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Technology Licensing Can be a Challenge

Newlogic's spin-out company, Newcare Medical, is working to receive a number of SBIR grants from the NIH.  One grant is to develop an active noise cancellation technology for use in NICUs.
The active noise control technology is to be licensed from another startup that we have been advising.  This case is complicated by a number of factors, not least is that the inventor has decided not to continue as a full-time entrepreneur, he is looking for a job.  If he receives one, he will likely not be able to take part in the SBIR Phase 1 program, and potentially future development of his technology as well.  The inventor should be compensated for Newcare's use of his invention,  but his inability to participate in the project should not limit Newcare's ability to complete the grant.

Each party has some specific needs.
- The ability to develop the technology in order to complete the terms of the NIH SBIR regardless if the technology's inventor's role in the program.
- The ability to commercialize the technology as funded by the NIH grants.
Inventor of the Active Noise Cancellation Technology:
- Money
- Control

There are some areas that I can project conflicts:

- Who owns the prototype?   By the terms of the SBIR, Newcare has ownership, however, I expect the Inventor will demand ownership.  I think we can work around it by giving the inventor something like a 2 year license of the prototype, by that time it should be obsolete so returning it to Newcare will not be a big deal.
- Ownership of IP developed during the program.  I would expect that we can reach an agreement that the Inventor owns the IP, and Newcare has non-exclusive license to it for the purposes of completing the grant, a Phase II grant and commercializing the technology funded by the grant.  However, Newcare will not agree to a non-circumvent clause, we need the ability to grow and develop the technology independently of the inventor's career path.
- Value of the technology license.  The SBIR Phase I budget is extremely limited. Any licensing fees will have to come out of the salary line item.  This is a good deal for the inventor (who's listed as co-PI) because it guarantees him payment regardless if he works on the program.  However, if he demands cash above his 'salary' budget, we may have to cancel the program because there is no room in the budget for it.
- Timing of legal fees and costs.  If we do not receive this grant, this entire effort is wasted. Thus, I'm not inclined to initiate this dialogue nor accrue legal fees until we are more certain we're receiving funding from the NIH.


When times get tough companies of all sizes and market positions seek ways to reduce expenses and conserve resources.  These cycles give rise to increased pressures on new product development (NPD) managers and executives. While companies often respond with drastic measures, including freezing all new product development, NPD professionals are expected to concurrently generate top-line revenue while reducing costs.

Newlogic has helped guide clients through financial downturns, and subsequent recoveries.  As a result, Newlogic has devised Innovation Survival Tools to effectively manage innovation during an economic down cycle.

Portfolio Optimization and Project Selection

With the economy improving, R&D organizations are coming back under the microscope to drive revenue growth. After an extended time of under-investment, many R&D groups have a backlog of work and are asking themselves “What should we do right now?”

The majority of R&D organizations we analyzed had not made project selection decisions that captured the greatest financial and strategic value. An optimized portfolio provides three key benefits: 1) Increases the value of R&D’s contribution, both work-in-process and revenues, 2) Supports investment in projects with strategic and/or long-term value, and 3) Increases R&D output through more efficient resource allocation.

New Frontiers in Healthcare Technology

The NIH is sponsoring an insightful conference on the future of telemedicine. Videocast is available here.

Growing brand energy in the downturn

To flourish in this downturn, challenge the conventional wisdom that only cost-reducing wins. "Recessions provide fertile ground for launching new businesses, developing disruptive new products and strengthening customer loyalty." These are the words of marketing expert Andrew Razeghi from Northwestern University. Here are a few tips he offers based on the many examples of successful companies that prospered during recessionary times:
• While managing cash is important, don't put the brakes on. Continue to invest in R&D and marketing. "Listen to the market, invest in products for the long term, and keep in front of the customer."
• In a recession, the worst thing you can do is to go dark. In a recession "fear creates focus." "Customers wonder how you're doing. Now is the time to increase communication and restore confidence not only in the products you're selling, but also in the company behind those products."
• Marketers need to play to their strengths, and rethink how to turn those strengths into new opportunities. As marketers continue to clamor for attention, sensory branding will grow increasingly relevant to help cut through the clutter.
As he points out, many high-profile name brands were born in the midst of the Great Depression.

Innovation Survival Tools: Five Things About a Down Economy

When times get tough companies of all sizes and market positions seek ways to reduce expenses and conserve resources. These cycles give rise to increased pressures on new product development managers and executives. Newlogic has helped guide clients through the last two financial downturns, and the subsequent recoveries. As a result, Newlogic has devised five Innovation Survival Tools to effectively manage innovation during an economic down cycle.

Download our white paper at: www.newlogicusa.com/news

Fast Company's 50

Even in these tough times, surprising and extraordinary efforts are under way in businesses across the globe. From politics to technology, energy, and transportation; from marketing to retail, health care, and design, Fast Company has identified their 50 top companies that illustrate the power and potential of innovative ideas and creative execution. These are the kinds of enterprises that will redefine our future and point the way to a better tomorrow.

[ Fast Company's 50 Most Innovative Companies ]

Bright Ideas for Dark Times

The Guardian explains why NOW is the time for creative thinking and innovation.

[Read more at the Guardian]


The BMW GINA Light Visionary Model is an design study that shows BMW designers' innovative design thinking. Featuring an outer skin made entirely out of textile fabric that's pulled taut around a frame of metal and carbon fiber wires, the car's shape can change, controlled by electro-hydraulic devices. For instance, the headlights of the concept can be exposed or hidden by the car's skin just like blinking eyes, and the hood opens from the center as the fabric parts to expose the engine. This idea extends to the interior, where BMW designers have made visible only those instruments that are required at a certain time, while the rest of the time the same fabric interior "blinks" them out of view.

e-HealthTech Resource

e-HealthTech.org is a comprehensive resource for professionals developing new electronic health systems. Founded by a group of entrepreneurs working to improve user access to EPRs via patient initiated healthcare, e-HealthTech.org brings a unique, user-centric, point of view to the need to healthcare facilities.


According to a new study published by the National Academies, a Washington organization that advises the U.S. government on science and technology policy, America continues to be the world leader in creating new products and services has remained remarkably resilient over the past decade—even as more research and development by U.S. companies is done offshore.

And while the report makes a compelling cases that U.S. companies are succeeding, it does not address the issue of U.S. innovation's benefit (if any) to the U.S. worker.

Still, given all the debate over offshoring, the report's central findings are interesting. The authors marshal a wealth of evidence to show that, thanks to innovation, globalization hasn't eroded U.S. leadership even in some industries where there has been a substantial offshore shift in engineering and design.

There are cases where the U.S. can lose a commanding lead when domestic manufacturing disappears—namely in flat-panel displays and lighting. Macher also concedes "there are problems on the horizon" regarding America's future competitiveness. Other nations are starting to mimic many of the strategies that give the U.S. an innovation edge.."

via BusinessWeek


A Massachusetts startup recently raised $6.5 million to build a global innovation outsourcing company based on the x-prize model. Innocentive postes product development challenges on the Web and invites people around the world to submit competing solutions, with a substantial monetary prize as the reward for the winner.

InnoCentive was set up by Eli Lilly in 2001 as an experimental way to farm out some of the giant drugmaker’s biggest product development challenges. Two years ago, Lilly spun out the company as an independent venture, and it has since diversified beyond the life sciences to a range of disciplines, such as computer science and cleantech.

It works like this: Companies work with InnoCentive to craft their challenge and pick a dollar amount for the award. InnoCentive then alerts its network of solvers, and those who choose to engage in a particular challenge are given access to online project rooms containing proprietary details about the seeker’s project. At the end of the challenge period, the seeker evaluates the solutions and chooses one as the winner; InnoCentive then helps transfer the rights to the solution from the solver to the seeker’s organization. People who submit solutions can win awards that range from $10,000 to $1 million.

It isn’t “crowdsourcing” in the typical Web 2.0 sense of throwing open a problem and soliciting thoughts and contributions from thousands of random Internet surfers. It would be more accurate to describe InnoCentive’s platform as a mechanism for soliciting RFPs (requests for proposals) from a much broader cross-section of experts than any company could reach through the traditional business consulting process. Companies like Procter & Gamble use Innocentive’s system to find new product ideas faster than they might on their own, and the model has even inspired imitators such as Ohio-based Planet Eureka, which launched last month.

via xconomy


Malcom Gladwell's (one of the WSJ's to 20 management gurus) essay on innovation featuring Nathan Myhrvold's Innovation Ventures, Alexander Graham Bell and Dinosaurs!
Read it here.

via The New Yorker


From the Wall Street Journal comes this year's crop of business gurus. The results, based on Google hits, media mentions and academic citations, ranks author and consultant Gary Hamel No. 1. However, included at the top of the list are psychologists, journalists and celebrity chief executives.

via The Wall Street Journal


According to Stall Points, research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (see Harvard Business Review Magazine Article), that shows that almost all companies hit a point where historical growth rates decelerate. Once the corporate growth engine stalls, it is very hard to restart.

The study involved close to 500 companies that have appeared on the Fortune 100 or international equivalents over the past 50 years. Close to 90 percent of those companies experienced a stall, or “secular reversals in company growth fortunes.” Only 50 percent of companies that stalled were able to grow even moderately over the next decade.

There are many reasons why growth becomes increasingly difficult as a company grows. One challenge is that the hurdle for new initiatives becomes so high that many potential game-changing initiatives never see the light of day. To quote one fortune 100 executive from the article: “A billion is nice, but at our size we really need to set the target at $10 billion.”

The problem is there aren’t very many $10 billion businesses sitting around. Worse, a $10 billion business doesn’t always look like a $10 billion business in its early days. The only reliable way to create that top-line growth of that magnitude is through relatively large acquisitions, which tend to be at best value neutral.

So what’s a giant to do? One key to success is keeping individual units responsible for growth small enough so they can prioritize opportunities that start relatively modestly. For a long time Hewlett-Packard had a practice of splitting up any division that reached a certain size to minimize bureaucracy and leave the smaller unit free to prioritize relatively small opportunities.

Another key is to set reasonable screens for new growth opportunities. By all means make sure there is a story for why a given opportunity could be a blockbuster success. But leave room for exploration, iteration, and small starts, or it will just be a matter of time before you hit your own stall point.

via Scott Anthony at HBS


A problem in the way patent judges are appointed at least arguably invalidates every decision of the patent court, as decided by a panel that included at least one judge appointed after March 2000.

At issue is a 1999 law that changed the way patent office judges are appointed, substituting the director of the Patent and Trademark Office for the Secretary of Commerce. The problem is patent office judges are, by definition, "inferior officers", and the constitution states inferior officers must be appointed by a head of a department (Secretary of Commerce), not a head of an office (such as the Patent Office).

The impact of this problem, identified by John F. Duffy, at the George Washington University Law School, could be cataclysmic for the patent world, casting “a cloud over many thousands of board decisions” and “unsettling the expectations of patent holders and licensees across the nation.”

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to take up the question, in the case involving Translogic, one with $86 million at stake.

via NYT


The nation’s service industries suffered a slowdown in activity in April as inflation put a squeeze on businesses already pressured by falling demand, according to a private survey released Monday by the Institute for Supply Management. But service companies also appeared to add jobs....(via the NYT)

We sum up the attraction of new services with this often used chart:

Product-only businesses face new challenges:
  • Increasing global competition
  • Mounting product price pressure
  • Decreasing product margins
Service Innovation
  • Meet wider set of related customer needs
  • Create new sources of competitive differentiation
  • Diversify revenue stream
  • Higher margins
  • Longer contracts
  • Higher barrier to competition
  • Internet - key distribution channel

Communication is Key

Hidden within today's NYT article on the ongoing resuscitation of Kodak (here) is a lesson about how corporate structure can support innovation:
[In the new Kodak] researchers who rarely interacted are now expected to collaborate....“This used to be a closed society, where some researchers kept their records in locked safes...”
Researchers...must now work with the business managers...Today, everyone involved in creating, selling and servicing ... is grouped together...
“Finally, we have a structure that promotes commercialization of research.”...
Too often corporations create structures where there is little interaction between R&D and marketing functions. Organizations such as HP, CERN, and 3M have institutionalized this cross-functional collaboration, enabling nascent ideas to benefit from business-unit guidance, with the goal of innovation commercialization.


Wrigley's acquisition by Mars demonstrates, again, that simply spending more on R&D is not the answer when a company needs innovative products.
He (Bill Wrigley CEO) hired scores of food scientists, chemists, and engineers for an innovation center he opened in 2005 on a 7.6-acre Chicago site that he hoped would yield the next greatest thing since chewing gum...Bill Wrigley tried to do big things but never had a breakthrough.

There is a link between innovation and corporate longevity (demonstrated too clearly by the story of Wrigley). Both innovation and corporate longevity require long term commitment to continuous learning outside of the corporate parent.
Innovation and corporate longevity are bottom up initiatives that strive to keep the individual highly engaged with the world outside the business; with customers, with new markets and nascent ideas.
When the people who work at any company (Wrigely, Polaroid, EMI Records, etc.) are complacent and concerned about maintaining the status quo, investing in a new R&D facility will not be a panacea.



Innovation: A creation whos express purpose; improving business performance, is dependent upon first-mover advantages - patentability is not a requirement.


Today, Marc is talking about Innovation on Demand in conjunction with Babson College to students from Bern University's executive MBA program. Key discussion points for this international group will focus how corporate culture can enable innovation.

Crowd Sourcing The Right Answers

Prediction markets, online virtual wagering communities are being utilized to analyze idea pipelines inside majore companies such as the InterContinental Hotels Group, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard. The promise of prediction markets is that the collective wisdom of a company's workforce will improve forecasting, reduce risk and accelerate innovation.

Like blogs and wikis, prediction markets can spur communication and collaboration within a company. Yet they add rigorous measurement to business forecasts, like estimating the sales of a new product or the chances that a project will be finished on time.

Corporate prediction markets work like this: Employees, and potentially outsiders, make their wagers over the Internet using virtual currency, betting anonymously. They bet on what they think will actually happen, not what they hope will happen or what the boss wants. The payoff for the most accurate players is typically a modest prize, cash or an iPod.

The early results are encouraging. “The potential is that prediction markets may be the thing that enables a big company to act more like a small, nimble company again,”


Thinking Outside the Company’s Box

One of the oldest barriers to innovation is “Not Invented Here,” a persistent bias of even the most creative people toward their own creations and against those of people who work for other companies. And the problem of N.I.H. isn’t limited to business; it can also infect the military and government research agencies.

To help counteract N.I.H., large corporations are increasingly promoting technology alliances with rivals, as well as the concept of “open innovation,” to draw on a wider circle of big brains — not on their payroll — to work on core technical problems. These efforts arise from the recognition that no single innovator or team, no matter how loyal to an employer or successful in the market, has a monopoly on wisdom.

Newlogic has always supported this growing trend, helping clients realize that access to an idea is more important than ownership. It is part of our market focus, creating success criteria based on external, customer-centric, metrics. Customers don't care how many patents a company has, they care about how well the product they're considering to purchase.

via: NYT

Technology is making it easier to make things worse

Lou Reed may have made this remark specifically about the ubiquity of MP3 players and how their technological limitations reduce audio quality.

Yet the same can be said for many innovation initiatives. New technologies make it easier to create. Easy to use 3D CAD, ideation programs, brainstorming software, and rendering programs allow any person to create.

Technology is indeed making it easier for make things worse.

If the postal clerk in the next cubicle can create photoreaslitic rendering of his idea, what is the value of the idea from a professional designer?

How are business managers expected to discern the difference between good design and bad?


Another reason why I have zero respect for BusinessWeek when it comes to their 'reporting' of design and innovation.

Splashed across this week's cover is a picture o the Levono Super-Thin ThinkPad. Accompanied by a five page article of the 'design' team's two year struggle to develop a super-thin laptop.

Given only lip service in the article are the very real business challenges of innovation.

I often wonder if there are lessons we can learn from Levono's design team?
- Is this a clear proof that talent is the most important element of a design team? With Sapper still involved with the product design and the ThinkPad identity still rooted in his formula, clearly individual designers of immense talent can have long-lasting impact on a corporation.

- Is this clear proof that Levono has no clue about design? So risk-averse are they (and IBM before) that they continue a dated design identity without innovation because if it is less risky for the product managers to use a design that worked before than attempt to create something new.

Design Industry at Risk

Laura Lee writes in BusinessWeek about the role of design and innovation during the current economic downturn.

"Design thinking is a useful innovation tool, not the absolute source of sustainable growth. Meeting complex growth challenges requires a broad range of capabilities from across the social sciences, business strategy, and design. Just as there is no one, best approach to innovation, there is also no evidence that profitable growth is impossible in a slow economy. As the economic cycle turns again, managers face a critical choice: Will they join the packs that give up on growth while waiting for better times? Or will they find new ways to grow during the coming storm?"


"Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That's where innovation begins."

Mitch Ditkoff, in his blog; The Heart Of Innovation, drivest home the point that people will innovate, not because they have to, but because they want to.

He sees the challenge is to find a way to help each and every person in an organization to awaken, nurture and develop their innate abilities to create something extraordinary. In order to help people who have been hired for these skills, we ought to provide them with training, tools and environments that can help to enable this process.

The Heart Of Innovation

Product Innovation Best Practices

Product Innovation Agenda 2010: Profiting From Innovation Today and Tomorrow
This report by Aberdeen Group, a follow-up to their 2005 benchmark study, reassess the corporate product innovation agenda. Highlighting best practices of the companies with the best track records for new product innovation today and in the years ahead, the report's key findings include:
  • Best-in-class companies are able to hit their revenue, product cost, development cost, product lifecycle cost, and launch date targets significantly better than their peers.
  • Bottom-line benefits of successful product innovation were compelling, including an average 10% increase in product revenue and a 6% decrease in product costs.
  • Firms enjoying best-in-class performance were 54% more likely to have a Chief Product Officer (CPO), Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), or equivalent executive responsible for product innovation than the industry average.
  • Best-in-class firms are also adopting emerging best practices as they prepare to retain their innovation leadership through 2010 and beyond. They are 33% more likely than industry average companies to have open innovation processes by 2010.
  • Clearly, the companies that are experiencing best-in-class performance are taking a different approach to product innovation - one that other firms can learn from.
  • What are these top performers doing differently? Aberdeen cites a combination of these practices: operationalizing innovation, incorporating customers in the development process, expanding the engineer's view to the downstream impact of their decisions, and streamlining the entire product development cycle from innovation, through development, to engineering.
If your responsibilities include managing product innovation in your company, then this report is a must-read!


Today's NYT Bright Ideas columnist Janet Rae-Dupree explores the paradox that as we gain knowledge our ability to innovate, create, is reduced.
This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to accomplish a task — open a store, build a house, buy new cash registers, sell insurance — those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.
read the article here

The Destruction of Bell Labs and the Growth of the Academic-Industrial Complex

From the New York Times comes this article about the new relationship between academia and industry. The article highlights the relatively new arrangements between the two in order to facilitate 'over the horizon' innovation and inventions.
I was involved, when I was running a department within TIAX, LLC, in creating a business strategy around this concept. Let me try to summarize the arguments for and against:

- Reduced overhead
- Excellent PR/markeing power, sound great to Wall Street (who wouldn't prefer MIT doing your research ?)
- No ability to directly link investment performance with business goals
- Govt. funding for R&D and basic research has disappeared and industry need a new partner to share the costs. Every major technology breakthrough; from the computer, to the integrated chip, to the web, to cellular phone was funded by the US government, usually from within the military

- Few if any of the innovations ever make it to market
- Relies on the assumption that breakthroughs do not need a team to have deep experience or consistency. Since the academic work is lead by students team regularly turn over, member leave, and projects are re-scoped. Think of the decades spent by the MIT Robo-Tuna teams, the number of times the project was re-invented and the lack of marketable results.

One example the business press likes to use as an argument in support of the academic-industrial complex is Bell Lab's never earned a dollar from the invention of the integrated circuit processor. This is a failure not of the R&D lab, but of Bell's short-sighted business management who failed to have the creativity to see how the future could be so drastically changed by their invention.

R&D Does Not Guarantee Market Success

Ford is the world's second largest spender on R&D (read).
At the same time, Ford's sales are dismal, falling an additional 18% in September (read).

Behind the Curtain, Moving from Idea to Product

At first blush, the iPhone from Apple, the new microprocessor family from Intel and the ubiquitous Google search engine have nothing in common. One is a gadget, one is an electronic part and one is a service.

Yet all of these products — much acclaimed for their creativity — depend on obscure process innovations that, while highly complex and lacking glamour, are an essential part of establishing a winning edge in commercial electronics.

Indeed, the success of Apple, Intel, Google and scores of other technology companies has as much or more to do with their process innovations as the products that inspire loyalty among fans and admiration from foes.

Read the complete article, here, at the New York Times.

OLPC, a MIT case study

From sartorial technology commentator, Fake Steve Jobs, comes a spot-on critique of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) business. The post summarizes key reasons why this (and other) education-initiated innovation fails to have a positive impact in the marketplace, and why the OLPC garnered such devoted praise in the media.
Read it here


Another X-Prize has been announced, NASA held a competition to improve their spacesuits, DARPA is awarding prizes for self-guided vehicles.
A decade ago these initiatives would have been completely funded by their sponsoring organizations and the government. Instead 40 years of failed innovations, budget reductions, six-sigma management and bureaucracy has brought us to the point where government has realized that they do not have a culture of innovation.
To many this is a scary new world where they are being forced to take all the technical risk of innovating without the opportunity to participate in the marketing upside.
Instead it helps incubate what I think will be the next evolution of our nation, the entrepreneur economy.
A trend that began with the internet bubble, brand you, hackers, and MicroSerfs, is spreading far beyond the IT industry. Engineering, design, and product design is adopting a culture of innovation. By forcing individuals and companies to compete they are (finally) forcing our applied sciences to improve their performance.

On the Creation, Protection, and Delivery of Shareholder Value—Lessons from the Color Kinetics Experience

Entrepreneurship and innovation are powerful forces that, when combined, can lead to the creation of great value. Last week, a Boston startup community saw one of its finest recent examples of entrepreneurial innovation: Color Kinetics (CK), deliver nearly $800 million in cash to its shareholders upon the completion of its purchase by Royal Philips Electronics.
With about $80 million in revenue run-rate and a current year EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) expected in the $4-6 million range, Color Kinetics garnered a valuation that far exceeded typical multiples.
Looking back, an early share in a large or growing marketplace, an outstanding team, satisfied and loyal customers, and competitive advantage are often present in such high-value transactions and share between them most of the credit.
In the case of Color Kinetics, one additional factor deserves significant credit and that is the intellectual property estate built by the company during its decade of existence.
Atypical of many high-technology companies, but quite typical in biotechnology, the strategy of patenting early and often contributed ultimately to the company’s ability to protect and deliver the substantial value it created.

Read more at xconomy.com

Attack of the HiPPO

Product designers struggle all the time when trying to create optimal product experiences that drive sales and action.

The biggest hurdle often isn't consumer behavior, it's hippos. HiPPO stands for: the Highest Paid Person's Opinion." HiPPO's are bosses, and their bosses, the VP of Markeing, COO, CTO, CEO, etc." who, usually unilaterally, make key decisions about the product.

In the past you did not have too many options to counter a HiPPO. But now there are a range of analytic tools that can arm you with data to counter the HiPPOs and reveal what actual consumers really respond to.

via; MarketingProf's Daily Fix and Boston Business Blog


Social scientists at the Southern Illinois University's Department of Psychology recently published the results of research into the link between personality and creativity.

The results reinforce the common perception that conservatives are less creative than liberals.

Some of the reports findings include:
- Individuals who are threatened by uncertainty may be disposed to focus on lower order needs to increase their safety and security.
- Conformity to what is conventionally accepted focuses the individual on traditions (what is old), whereas all definitions of creativity include a focus on what is new.
- The authoritarian and anti-hedonistic elements of the construct would lead conservatives to devalue imagination.

Abstract is available here
Via Core77


From the NYT comes this thought provoking, extensential, article that hypothesizes our conscious existence is a computer simulation in the near future.

West Cost VC's are More Desirable

Cambridge-based Y Combinator held it's demo day in Boston, unveiling 19 startup to VCs and investors. Although most of the presentations were from early stage one, or two, person companies, prominent VCs from around the country came to Boston for the event.
Unfortunately, it sounds like Boston VCs are not supporting early stage companies. Scott Kirsner blogged after the event that "several of the companies are planning to relocate to Silicon Valley because the VCs are more aggressive and the partnership opportunities are better." While Don Dodge calls for Boston VC to "Step up and make the investments."
More: Y Combinator, Don Dodge, Scott Kirsner
Via: Boston Business Filter

Ignore What Customer Want

Customer feedback is important information that is difficult to use properly.
Proper use of customer input should focus on two areas:

1. An overwhelming majority consensus for a different path.
2. A tidbit of knowledge you didn't know.

So don'thttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif get thrown by the wide-ranging comments. Just look for a big steer or some little nuggets. In other words, "get feedback, then ignore most of it.

via: BusinessPundit

LinkedIn vs. FaceBook

Blogger Jeff Pulver has abandoned LinkedIn saying that "the more time I spent on Facebook, the less time I had for LinkedIn." He now finds himself logged in to FaceBook for hours per day updating his status, to catching up on groups he's joined, and checking and responding to messages. Increasingly Pulver found LinkedIn gave him "no compelling reason…to stay and interact." The key may be that "FaceBook is great for business networking as well as socializing, and provides a platform for creating networks among like-minded people."

Does FaceBook's social networking better meet the needs of business?

Via BusinessWeek Online

More Deals

It's a good time to be a start-up again, A lot of deals are getting looked at. There's an abundance of money. And there's a lot of talent out there's that's looking for the next hit.

Nationally, the number of venture investments last quarter were at a six-year high. Though the overall total value of venture investments were slightly lower than the quarter before. That was also the story in New England (the second largest venture market).

Behind these trends is an increase in seed and early-stage financing, which consistently had lagged behind investing in expansion and later-stage companies over the past several years. The return to funding early-stage companies is part of a cyclical trend that is fueling new entrepreneurship.

Via The Boston Globe


A few blogs have been referred to me recently. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend you spend your time at any of the following:
Ideas 108
Idea Management Systems
The Innovator's Digest
Innovation Tool of the Month Club
Successful innovation can be compared to hitting a baseball; most people can do it once, but I believe it takes intrinsic talent to become a consistent professional.
I find thattoo often PDMA-types want to democratize innovation creation through statistical analysis and process building. This may provide non-creative individuals a set of tasks to performs under the guise of innovation, but never have I found they result in successful innovations being generated by someone who has not created one before.

Meaningful Innovation Still Comes From a Few

For all the hoopla over the power and promise of user-generated innovation, consumer-directed design, and democratized innovation, the most popular new products, like the iPod, were created through a top-down, professional innovation process. There is an unbroken line between Henry Ford (with his Model T) and Steve Jobs.

From the New York Times

Build in China; No Longer A Silver Bullet

Our clients manufacture the majority of their products in China, or they had until recently. The growth of China's internal markets, increasing shipping costs, and improvements in North American manufacturing (particularly in Mexico) has made the manufacturing decision more complex. We have seen this change trending for the last year, although the recent recalls of China-made items (pet food, truck tires, toothpaste) has brought the issue into the business press.
Read more about it here:
Fortune Small Business: Made in USA's New Cachet
Fortune Small Business: Is in China Worth It?

Dump That Great Idea

Not every business idea, invention, or startup is worth pursuing. In fact, it's often just as useful to know when to dump a good idea as it is to pursue one.
Here are three ways to know when to abandon (and conversely, when to increase investment):
- Paying Customers Never Show Up
- Can't Sustain a Competitive Advantage
- You're Not Ready To Quit Your Day Job

From Forbes.com


It's a good bet that Denny Strigl has answered some tough questions about his decision-making recently. He's the COO at Verizon quoted with pride about turning down the iPhone deal (Verizon turned down iPhone's advances.)

The reason you need to care about this: Almost everyone is like Denny.

No is the corporate default answer.

The spreadsheets and the marketing team and the CFO and the lawyers have no trouble at all defending the status quo, because, it's their status quo. They created it and they like it that way. Innovation-driven deals (like the iPhone) almost always fail because the potential for upside seems too small compared to the mammoth disruption that organizations imagine will beset them.

An entrepreneur must plan on going under, over or around instead.

via Seth's Blog


Fortune Small Business has an interview (here) with prolific hollywood inventor and patent holder George Margolin who is leading the Professional Inventors Alliance, a group representing thousands of independent, professional inventors, universities and small businesses. They don't have multi-million budgets major corporations have put together for lobbying. Their big challenge is that these bills are gathering steam. Mr. Margolin and the PIA's challenge is pressing, "I've never seen anything progress through Congress as fast as these measures are moving. " he says.


Congress is currently creating new legislation to reform our patent system. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the proposed legislation would make life more difficult for entrepreneurs by rewriting the rules for getting patents, making them more vulnerable to challenges, and limiting damages when they are infringed.
Nobody doubts that the system is troubled. The backlog of pending patents is approaching a record 800,000, and average approval time has stretched to 31 months. For 15 years Congress siphoned off a chunk of PTO fees, which now run about $1.7 billion annually. Patent quality has suffered as overburdened and underpaid examiners have granted protection to broad and seemingly obvious business-process "inventions," such as Amazon.com's checkout cart for online shopping. Patent litigation is too common and too costly.
The proposed bill, sponsors say, will cure these problems by improving patent quality. As a result, "the bill will reduce meritless lawsuits," says Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who is co-sponsoring the bill.
The problem is that in the guise of addressing common concerns, the legislation favors corporate interests over independent inventors.
It starts by replacing the uniquely American "first to invent" rule with "first to file," which is used in Europe and Japan. First to invent gives you time to fully develop a concept and still be confident of winning a patent, if you can prove you hatched the idea first. By contrast, first to file "would create a race to the courthouse that big companies with their legions of staff experts will always win," says Alexander Poltorak, CEO of General Patent, a Suffern, N.Y., patent-enforcement firm.
Adopting the foreign model moves U.S. policy in the wrong direction, says Jere Glover, executive director of the Small Business Technology Coalition. "Our patent laws make America stand out as pro-inventor and pro-entrepreneur," he says.


Tom Peters takes another look at the essence of innovation though the biography of the economist Joseph Schumpeter. (Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, by Thomas McCraw.) For decades Schumpeter's theories were overshadowed by those of his contemporary, John Maynard Keyes.
Schumpeter, in a long life devoted to one idea, squarely and contentiously placed the entrepreneur way ahead of the pack when it comes to the engine of economic growth:
"Without innovation, no entrepreneurs; without entrepreneurial achievement, no capitalist returns and no capitalist propulsion. The atmosphere of industrial revolutions—of 'progress'—is the only one in which capitalism can survive." (Note the plural of revolution—i.e., "revolutions.")
This was radical stuff in 1911, when Schumpeter's Theory of Economic Development arrived—and remains so today.
We can work like hell to get the money supply "right" and to salvage the Mercks and GMs, but make no mistake that our future depends on the occasional but consistent provision of Googles and Genentechs and a string of future Apples and 3Ms which drive our future economic—and thence political—power.
Schumpeter also believed that technological innovation was, in the long run, the most important function of the entrepreneur, organizational innovation in governance, finance and management was comparable in significance.


Once a year in Tokyo, Sony invites some lucky people to check out the super-secret stuff their Computer Science Laboratories (CSL) have been cooking up. What's the CSL? It's the R&D division that explores future technologies with no specific product or division in mind, so they aren't forced to only work on Blu-ray products or phone technologies.
What did they dream up this year?
Speakers that react to music, a 'smart table', and some cell-phone games.
Either this is shows how much marketing is trying to drive their innovation (net result; incremental ideas and knock-offs), or there's a lot more Sony is not showing us.


Finally, Business Week has taken a hard look at what really gone on at 3M since James McNerney took over as CEO in 2000. Over the last few years it's become clear to that the management principals touted by GE during the Welch era run counter to the needs of American businesses as our economy transitions into the innovation age (six-sigma=innovation killer). McNerney was given a tremendous opportunity at 3M, an opportunity to combine his management expertise with 3M's culture of innovation. Instead he managed to destroy 3M's culture, and failed to bring a single good idea to market:
Defenders of Six Sigma at 3M claim that a more systematic new-product introduction process allows innovations to get to market faster. But Art Fry, the Post-it note inventor, disagrees. In fact, he places the blame for 3M's recent lack of innovative sizzle squarely on Six Sigma's application in 3M's research labs.
Innovation, he says, is "a numbers game. You have to go through 5,000 to 6,000 raw ideas to find one successful business." Six Sigma would ask, why not eliminate all that waste and just come up with the right idea the first time?
That way of thinking, says Fry, can have serious side effects. "What's remarkable is how fast a culture can be torn apart."
Current CEO George Buckely is trying to put the pieces back together."
Invention is by its very nature a disorderly process, you can't put a Six Sigma process into that area and say, well, I'm getting behind on invention, so I'm going to schedule myself for three good ideas on Wednesday and two on Friday. That's not how creativity works."
Unfortunately, Business Week fails to call the Six-Sigma/McNerney period at 3M for what it was; a complete failure which almost destroyed one of America's best companies.

The article
Six Sigma is So Yesterday
Profile of CEO George Buckley's Strategy at 3M


From the New York Times Opinion Section is an Op-Ed piece by Mark Helprin, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, and author of, among other works, “Winter’s Tale.” In it Mr. Helprin makes a common-sense argument for treating Intellectual Property (in his case copyright) as the constitution treats any other property (yacht, business, or farm). That is, allowed to flow from one generation to the next without any time limit (current copyrights expire 70 years after the death of the writer, patents 14 years after filing)
No one except perhaps Hamilton or Franklin might have imagined that services and intellectual property would become primary fields of endeavor and the chief engines of the economy. Now they are, and it is no more rational to deny them equal status than it would have been to confiscate farms, ropewalks and other forms of property in the 18th century.
Read the complete article here.


I think too often we talk about innovation in the context of processes, incentive programs, and visionary individuals. What I think we often miss is the simple drive that innovators thrive on; caring.
Sometimes this means caring in a social context (see Bogo Light). But I more often this means caring about the idea, the opportunity, or the results that success will bring.
I've wondered why such an amazing team is working with my startup (NewCare Medical). It was recently explained to me that it is not about the idea, or the money they might make (although the importance of those things should not be underestimated). It's that the business gives each of them something they can care about.


StarPack recently announced their 2007 packaging awards. Now in their 48th year, Starpack is the UK’s premier packaging industry awards program. Although packaging can often mean graphic application on lowest denominator structure, the Starpack awards bring to the forefront innovation, design and engineering excellence. Check out the 14 winners (and 55 other recognized designs) here.
via core77


Dick Morley an Angel Invesotor consultant specializing in manufacturing & process controls, wrote this interesting article about the importance of marketing to technology startups.
In his analysis a startup needs a Marketing to Engineering ratio of 1:1, because, as he says, engineering can make anything, but it cannot sell anything.


From CNN Money.com is this article about successful US manufacturers. All the companies profiled have one thing in common; they are making a product that can be found nowhere else. Wether the product are scapel blades, motorcycle parts, or pump floats, each has a unique niche, reinvests to improve their processes and walks away when the product becomes commodity.


I have been a student of the business building strategies Jim Collins' introduced in his highly (understatement) influential book; Built to Last. However, I'm in the process of building my own company and realize that I rarely (if ever) adhere to the Built to Last philosophy.
Reading Tom Peter's Blog I came across his thoughts, and some links, on the same ideas, it can be called Built To Flip.
In "The Death of Corporate Permanence," Adam Hanft addressed the positive aspects of corporate bankruptcies.
Fast company has an article on the value of Built To Flip (link). In it Christina L Darwell says, "Increasingly, successful businesses will be ephemeral. Instead of being built to last, they will be built to yield something of value—and once that value has been exhausted, they will vanish."
In the same piece Gary Sutton adds, "The problem with Built to Last is that it's a romantic notion. Large companies are incapable of ongoing innovation, of ongoing flexibility. Companies that are built to last forever usually find out too late that the world has changed right under their noses. ... Nothing lasts forever, and one attribute of sustainability is knowing when your time has come."


The U.S. Commerce Department is developing a series of innovation measurements it might use to drive public economic and innovation policy. These documents, which include metrics and measures were developed by a big-business panel that includes only technologies companies (Microsoft, IBM), Education (Harvard, University of North Texas?), and other deep-pocket politically-connected organizations such as the Kauffman Foundation.
The Department's Innovation Website is here
The document is on line here (pdf).

Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

I'm reading Dan Pink's latest business book; A Whole New Mind.
Just as information workers surpassed physical laborers in economic importance, Pink claims, that Right-Brained professionals (Designers, Storytellers, Creative Thinkers, etc.) will become our next economic drivers. Pink explores how certain skill sets can be harnessed effectively in the dawning "Conceptual Age." Pink's last big idea (Free Agent Nation) has become a cornerstone of employee-management relations, expect just as much buzz around his latest theory.

Creative Entrepreneurs

As the creative/innovation economy develops we're learning to differentiate, value, and rank creative people. The Eskimos have a hundred names for snow because of their attention to it. However, until recently the business world had very few names for creative people. This is beginning to change as the participants in the innovation economy are identified and vie to maximize their compensation.
At the top of the heap may be called Creative Entrepreneurs.
These are designers, artists, and film-makers who take the initiative to lead creative works in new and exciting directions. In film-making it can describe those directors and producers who bring to cinema unique and compelling visions (think Spielberg, Kameron, Kubrick).
As our 'Innovation Economy' evolves, so will our understanding of creative individuals. More businesses will demand the talents of Creative Entrepreneurs (think Steve Jobs, IDEO). These are individuals and businesses that create new business and innovations beyond the expected.

Angel Funding is on the Rise

Angel funding is on the rise; investing $25.6 billion in 2006, (a 10.8% increase over 2005), according to a report released by the University of New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research. This is also more that all VCs invested in 2006, $25.5 billion, according to the MoneyTree survey. At the same time, some 60 percent of the members of angel groups are "latent investors" who haven't put their money to work in the past 12 months, suggesting the potential for even higher levels of angel investing in coming years.
The average deal size for angel investments climbed 7.5 percent to about $500,000. That compares to between $7 million and $8 million for the average venture capital investment.
Though angel investing is on the rise, it is shifting toward later-stage deals that parallels the shift in the venture capital industry. Forty-five to 55 percent of angel deals are seed or start-up investments today, down from 80 percent in the 1990s.
This trend is compounding the difficulty faced by many small entrepreneurs seeking to raise the initial money enabling them to grow their businesses to the stage where they can attract larger sums from venture capitalists.

Business Week Innovation is Useless

Business Week has a fluff piece on the 100 Greatest Innovation of All Time. It is maybe the most ridiculous Business Week Innovation article I've read and most of their article are useless. This one seems to be based on a highschool book report.
Donald A. Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, has just published the tentative table of contents and two chapters of his new book “The Design of Future Things”.
The book’s expected publication date is October 2007. The publisher is Basic Books (New York).
Tentative table of contents:
- Cautious cars and cantankerous kitchens: how machines take control
- Servants of our machines
- The psychology of people & machines
- The role of automation
- Natural interaction
- Six rules for the design of smart things
- The future of everyday things
- Afterward: the machine’s point of view

A Word document of the first chapter (24 pages) can be downloaded here.
The Afterward (3 pages and here entitled “How to take to people”) is available as a pdf download.


Too many managers are focused on making projects 'on time and on budget'(OTOB). These purely internal goals have no relationship to the customer, market or business success. Instead of recognizing a project that was OTOB, senior executives should recognize projects that resulted in EWMS or Extreme Wow and Market Success. EWMS is the essence of innovation. OTOB is the essence of the status quo.
A few other people have recently written about the same space:
Tom Peters talks about the WOW in relation to the 2012 Olympics to be held in London. There, all the focus on is the cost, instead of supporting the capital improvements and dramatic changes which will occur. Read it here
AutoWeek has a (surprisingly) similar story about a skunk works plan at Jaguar to abandon all but the automaker's most appealing and profitable models; their R, supercharged line. This plan held the potential for increased profits, improved marketing, and alignment of the brand to realistic volume. A good plan, with the potential for WOW, killed by any group that could say 'NO'. Senior management, afraid to take risk listened to the OTOB and let a WOW slip away. Read about it here


The dynamics that make an object (car, cell-phone, iPod) the must-have, real thing, are comlex. It's more than functionality, popularity, or beauty. Recently a few authors have been exploring this dyanmic, maybe it will be called "The Tipping Point 2.0".
One author is Owen Edwards, and he has just written a book that gives the phenomenon a different name: Quintessence.
"This is a book about things,things that offer more to us than we specifically ask of them and to which we respond more strongly than is easily explained."
Michael Beruit of the Design Observer also writes about this phenomenon (and this book) on his blog.
While David Galbraith writes about the letdown he experienced once he realized the Zune was not the "best".


Your client has a message to communicate: an argument, a sales pitch, a call to action. Your job is to give it form. You're an expert at this. You know how to take a complicated bunch of ideas and reduce them to their arresting, memorable, engaging essence. You come up with some big ideas that you're convinced will work and, detail by careful detail, you bring those ideas to life. But there's a problem: your work is second-guessed by a bunch of middle managers, some of whom are insecure, some of whom have their own agendas to inject, some of whom just like to say no. Despite all that, you refine and revise, hoping to keep the strength of your original idea intact. Finally, your work is approved, and it goes out into the world. If you're lucky, it really makes a difference: minds are changed, passions are fueled, your client looks great. And, somehow, hardly anyone out there knows you were involved at all.

This is not about innovation, product design, or graphics. It was written about speechwriting.
Learn more about it here


Frogdesign has posted the video from last night's Design Mind event, where Valerie Casey led an excellent discussion with Eric Ryan, the co-founder of Method (the soap).
Eric's interview provides a great insight into the dynamics of their startup and the pervasiveness (and value) of their core values.
via Core77


For the first time an on-line game will have a 'virtual' bank tied to the 'real' world.
Entropia Universe, will soon let players start up banks with the authority to lend money that's convertible to real-world dollars. Already a character in Second Life has acclumated the equivalent of over US$1million and MindArk made ATM cards available to players so they could withdraw game funds.
Once our currencies, with in itself is a construct, becomes transformable between on-line and real worlds the power of on-line 'living' will begin to have the same value as what we do real. Currently only a fringe of players make their living by creating virtual goods (which are sold in the real world for real money) in the future we will be able to make virtual goods, sell them for virtual dollars, and spend those virtuall dollars for real goods.


The Segway was supposed to revolutionize how we all get around. Some thought it would become the urban transporter of choice. But the company's recent press highlights just how much that hasn't happened.
Turns out, Segway has sold only 23,500 units since it was introduced about five years ago (that rate is on par with Aston Martin).
Why hasn't it taken off? Well, where do you park it? Where can you ride it without angering pedestrians? And given those fundamental problems, are you still willing to pay $5,000 for one?
via the always awesome Boston Business Blog


In Core77 comes this insightful article by Kevin McCullagh about designer's growing disastisfactgion with the indsutry of design:
This rising tide of disaffection tends to share two themes: a distaste for the superficiality of design's media-celebrity nexus; and a growing discomfort with design's role in generating 'useless stuff'. These two complementary critiques could be abbreviated as Anti-fluff and Anti-stuff.

Design is now used so widely and loosely, it has been stripped of much of it's meaning. If we are to navigate ourselves out of this morass, we will have to answer some big hairy questions like: what is the constructive alternative face of design to the fluffy emotionalism promoted by the media? Is there a positive case for consumerism and designers role within it? Is there a more useful way of discriminating between different areas of design activity than the old disciplinary boundaries?

Read this article here


The first buzzword of 2007 is here. Market researchers believe that 2007 will find consumers seeking out a new trend, which Robbie Blinkoff is calling simplexity.
While people understand that the technology behind Google Maps, iPod and Skype is complex, they have a "veneer of simplicity" so we feel good using them. Blinkoff says marketers should "uncomplicate their products" which does not necessarily mean reducing choices.
Complete Article here.
Related Articles From Boston.com Business Filter:
People Just Want to Have Fun
Tiime to Enjoyment Factor
The Chasm between Web 2.0 Geeks and the masses
Easy is the New Hard
Less is More
Howard Stern as the Father of Web 2.0


Sadagopan's Weblog on emerging technologies, trends and thoughts has named innovation as the Dominant Mantra for 2007.
Citing Peter Drucker as well as a recent report from Booz Allen Hamilton on R&D spending, Sadagopan points out that "innovation would count as the most important thing that tech organizations around the world would be going after in the new year." In building the innovative enterprise, one of the most important factors is managing, recruiting and enabling the right type of human capital:
"The ability to recruit/mold the leaders that will be able to create the future innovations that will make enterprise more successful is a major responsibility & talent management will determine the organization’s growth as much as the overall business strategies will. This will shape organizations in a significant way and if organizations get this right along with purposeful innovation models, competitiveness increases and success would follow..."


A number of fast-food restaurants are now experimenting with self-service kiosk to replace human interaction. I suppose this is the right direction for brands that value efficiency and anonnimity. But kiosks eliminate the ability to create a purchase experience unique from the next kiosk user (who choses a bank because their ATM's design?).
San Diego Business Journal
Dallas/Fort Worth Channel 8


NASA announced a comprehensive plan for returning, and staying on the moon. It is a sweeping departure from the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and represents a new phase of space exploration after space shuttles are retired in 2010. The most likely lunar destinations is the moon's south pole because it's sunlit for three-quarters of the time. That offers a better locale for solar power, plus the site has possible resources to mine nearby.
"This is not your father's Apollo," said John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "I think it's the only way to sustain something like this over decades. This is not a flag-and-footprints. This is the idea of starting an outward movement that includes long stays on the moon."

NASA website


From Faultline, the weekly newsletter of Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm, and reprinted in The Register, comes this article describing how mobile phones are likely to become the preferred portal for all entertainment services.
“It’s not hard to see that the mobile phone, modeled as it is more and more on the Star Trek communicator from our childhood TV shows, will take on more and more significance in our lives, acting as the ultimate personal collection of thoughts, memories, schedules, diary, preferences and an indication of just where we are on the planet.”

The article goes on to describe all the upcoming technologies that should make this possible “in the 2010 to 2012 time frame” without even spending one paragraph on what people would actually want or like and how to design for that.


I recently discovered Phil McKinney's Killer Innovations Podcast, which is also the home of his biweekly podcast of the same name. The recent topics look quite interesting, such as these:
Creating insanely simple innovations
10 Infrastructure Requirements For The Creative Economy
High Performance Innovation Teams
Corporate Corruption Of Innovation
Over at Phil's blog (just one navigation tab away from the list of podcasts), I found this set of slides on strategies for creating killer innovation - there's some great food for thought here! I particularly like his focus on asking better questions, which almost always drive more creating thinking!
via Innovation Weblog


Hasn't this been beaten enough already? Again, BusinessWeek asks "Does Big R&D Mean Big Returns?". Their conclusion:
While there's not necessarily a direct correlation between company performance and the amount of capital it sinks into new products, it might be a good place to look for the next new thing. The biggest spenders—no surprise—are huge companies. While not exactly the fleet-of-foot innovation dynamos beloved by the financial press, these outfits still have to turn on the spending spigot to maintain their positions in an increasingly global marketplace.


The Experientia Blog highlights an article from Henry Jenkins, the director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and author of several books, about nagging questions about who benefits from the user-generated content from sites like YouTube, and opensource innovation.
“At the heart of the Web 2.0 movement is this idea that there is real value created by tapping the shared wisdom of grassroots communities, composed mostly of fans, hobbyists, and other amateur media makers,” he writes “Yet, there is a nagging question — if these grassroots efforts are generating value (and in fact, wealth) and their creative power is being tapped by major corporations, at what point should they start receiving a share of revenue for their work?”

“We have all seen major media companies telling us that file-sharing is bad because it takes other people’s intellectual property without just compensation. So, why are these same companies now taking their audience’s intellectual property for free? Do we understand their profits primarily as a tax to support the infrastructure that enables their distribution?”

Link to Mr. Jenkins' full post here. Along with a range of insightful, and passonate, comments.


I was going through the day's pile of catalogs last night when I was surprised by the level of innovation found in Herrington's pages. Item after item introduced a new feature, attempted to solve some problem or introduced a new material.
Sharper Image and Brookstone used to offer unique, high quality, goods for men in a way that department stores did not. However, their brand positioning have changed. Both are heavily reliant on electronics. Sharper is betting their farm on i-Pod accessories, while Brookstone offers a large array of unnecessary battery-powered gadgets. Gone are the days of quality luggage, personal items and tools from these two.
I wish someone would put together a new catalog brand, one with the thoughfullness of Herrington products, the design style of Brookstone and cache of FrontGate. 'The Crate and Barrel of gifts."


According to Rosabeth Ross Kantor, author of the article Innovation, the Classic Traps in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, many of the challenges faced when trying to implement innovation initiatives aren't new, but ones we've faced in past business cycles.

"Innovation gets rediscovered as a growth enabler every half-dozen years (about the length of a managerial generation). Too often, however, grand declarations about innovation are followed by mediocre execution that produces anemic results, and innovation groups are quietly disbanded in cost-cutting drives. Each generation embarks on the same enthusiastic quest for the next new thing and faces the same challenge of overcoming innovation stiflers."

What's especially notable about this thoughtful, well-written article is the way in which Kantor focuses on people issues, and how they can derail innovation. And because human nature doesn't change all that much from one generation to the next, innovation mistakes and missteps tend to look quite when analyzed over a longer period of time (25 years, from the author's base of experience as a professor, researcher and consultant to a number of leading corporations).

"Despite changes to the environment and differences among types of innovation, each wave of enthusiasm has encountered similar dilemmas. Most of these stem from the tensions between protecting revenue streams from existing businesses critical to current success and supporting new concepts that may be crucial to future success. These tensions are exacerbated by the long-known phenomenon that important innovations often arise from outside an industry and beyond the established players, creating extra pressure for companies to find the next big concept quickly... Despite all the research and literature, I still observe executives exhibiting the same lack of courage or knowledge that undercut previous waves of innovation. They declare that they want more innovation but then ask, 'Who else is doing it?' They claim to seek new ideas but shoot down every one brought to them. And, repeatedly, companies make the same mistakes as their predecessors."

Other people issues cited by Kantor include jealousy of line employees over the special perks and privileges an innovation team may enjoy, holding innovations to the same hard-line budget and performance standards as established parts of the business, failure of managers to communicate and collaborate across divisional or functional silos, compensation policies that favor established business units, and the classic innovation killer - managers who undermine a new idea because they feel threatened by it.

Kantor provides a wealth of advice on how to avoid these innovation killers, and includes numerous examples of companies who have succeeded in overcoming them.

via Innovation Tools


You know that a concept is overblown when you start seeing businesses like Inventionland. It's a business based on the idea that if your workstation had a theme, like a pirate ship, or racetrack, or treehouse, you'll be able to release your inner muse.
More photos of this ridiculous place here.

More information about Davison Design; They appear to be a consumer-facing invention marketing organization, selling the services of invention development and marketing to, mainly, non-professionals. Although there's bound to be many happy customers initial Google searches result in the following:
Pittsburgh Tribune article on $26M FTC judgement against Davison
Rip off Report
More Rip off Reports
Another link on FTC judgement against Davison


GM plans to introduce a remote-control key fob with two-way communications next April that will allow drivers to not to lock/unlock the car doors and remote start, but also determine the pressure in each tire, check the odometer reading, check the fuel level, change the radio station settings and see if they remembered to lock the car doors, as well at the, now standard, functions of customizing interior settings.

A few years ago the world of convergence was focused on the PC. Today, if I were given only the product specs for an iPod, ROKR, this remote, and my GPS unit, I'd have a hard time telling them apart.

Here's another convergence device (this time from Fujitsu) that combines elements of a smart-phone with a PC and gaming console.


Article from Fortune Small Business about howBuiltny protects their intellectual properties.
"Without the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, cheap imitations would flood the market and put us out of business, so we spend roughly 4 percent of our annual budget obtaining and defending our patents. It's our third-largest expense, after cost of goods and payroll. We have filed more than 100 design patents, utility patents, and trademark registrations in 20 countries, and we hold two registered trademarks on our two-bottle tote."

This is maybe the KEY issue for small businesses developing valuable innovations. This article powerfully illustrated how important IP management has become in the innovation economy.


I'm a fan of Art Lebedev Studio. I think they have consistently generated some great virtual designs. Their work always appears to be of high quality and cleverly innovated. I've been reading their core philosophy webpage and wondering if this is overreaching egotism or clever strategy :
".....All award plaques end up hanging in our lavatory. We abhor the buzzwords “creative solution” and “optimization of business processes”. For our clients we rarely write proposals more than one page in length. All of our work is guided by one and only principle that’s two words long. This does not prevent us from being the biggest design studio in Russia, boasting the largest portfolio, and having no fear that we'’ll get overtaken by someone in the next ten to twenty years.


Popular Science has publicized their Best of What's New 2006. We're not featured, yet!, but it's reference reading around here.


Huh? An article obviously written by an stockbroker in order to justify cutbacks, right? Maybe not.
There's been a few articles about this subject, the newest, from Business Week uses Ford to illustrate that big R&D spending does not necessarily equal successful innovation.
Unfortunately this is too simplistic a viewpoint.
- Apple, arguably an innovative company with the highest profile, is not nearly the largest spender on R&D in dollar terms, but, instead has a culture infused with creative thinking.
- Breakthrough ideas often come from startups where 100% of their budget is R&D.
- This research is based only on public companies SEC filings, so the accounting standards for R&D will vary from company to company.

That being said, I think articles like this are beginning to show a trend, toward the realization by business leaders that innovation is more dependent on human resources (talent and skill) than scale.

At Business Week Online