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Entries in innovation (4)

Friday
May252012

[EDUCATION] Sign of change in the universe

I would love to see this trend accelerate:

"The five-year-old [Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship] program, [Wake Forest University's]  most popular minor, requires students to learn the practical aspects of starting a business. It is a sign of change in liberal-arts colleges, which are grappling with the responsibility of preparing students for a tight and rapidly shifting job market while still providing the staples of academic inquiry." (from Wall Street Journal)

This is really important in my opinion, and it's a big part of what we cover in the course I am co-teaching at Brandeis this year, "Web and Social Apps". The course starts next week and runs for 10 weeks, practically full time. During that course students go through the whole cycle of conceiving a product, designing, implementing and deploying it to the world. It's an exciting experience. Fairly exhausting for everyone involved, but worth it.

I wish all college students, especially in my field, Computer Science, were thought learn theory and critical thinking, but also got exposed (and were even required) to learn what I like to call "critical doing". Working in teams, inventing and creating things that others could benefit of, could touch and feel, and could have an impact in the real world. 

The truth is that in many Universities, this is not a priority today, but there is signs that the students and parents (the customers after all) are demanding this. Change is slow, but it is coming.

Wednesday
May162012

Mark Twain: All Ideas are Second-Hand

I have often been heard to say: "Ideas are Cheap", by which I mean to say that my admiration goes more with the implementation, the making real and tangible, of an idea than the idea itself. It's much easier to come up with something that would be cool and useful ("A solar powered ambulance", "a retractable and reusable parachute", "email on steroids") than actually design it, build it, realize it. 

I believe that as much about my own ideas as about anyone else's. BlogBridge was supposed to be "an RSS reader done right".

I have a few wonderful ideas for new products, like "Twittepedia" which is an encyclopedia with 140 character definitions. Wouldn't it be nice not to be able to learn what "geometry", or "racisim" or "bernoulli effect" are without having to read a 10,000 words wikipedia article? 

There, I just gave it away. Why? Because ideas are cheap, and building that service and making it successful is what really counts.

As it turns out, Mark Twain had the same idea. So you see, even the idea that Ideas Are Cheap is itself cheap. How meta.

This is from Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 2 via Brain Pickings:

"...or substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing…

... in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing — and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that…."

 

Saturday
Apr072012

Why You Want To Be A Learn-it-All

A provocatively titled article (Why Youth Has an Advantage In Innovation) argues that to innovate you have to be an omnivorous and promiscuous consumer of new stuff. Try this list on for size, does it fit?

  1. When a new device or operating system comes out do you rush out to get it as soon as possible – just because you want to play with the new features? Or do you wait for the dust to settle so that you don’t make a mistaken purchase. Or because you don’t want to waste your time.
  2. Do you use LinkedIn for all of your recruiting, or do you mistakenly think that LinkedIn is only for job seekers? How many connections do you have? Is your profile up to date? (When Yahoo announced Carol Bartz as CEO, I did a quick search on LinkedIn.  She was not a registered user.)
  3. When you heard that Zynga’s Farmville had over 80MM monthly users, did you immediately launch the game to see what it was all about, or do you make comments about how mindless it is to play such a game? Have you ever launched a single Facebook game?
  4. Do you have an Android phone or do you still use a Blackberry because your Chief Security Officer says you have to? I know many “innovators” who carry an iPhone and an Android, simply because they know these are the smartphones that customers use. And they want exposure to both platforms – at a tactile level.
  5. Do you use the internal camera app on your iPhone because it’s easy, or have you downloaded Instgram to find out why 27mm other people use that instead?
  6. Do you leverage Twitter to improve your influence and position in your industry or is it more comfortable for you to declare, “why would I tweet?,” before you even fully understand the product or why people in similar roles are leveraging the medium? Do you follow the industry leaders in your field on Twitter? Do you follow your competitors and customers? Do you track your company’s products and reputation?
  7. How many apps are on your smart phone? Do you have well over 50, or even 100, because you are routinely downloading each and every app from each peer and competitor you can to see how others are exploiting the environment? Do you know how WhatsApp, Voxer, and Path leveraged the iphone contact list for viral distribution?
  8. Do you know what Github is and why most startups rely on it as the key center of their engineering effort?
  9. Have you ever mounted an AWS server at Amazon? Do you know how AWS pricing works?
  10. Does it make sense to you to use HTML5 as your mobile solution so that you don’t have to code for multiple platforms? Does it bother you that none of the leading smartphone app vendors take this approach?
  11. When you are on the road on business, do you let your assistant book the same old car service, or do you tell them, “I want to use Uber just to see how it works?”
  12. When Facebook launched the new timeline feature did you immediately build one to see what the company was up to, or did you dismiss this as something you shouldn’t waste your time on?
  13. Have you been to Glassdoor.com to see what employees are saying about your company? Or have you rationalized why it’s not important, the way the way the old-school small business owner formerly dismissed his/her Yelp review.

Other than the obnoxious title the article does make some good points. I do believe this:

"f you want to stay “young” and innovative, you have no choice but to immerse yourself in the emerging tools of the current and next generation. You MUST stay current, as it is illusionary to imagine being innovative without being current." (From Why You Want to Be A Learn-it-All

Thursday
Mar012012

Clever iPhone app vs. the Transistor

This interesting, and I think, correct article, makes the argument that the word 'innovation' is being watered down and even getting cheapened. It says, about "innovation",

"Regrettably, we now use the term to describe almost anything. It can describe a smartphone app or a social media tool; or it can describe the transistor or the blueprint for a cellphone system. The differences are immense." (from Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle)

and leads to this:

"The conflation of these different kinds of innovations seems to be leading us toward a belief that small groups of profit-seeking entrepreneurs turning out innovative consumer products are as effective as our innovative forebears.

History does not support this belief. The teams at Bell Labs that invented the laser, transistor and solar cell were not seeking profits. They were seeking understanding. Yet in the process they created not only new products but entirely new -- and lucrative -- industries." (from Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle)

Excellent points and a useful distinction.