Thursday, February 08, 2007

Correction - the latest postings will be found at It may take a day before you can access it, due to DNS updates.
11:32:29 AM    
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 Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The latest postings can be found at

(I've been meaning to do this for months - probably years, actually, but been too lazy/busy. When I upgraded my Radio Userland software recently, the WYSIWYG editing no longer worked. Lazy/busy won out yet again, but this time it was easier to move the blog.)
11:39:47 AM    
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 Monday, January 22, 2007
 Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I've been tagged!

Thanks Mike Gotta, for asking me to come out to play. The blog-tag game was started by Jeff Pulver as a way to get to know bloggers beyond their standard blog postings. Sounds like fun to me.

Part 1 of the game is to divulge five things that few blog readers know about me:

1. I'm a high-school drop-up, now with a BS and Masters degree. Maybe I shouldn't dissuade you from thinking I was some kind of child prodigy for jumping into college without finishing high school, but it wasn't that big of a deal. Too often we assume things are "laws of the universe", when it turns out that almost everything is negotiable. You just need the imagination and courage to ask for what you want. Life Lesson: Creativity requires taking risks.

2. My first post-college job was as system administrator for the Cromemco miniframe that my government consulting company ran its business on. Here's my big confession: I DID peek at salaries. Everything IS negotiable, but here I learned that some people were stellar negotiators... and that I was not one of them :-( Life Lesson: Know your weaknesses; maximize your strengths :-)

3. The best decision I ever made in my life? Marrying my best pal over two decades ago. OK, so that's not really much of a secret. But it's just working out so well :-) Life lesson: invest in your passion!

4. I have a fortune cookie fortune taped over my desk that says: "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." I'm not exactly sure what it means. Some days it seems so encouraging, other times it's just insanity talking. Maybe there simply is no recipe for success, so... Life lesson: Make your own Luck!

5. I haven't blogged in a month... because... I'm... addicted... to YouTube. Play is fun, and can be a really serious learning environment. That's one of the foundational concepts of the tech start-up I've been working on. It blends the fun of social networking with government agencies' education and outreach mandates. Wish me luck that this entrepreneurial effort lets me embrace the life lessons ab ove. I'm supposed to make my own luck, I know, but you can never have too much luck, can you? Life Lesson: there's always more to learn.

Part 2 of the Blog-tag game is tagging five more people. I have to pass on that one, as my short list of folks have already been tagged while I was busy YouTubing.
3:18:32 PM    
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 Sunday, November 19, 2006

I've seen innovation successes and failures in all five of  Bob Rosenfeld's innovation system categories. With only a cursory understanding of these, I tried to think through examples of each from my personal experience, keeping a mental talley of successes vs. failures. The results were surprising - first here's my quick scorecard...

1. Originator-assisted - a process that helps employees transform their own ideas into business opportunities (usually driven bottom-up). It's hard to remember how many ideas I've had myself that I immediately dismissed as too hard to implement in the given organizational culture. I can't even begin to imagine what the numbers would be like across an entire organization. I've had the most successes when my area of expertise was unique within an organization, allowing me to present ideas that others couldn't second guess, and that didn't threaten their areas of expertise. Wins:  a handful; Losses: a universe full.

2. Targeted innovation - a process for developing solutions to meet a specific need (usually driven top-down). I've personally seen this fail once, and never seen it succeed. The effort, which was scoped as a turn-around project, was a noble attempt. It pulled in management-identified thought leaders from across the organization with heavily promoted customer input. It was well funded, with an executive champion that was well respected guiding the project. So what happened? A number of new processes were suggested to elicite creativity which ended up having an opposite affect. The thought leaders involved became so focused on doing the thing right, that they forgot to do the right thing. Since the project had a limited time span, it ended without producing the desired turn-around results, and the organization returned to business as usual. What might have happened if that funding had been invested into creating and seeding a permanent innovation processes, rather than as a short-term effort? And what if we simply picked the wrong people to participate? Wins: 0; Losses: 1.

3. Internal venturing - a launching process for new businesses that do not fit the company's current lines of business. Years ago I worked for a consulting services company which was a wholy-owned subsidiary of a major software vendor. More than likely, this was an acquisition, and given the huge differences in overhead structures it made sense to keep the businesses separate. ,More recently I worked for a non-profit with a membership of companies. Over the years they spun off two other non-profits, one with a membership consisting of US States, and another that served the public interest (no members). None of these organizations would have been viable as extentions of "parent" organization's lines of business. They all exist today so I will list them all as wins. Wins: 3; Losses: 0.

4. Continuous improvement - a process for incremental improvements that, in their aggregate, lead to cost savings or increased quality. This one is tough because the results of incremental improvements can be hard to notice. In government contracting, the client's requirements are what pushes innovation. It's less common to see these companies turn their attention internally, but I've seen efforts at . At the non-profits, on the other hand, change is slow. I'll rank an organization where I saw efforts resulting in any kind of positive outcome as a win. Where I saw no effort applied at all, I'll rank count it as a loss. But if I saw effort applied, and no positive change at all, I'll be generous and rank it a tie. Wins: 2 (both unremarkable); Losses: 3; Ties: 2.

5. Strategic transfer -  a process of transferring technology or knowledge from one point to another for the purpose of leveraging capabilities. This type of innovation is pretty common in my experience, but like the previous category, tends to go unnoticed - it's just an expected part of the business. I racked my memory for some remarkable examples, but none come to mind.. Wins: numerous (yet unremarkable); Losses: a handful.

Based on this rough analysis, we should focus on increasing the success rate in the first category, which is the goal of most ideation-based innovation processes. Secondly, we need to increase attempts in the third category, internal venturing. One aspect of this is to increase our awareness of alternative businesses models. Perhaps it's time to buy that book on my Amazon wish list?

2:25:09 PM    
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 Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Besides wanting the usual attributes of low crime, great schools, and a thriving job market, members of the creative class want to be in a place that is exciting and challenging, is open to new ideas, and values them as individuals." says Blogger Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, and public policy professor at George Mason Univerisity, in an interview by Realtor Magazine Online (Nov 1, 2006).

Top spots include San Francisco; Seattle; Boston; New York; Chicago; Denver; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, or see the more recent list of Fast Cities from Fast Company. What can a Wannabe City do to move into these lofty ranks? In his speech on IT Conversations, Dr. Florida makes the case that it's not as easy as creating a good job climate..

OK, Wannabee City, take note: the triad of work-live-play can't stand without all three of its legs. Take a look London, Canada's Creative City Task Force for a bit of inspiration on improving culture.

6:57:55 PM    
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 Thursday, November 02, 2006

"...irritation is what allows oysters to create pearls." says Scott Adams. He's not talking about innovation (or strategy for that matter), but about humans, yet in the end, isn't it all the same anyway? Surely, irritation with the status quo is one of the most influential emotions that drive creativity and innovation.

Or maybe you perfer the old adage that "necessity is the mother of invention". But that doesn't explain things like YouTube, you might think, unless people all over the world actually "need" a free place to post home movies of their friends dressed up as Presidents, racing across the field during a Nationals baseball game.

On the other hand, irritation actually IS what drove the initial development of YouTube:

'All Chad Hurley and Steve Chen wanted to do was share some videos from a dinner party with a half-dozen friends in San Francisco. It was January, 2005, and they couldn't figure out a good solution. Sending the clips around by e-mail was a bust: The e-mails kept getting rejected because they were so big. Posting the videos online was a headache, too. So last February the two buddies got to work in Hurley's garage, determined to design something simpler. '

What is the Value of Irritation? In this case, $1.65 Billion.

Get innovative by embracing your inner irritated child.

5:03:16 PM    
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