovations resulting from serendipity or synchronicity:

Although accidental discoveries and observations in nature lead to new innovations, the person making the discovery or observation needs to have a mindset that is conducive to identifying the opportunities. Sir Alexander Fleming could have thrown out the bacterial cultures when he found an anomaly, but instead continued to investigate the cultures to determine the cause of the abnormality, as a result of his curious and open mind.

The prepared mind, as stated by Louis Pasteur, is characterized by specific patterns of brain activity that place a person in the right “frame of mind” through the establishment of new pathways or networks of thought. The prepared mind has the ability to sense, understand, decide and act upon observations and opportunities that suddenly appear by chance.

Welter and Egmon in their bookThe Prepared Mind of a Leader describe eight mental skills that can further develop and prepare your mind to identify opportunities, solve problems and enhance decision-making:

  1. Observing – Look for non-conforming information generated by the constantly changing environment, that can provide new ideas and opportunities.
  2. Reasoning – You need to be able to answer “Why?” when you are proposing a course of action.
  3. Imagining – The ability to visualize new ideas and linkages.
  4. Challenging – Challenge your assumptions and test their validity.
  5. Deciding – You need to make timely decisions or influence others’ decisions.
  6. Learning – Continuous learning will move you forward.
  7. Enabling – You need people with the knowledge and ability to progress opportunities.
  8. Reflecting – Allocate the time to think and reflect to determine whether a particular decision was successful.

How are you preparing your mind to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities?

Dr John Kapeleris

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Open Innovation

August 30th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas | Innovation - (2 Comments)

Open innovation is the process by which organizations use both internal and external knowledge to drive and accelerate their internal innovation strategy in order to fulfil existing market needs or to access new market opportunities.

The concept of 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.

Henry Chesbrough has been a great advocate for open innovation as demonstrated by his book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating And Profiting from Technology, which describes the difference between closed and open innovation. The key characteristics of closed and open innovation are compared and contrasted in the table below:

Open innovation is about collaboration with external organizations to co-create future opportunities, technologies and products that address existing or new markets for an organization. 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. 

Open innovation is sometimes confused with the term “open source”. Although the terms are not mutually exclusive, open source is defined as the practice of providing open access to a product’s source material. For example, Wikipedia is an example of an open source platform where knowledge and information, including intellectual property, is shared and made available in the public domain. Open source can be viewed as a subset of open innovation. Although open innovation is about collaboration between two or more parties, access to intellectual property may involve varying degrees, from confidential to publicly available.  In contrast to open access, open innovation can involve private or exclusive participants, where intellectual property is protected or kept confidential.

Regards,

Dr John Kapeleris

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Ideation or idea generation is a key driver of the innovation process. So how do we find our best ideas? Many of us generate our best ideas during the morning shower, or while we are listening to music or driving. Sometimes we come up with ideas when we are actively trying to solve problems or when we wake up in the morning. The greatest impediment to extracting value from these ideas is firstly our ability to actively capture these great ideas before the hard work begins to evaluate, harvest and implement these ideas.

Converting ideas into successful outcomes or benefits, i.e. innovations, requires a disciplined approach, although creativity forms the foundation of the process.  A typical idea management process may involve the following steps:

Generating Ideas

Dr Linus Pauling, the dual Nobel Prize Laureate stated “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas”. The more ideas you produce the greater the chance of finding a winning idea. Idea generation was popularized by Alex Osborne in his 1953 book “Applied Imagination” where he described the concept of “Brainstorming”. Brainstorming is now widely used as a tool to generate a large number of ideas in a group setting. Furthermore, Tony Buzan’s Mindmapping® technique has also provided the means for individual brainstorming. Individuals or groups have the capacity to come up with ideas when they are in a conducive state or environment, such as relaxing in a quiet and comfortable place or while taking a shower. Relaxation allows the subconscious mind to continue to process information and make connections.

Capturing Ideas

Where do you look for ideas? You don’t need to go far. Ideas already exist within individuals working in an organization or they can be easily sourced from the external environment, including the market, customers, competitors and the Internet. We can improve the process of capturing ideas by:

  • Actively looking for ideas around us through observation and listening e.g. talking to people, newspapers, the environment
  • Building idea sources such as reference books, the Internet, thought leaders
  • Recording and banking ideas in journals, notebooks, electronic databases or mobile phone apps

Discovery through serendipity results in a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept. An attentive mind is important in recognizing and capturing these random ideas. Alternatively, synchronicity or focused awareness is more powerful since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Constructing and Harvesting Ideas

When ideas are generated and captured they are usually in a raw form and require further constructing or processing into a concept or application. For this to occur a number of creative thinking tools can be used including brainstorming, morphological analysis, scenario building, rearranging, cross-linking or randomizing. The final step involves harvesting the developed ideas that will either, satisfy an existing market need, solve a known problem or provide a new opportunity for further development. At this stage some people will include an incubation step to sleep on the ideas before the evaluation stage.

Evaluating and Protecting Ideas

The previous steps in the idea management process all involve some element of creative input, while, the evaluation stage involves traditional analysis of the ideas using a number of predefined criteria relevant to the individual or the organization. Although, intuition may also play a role.  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. This step is followed by determining the value of the idea to the organization and the costs associated with the implementation phase. Paralysis by analysis should be avoided if the idea is to progress to implementation.

Implementing Ideas

One of the most difficult steps is the implementation phase. To develop great ideas and not to action them is the same as not having any ideas at all. Implementation requires planning, hard work and discipline to achieve successful outcomes. Many people underestimate the effort involved in converting their ideas into successful products, services or processes. 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!

Developing a compelling business case or business model with a clear path to market is a key factor of success.

Measuring Outcomes and Results

Progress can be monitored using appropriate measures to determine the effectiveness of the idea. Measures include value currencies such as revenue, cost savings, efficiency gains, social benefits and environmental benefits. Remember, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Your next idea could be the breakthrough innovation, new solution, new product, new service or organisational system that could add value to your organisation or to society.

Dr John Kapeleris

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