Making your environment interactive

Lightform is a new technology that’s able to project different patterns and content onto individual surfaces. It turns any surface into a video screen-augmented reality without the headset. You could wrap a movie around your living room wall. Or cast one pattern on a vase and another on a chair. In one demo, Lightform technology projects glowing menu items onto a blank blackboard. https://lightform.com

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An environmentally friendly coffee maker

Love coffee? Love mushrooms? Soon you may be able to combine those two loves in one integrated system. This coffee maker was created not only as a stylish and efficient way to prepare your morning brew, but also as a means to repurpose used coffee grounds to grow oyster mushrooms. http://inhabitat.com/stylish-coffeemaker-repurposes-used-grounds-to-grow-fresh-mushrooms/

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A new grass that benefits the environment

Description: Scientists in Denmark are developing a new type of grass that’s designed to reduce methane emissions from belching cows. The grass is easier to digest hence cows don’t release as much methane when they burp. Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but in the long term it’s believed to have a far greater impact on climate change. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-37618474

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Environmentally friendly coffee

Description: Community Pod is a social enterprise that sells recyclable coffee pods and donates part of its revenue to charity. Not only are their coffee pods easily recycled, they’ve also teamed with the nearby startup Life Cykel to arrange that their coffee grounds are reused in mushroom farms. Even their delivery trucks are carbon neutral. http://www.communitypod.com.au

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A waste facility that blends in with the environment

Description: T Park recently opened to treat HK’s sludge which is a by-product of sewage treatment. This wave-like building includes an exhibition hall where you can learn about the process as well as enjoy a spa. Outside you can visit a garden and wildlife sanctuary. The heat energy generated from the waste incineration process is turned into electricity that can support the needs of the entire facility as well as contribute to the public power grid. After incineration sludge is converted into ash and residues – a total reduction of 90% of the original sludge volume. You can book a visit at http://www.tpark.hk

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Life outside the box

Among the gadgets in the kitchen the knife appears as the most simple tool. It is not as flashy as the electronic machines that make kitchen tasks so much lighter. Yet it is unimaginable to have a kitchen without this unassuming knife. Actually, scientists consider this humble tool as the first machine of the mechanical evolution. Thanks to the creative capacity of our ancestors. They saw the sharp edges of an angular stone as a means to easily tear apart their raw food. Through innovations, the knife was transformed from a stone in a dirt  to that useful gadget in modern-day kitchens. This process of thinking that generates or recognises ideas and alternatives to problem solving that are workable or functional is called creativity. Man’s capacity to be creative and innovative has made major contributions to humanity through the fields of science and the arts. Yet studies have proven that it also plays a very important role in everyday life. Experts in the field consider creativity as necessary in solving everyday problems and in adapting to changes. In fact, they consider it also as an indicator of mental health. Without creativity there is no innovation. Creativity is what drives a person to consider things from different perspectives and to work out of the box. It enables him to seek different ways of solving complex problems and to conceptualise strategies. It gives him the capacity to produce unique ideas. Innovation, on the other hand, is creativity at work. That is, it implements what creativity conceives. How does creativity and innovation arise? Case studies have come up with different theories to address this question. But the current views support the comprehensive  framework conceptualised by Teresa Amabile, doctor in Psychology and Head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. It suggests that creativity arises from the  integration of three factors: KNOWLEDGE: All the relevant understanding an individual brings to bear on a creative effort. CREATIVE THINKING: Relates to how people approach problems and depends on personalityand thinking/working style. MOTIVATION: Motivation is generally accepted as key to creative production, and the most important motivators are intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself. Many theories point to innovation and creativity as competencies of emotional intelligence (EI). This is so because EI enables one to transform emotions into motivators of creative activity. And during the creative process, innovation and creativity are at work with other EI competencies. People lacking in this competence: Find it difficult to deal with change and become anxious when there is a need to shift priorities. Often complain and has negative attitudes towards new situations. Are narrow-minded and are intractable from how they view things. Are not up to taking on new challenges. Can’t change track when confronted with changing circumstances. People with this competence: Seek out fresh ideas from a wide variety of sources. Are open to new and original solutions to problems. Ask lots of questions to acquire new ideas; they love exchanging ideas  such that they encourage others to brainstorm & think out loud. Question accepted practices, patterns and assumptions. Are naturally curious and take risks in their thinking. They seek new ways of doing things as they take views from other perspectives. Are resilient and adaptable; view failures as learning opportunities and not as burdens to be carried. Man has the natural capacity to be creative but it is not uniformly allotted. Some have more of this capacity than others. But just like an athlete who works on his muscles to increase his strength or an artist who practices to enhance his talent, creativity can be increased and developed with appropriate training and focus done in an environment that encourages innovation. The amount of training and its diversity are important factors as studies revealed that they are directly proportional to the creativity output. The following are tested ways to get a person on track. Maximising the use of all senses and avoiding self-censorship in brainstorming. Generating varieties of ideas, options and possibilities (asking “what if” questions) when approaching a challenge. Taking time off (creativity can be drowned by too many demands). Clearing space and finding new ways  to de-clutter. Cultivating an attitude of curiosity in all things. Trying out or exploring things that spark the interest. Exploring one’s polarity – that is, exploring the opposite of what one is. Allowing self to be surprised by something new every day. According to an IBM survey, the number one attribute CEOs look for in their incoming workforce is not discipline, integrity, or intelligence. It’s creativity.  It does not only give man the capacity to adapt to a fast-changing and technology-driven environment but it also gives him the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of innovation to make a difference in his life and in this world. Have you been living in a box? Are you running out of ideas in facing your problems? Need fresh ideas in sorting your life out? Have you been living in a box? Are you running out of ideas in facing your problems? Need fresh ideas in sorting your life out? Contact us today. by peoplebuilders peoplebuilders.com.au

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Lighter washing machine that reduces CO2 emissions.

A Nottingham Trent University student has discovered a simple trick to cut the weight of washing machines, making them easier to move and more environmentally friendly. Most washing machines have a 25kg block of concrete near the top to hold the machine steady during a spin cycle. This significantly adds to the weight of the appliance. Much CO2 is released during the production of concrete and more is released by gas powered transport vehicles. This simple change would replace the heavy concrete counterweight with an empty plastic container that is filled with water when the washing machine is installed. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/08/04/students-simple-washing-machine-idea-could-save-thousands-tonnes

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A dementia village

Korongee village is a $25 million project being built in the suburb of Glenorchy in Hobart, which is expected to change the way we help dementia sufferers. It will feature a village structure based on a typical Tasmanian cul-de-sac streetscape that allows residents to feel at home and wander freely within a safe and supported environment. http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-19/australian-first-dementia-village-set-to-open-in-tasmania/8724772?pfmredir=sm

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A deposit return scheme that reduces littering

A deposit return scheme that experts say drastically reduces the number of plastic bottles and cans littering streets and seas is being introduced around the world. The idea has the backing of global drinks company Coca-Cola and comes amid warnings that the worldwide plastics binge poses as serious a threat as climate change. South Australia introduced container deposit legislation in 1977! https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/04/tackle-uk-plastic-bottle-problem-with-money-back-scheme-ministers-told?

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The right time to innovate

Successful businesses such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Airbnb and Uber are rightly lauded for changing and innovating everything from products and processes to underlying business models. They have radically reinvented the nature of business and society. They are truly innovative. “Innovate or die!” business is told as the word disruption becomes a catchcry for companies around the world. Despite the ubiquity of these concepts, there are abundant examples of successful organisations and industries that have been found wanting due to hubris, poor planning and strategy or an inability to conceive of futures that nimble new entrants then exploit. Part of the problem is the term “disruptive innovation”, introduced by US academic Clayton Christensen who used it to describe a particular style of attack by new entrants. It is now so widely used it confounds and confuses any change an incumbent did not see coming. Almost every company now pursues the rhetoric of innovation, though they seldom think carefully about what it means for them. In fact, the language of business is now so packed with the emotive nomenclature of innovation and disruption that it’s not fully understood by most organisations even as it is invoked as the platform for change. Environments dominated by rapid technological change and fickle or uncertain consumer preferences are fertile ground for innovative rivals to displace incumbents content to rest on existing sources of competitive advantage. Thus the timeframes that constitute sustainability in the new business landscape are much shorter than in the past. Companies that aim to maximise shareholder wealth must seek value-creating opportunities that cannot be readily replicated or displaced by other firms. That success will also be affected by the organisation’s ability to change and continually innovate in a process of “creative destruction”. When to change The dilemma for incumbent businesses facing a paradigm shift (through new products or processes or from the “Uberisation” of entire industries) is the timing of change. When do you move from your existing business model to the new model? Move too quickly, and you may leave a lot of money lying on the old table. Move too slowly, and you may never be a player in the new game. How do we decide when to move from our existing product portfolios and geographies to new, creative, entrepreneurial opportunities? What shape does our organisation have in such a world? The answers marry strategy with underlying organisational architecture. One without the other is bound to fail. While far from easy to do, Intel moved from dominance in the semiconductor and then memory chip markets to the ubiquity of the branded microprocessor (Intel Inside) and is now tethering its future strategy to artificial intelligence and the internet of things. Netflix is a truly disruptive company that began as a mail-order DVD service and has evolved into a platform provider for streaming movies and other entertainment content and a producer of the content itself. For incumbent businesses, innovation is indeed the key, but many firms espouse the value of innovation while ensuring their organisational architecture doesn’t allow for risk-taking. Even when companies are willing to think and see differently, there is still a big gap between having a range of plausible ideas and a coherent portfolio of strategic bets embedded in an organisational architecture that will enable the business to capture value across time. The empirical reality suggests a disconnect between the creativity and innovation aspirations of companies and the reality of mediocrity that mires many. Herding effect There are many reasons incumbents fail, but one of the biggest is the tendency to consider the landscape as fixed and to pursue standard practices such as benchmarking as the basis of which the strategic directions of the company are set. This leads to a herding effect that ensures a sameness of endeavour and a limited vision of alternate possibilities. If we wish to truly be relevant in tomorrow’s world, we must do much more than talk the rhetoric of innovation and disruption, while living the reality of business as usual and seeing tomorrow through yesterday’s lens and hoping if we can catch up to the leader of the pack, we too can earn greater profits. The reality for businesses around the world is that survival in tomorrow’s world is far from guaranteed. Innovation in its many possible forms is crucial to performance. But the devil, as always, is in the detail. Starting to see differently and expanding the horizon of possible strategic bets is a necessary condition, but we must also embed a broader portfolio of such bets into the organisational architecture. Companies such as Apple or Amazon are successful because they have created organisations that are geared towards embracing innovation. Language can often obfuscate detail and the rhetoric of innovation and disruption is clouded and confused. Business performance has always been about creating and capturing value across time. There is no dearth of Australian companies that espouse the value of innovation yet are ripe for all the forces of disruption because of their inability to adequately embrace and harness the organisational architectural shifts required to position for tomorrow. Right incentives Australian business has been too easy for too long and that breeds a complacency and reluctance to reinvent companies for the future. Iconic Australian companies such as Telstra in telecommunications, or Myer in retail, even our currently very profitable banks, are far closer to extinction than much of the Australian business community would believe. The problem for companies today is that tomorrow is coming faster and faster, so they need to plan and strategise differently. With the right incentives, structures and culture, businesses will be able to exploit value from the world as it is and explore for value in the world as it could be. That’s innovation. And a failure to do so is the beginning of the end. by Associate Professor Vivek Chaudhri Associate Professor Vivek Chaudhri is the academic director of executive MBA programs at Melbourne Business School. He advises CEOs and boards in Australia and overseas on innovation and strategy. This content has been produced by Melbourne Business School in commercial partnership with BOSS magazine.

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TacFit DSTF

What ? A Gym you can deploy anywhere ! Show me.

Military inspired outdoor strength and conditioning unit, designed for use by military and elite sporting athletes now available for sale to organisations and the general public. The TacFit Deployable Strength Training Facilities (DSTFs) are custom fabricated shipping containers with functional strength training rigs attached to the outside. This is a robust and versatile all weather gym. The 10 and 20 foot options allow individuals or large groups the ability to train hard in any environment. TacFit Solutions forging toughness. http://tacfitsolutions.com.au/front-page/

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Drones to detect sharks

Drones to detect sharks


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A solar powered boat in the Amazon

This new boat will be used by the Achuar people within their territory of Ecuador and Peru which remains roadless and pristine. Walking and canoes that use gasoline are the main means of transportation for the Achuar. But their territory has a vast network of rivers and tributaries, and plenty of sun, meaning that an environmentally-friendly alternative to the gas boats – which do not reflect the Achuar’s commitment to protect their rainforest home – is now possible. https://www.pachamama.org/news/the-achuar-will-have-a-network-of-boats-and-solar-recharge-stations-in-their-rivers

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A supermarket with rescued food

This trial grocery store moves beyond sell-by and use-by labels to combat food waste and its impact on the environment and to combat hunger. It’s the first of its kind in Australia. Everything is free for those who can’t afford to pay for it. Or you can donate an amount you choose. Ozharvest rescue food that can’t be sold by supermarkets and food retailers due to being past its display by date but is still perfectly good to eat. They also rescue products which are surplus for a variety of commercial reasons, such as change in packaging or incorrect orders. www.ozharvest.org

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Bios Urn

A new beginning from burials

When loved ones die, many people want the environmental advantages of cremation but they might also like the comfort of a memorial. Bios Urns address this need with a biodegradable cremation ashes planter that’s made from coconut shells, compacted peat and cellulose along with tree seeds. So the end of life becomes the beginning of a new life to celebrate for generations. This idea was imaginative due to a design thinking approach that focused on the meaningfulness of the product to customers combined with a broader purpose. https://urnabios.com/urn

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10 Personal Innovation Lessons

Yes, innovation is extremely difficult. That’s why I love it actually. My personal mission is to simplify innovation so you, your colleagues and/or clients will be able to master innovation yourself. “How can I become a successful innovator?” is the most asked question to me offstage, after a keynote on innovation. Most people are well aware that their organisations are not able to stand still in this fast paced business environment. But a lot of people don’t know how to start innovation. Most of them are afraid to fail, ending up by doing nothing, until doing nothing is a bigger risk. That’s why I like to share with you ten personal innovation lessons to inspire you to become a successful innovator. Lesson 1: “Organisations frustrate their most innovative employees.” – Organisations are rules by best practices, procedures and regulations, which is completely understandable as they want to be the best in class in their current product-market combinations. As innovator you are continuously tweaking present offerings and coming up with completely new concepts. The unfortunate thing is that they hardly ever fit present best practices, procedures and regulations. Sometimes you get the impression that everybody within the company tries to stop you, instead of giving you a helping hand. Companies really know how to frustrate their most innovative employees. Innovation is always a struggle. My personal lessons learned was that I just needed ‘to learn to love the struggle’. That helped a lot. Lesson 2: “Most Managers behave like dogs. They bark at what they do not know.” – Or should I say “Most people….”? How do you behave yourself when someone reaches out to you to tell a great new idea? Do you really listen? Do you ask questions to understand what it’s really about? Do you postpone your own judgement? No. Most of us don’t. Something new never fits in our known patterns and routines. When dogs see something they don’t know the get frightened and start to bark. We humans are so alike :-). Lesson 3:”Managers say yes to innovation only if doing nothing is a bigger risk.” – The chance that a front-end innovation project actually becomes a success on the market is one out of seven. Why should a top manager say yes to innovations with a high risk as long as low-risk line/brand extensions will still do the job? He or she won’t. No, most managers say yes to innovation if doing nothing is a bigger risk. Lessons 4: “A manager wants to control innovation and that’s where it ends. A leader leads innovation and that’s where it starts.” – Managing innovation in a controlling way will never work, because per definition real innovation is a high risk venture with many uncertainties. If you manage real innovations like ‘a normal project’, it will never work. Getting an idea to the market takes a long time and the process is full of iterations. Trying to control it, in a conventional PRINCE-like structure will kill it for sure. Lesson 5: “Real innovative leaders give both focus and freedom.” – Leading innovation by giving both focus and freedom works much better. As leader make sure that your teams focus on the right strategic priorities and know what you expect from them. On the other hand, to be effective, you must give them freedom. Freedom to do it in an unorthodox way, with unorthodox partners, which keeps the passion of your innovators high. Lesson 6: Innovation is not a person or a department. It’s a mindset.” – When you outsource innovation to a person or to a department most of the times nothing materialises. Innovation affects the total internal value chain, and everybody involved. It’s all about creating an innovative mindset: an way of thinking open to the world around you, which sparks new ideas and gives you energy to to take action. Lesson 7: “You can invent alone, but you can’t innovate alone.” – How many people do you need in your organization to get a new concept from idea to market launch? Right. A lot of people. You can come up with an idea on your own. but you need a lotto colleagues to develop it, to produce it, to do the logistics, to do the sales and of course do the invoicing for it. So connect your colleagues in your innovation project from the start. We they are co-creators they will be the strongest supporters. Lesson 8: “The best innovators are need seekers.” – Need Seekers, such as Apple and Procter & Gamble, make a point of engaging customers directly to generate new ideas. They develop new products and services based on superior end-user understanding. Studies confirm that following a Need Seekers strategy offers the greatest potential for superior performance in the long term. Need seeking is essential, because a good innovation is a simple solution to a relevant customer need. Lesson 9: “Think outside the box and present your idea inside the box otherwise nothing happens.” – Of course you are expected to break patterns. And originality helps. But when you present your idea it is wise to keep in mind that the rest of the organization is still as conservative as ever. Your senior management might praise you for your creativity. But, will they buy the idea and give you the resources to develop it after seeing a movie, a mock up or a flash mob? I have my doubts. Don’t bring them ideas, bring them business and growth potential! Lesson 10: “If there’s no urgency, innovation is considered as playtime.” – Most people in your organisation focus on the business of today. As, innovation will only pay off tomorrow. A lot of companies consider innovation as ‘nice to have’, although they will hesitate to said this out loud. it’s considered by many executives as playtime, as long as there’s no urgency. That’s why in cost cutting programmes innovation will be one of the first activities to be killed. I wish you lots of success on your personal innovation journey. Please share your own innovation lessons  as a comment. by Gijs van Wulfen -Inspiring you to master innovation Also published in Innovation in Australia, BSI Innovation — Do you want to improve your personal innovation skills? Check out this hands-on training April 2017 in the proven FORTH innovation method. […]

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Energy for all at all times

1414 Degrees has developed storage technology using the latent energy characteristics of molten silicon which is scalable from a few megawatt hours to many hundreds of megawatt hours, is site agnostic, has no operational fuel costs, is environmentally benign during its 25 year operating life cycle and has no environmental impact on decommissioning. The prototype plant has been running since September 2016 at the Tonsley Park Innovation Precinct in South Australia and the first commercial model will be installed in 2017. Power networks the world over can only fully rely on renewables generation when there is reliable, scalable and readily accessible energy storage available. http://1414degrees.com.au/

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Giving children a voice in the family

We know that if children grow up in a healthy emotional environment they are less prone to experiencing mental health issues as teenagers, are more able to cope with challenging life situations and are more likely to have rich, productive and professional lives as adults. Preparing children emotionally for the world is as important as teaching them to read and write. Uplifting Australia is a not for profit with a mission to improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of children and families across Australia. We work with Schools, Corporates and other community bodies with programs that give children between the ages of 6-12 a voice in the family. Our Family Reflection Circles are renowned for creating and embedding an inclusive culture within a family environment. We do this by connecting, empowering and inspiring children to talk and listen in a meaningful way as part of the family during the challenging and often lost years of their lives leading them to become more confident and balanced teenagers and adults. www.upliftingaustralia.org.au

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What do we mean by “innovation”?

While innovation is now very topical it doesn’t appear to be a well understood term. Some people support innovation, others are frightened of it and many just don’t care- they think it’s someone else’s responsibility. Innovation is interpreted differently in different situations hence some difficulties in communication between different groups such as academia and industry which could impede progress. Some forward-thinking members of the LinkedIn Group Innovation Management (approx 40,000 members around the world)  recently suggested general definitions and  voted on them. There are 33 definitions in the list below. Interestingly some said we shouldn’t have a general definition, that it’s specific to the situation. One member also said “Everyone loves innovation but no one wants to change”. For those of you who are interested in a general definition the 2 favourites are below followed by the definitions proposed. Top definitions 30. The result of a creative process that creates value for society 11.  The process of bringing new, problem-solving ideas into use Definitions proposed. 1. Anything that improves anything 2. Ideas applied successfully 3. New ideas, successfully applied 4. Doing things in a new way, or creating new things, that have a significant impact. 5. The creative development of solutions to real and important problems of customers, which are profitably brought to market 6. The beneficial utilization of knowledge and creativity, in order to discover and realize what does not yet exist. 7. The creation of value from ideas (which are new to you) 8.  A successfully implemented and widely accepted invention, which can be material and non-material, an object, process, phenomenon and/or their combination. 9. Creative thinking that adds value, or in two words, meaningfully unique 10. Creation of a viable new offering 11. The process of bringing new, problem-solving ideas into use. 12. Creating new value or capturing value in new ways 13. The actual use of a nontrivial change and improvement in a process, product or system that is novel to the institution developing the change 14. Profitable change 15. The act of introducing something new in something or in somewhere. 16. An idea that meets its market 17. Activity that brings a new repeatable (scalable) concept to customers.” 18. Research is the transformation of money into knowledge. Innovation is the transfer of knowledge back into money 19. The process of creating a product or service solution that delivers significant new customer value 20. The process of idea realisation 21. The result of: connect ideas from different sectors + current insights + solve a pain point 22. New business with new money 23. Successful commercialisation of an idea which adds value to any stakeholder 24. A change in culture. 25. Creating progress that brings important improvement in our quality of life. 26. The process of taking an idea from a state of Conception to a state of Commercialization (value creation 27. Successful adoption* of value-added change** (novelty) in economic, social and environmental spheres 28. The successful usage of new ideas or ways to fulfill certain needs. 29. Something new or different that provides greater value or benefit. 30. The result of a creative process that creates value for society 31. The use of new ideas, or existing ideas in a new context, to result in change which delivers value 32. Commercializing novel ideas 33. Created value for social change Photo: A new glow in the dark bike path in Canberra Australia. www.ideaspies.com/glow-in-the-dark-bike-paths/

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Getting real about innovation

Getting real about innovation

Innovation is for more than just start ups and tech businesses—it can be as simple as adding wheels to a suitcase. But the overuse of the word ‘innovation’ has some businesspeople scratching their head at what successful innovation really is. Antony Funnell searches for an answer. Mark Dodgson has spent a significant chunk of his career studying the concept of innovation. He’s written extensively about it, lectured all over the world on its application and spent many a long hour puzzling over why some organisations are more innovative than others. Innovation affects everybody and it really should be on the agenda for everybody to think about. PROFESSOR MARK DODGSON, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND And at the end of all that effort, he still thinks it’s a pretty crap term. ‘It’s a terribly vague word,’ he says. ‘It’s an act and a fact. It’s a noun and a verb. I’ve heard it described as an “aerosol” word which you spray in the air and everyone smells it and it smells great and lovely but you can’t grab hold of it.’ Dodgson is the director of the Technology and Innovation Centre at the University of Queensland and a visiting professor at Imperial College Business School in London. ‘I go for a simple definition, and that simple definition is new ideas, successfully applied,’ he says. In other words, the secret to successful innovation, Dodgson theorises, is in the application as much as the invention. ‘It’s about putting ideas into practice [and] making them useful,’ he says. Innovation affects everybody The Brookings Institution’s Scott Andes agrees, and he bemoans the term’s overuse. ‘It seems every conference or article about technology or the economy employs the term, and usually to different ends,’ he says. That lack of clarity, says Dodgson, makes it difficult for ordinary people to see the relevance of innovation in their daily lives. Too often, he says, it’s simply associated with ‘start-up’ firms and new gadgets. ‘It’s used very loosely, but it is incredibly important because it really underpins economic growth,’ he says. ‘We live longer and healthier lives as a result of innovation. We have information at our fingertips. Innovation is removing repetitive and dangerous work. ‘Innovation affects everybody and it really should be on the agenda for everybody to think about.’ IMAGE: LUGGAGE AND WHEELS CO-EXISTED SEPARATELY FOR CENTURIES UNTIL AN INNOVATIVE PILOT IN THE 1980S THOUGHT TO COMBINE THEM, INVENTING MODERN SUITCASES AS WE KNOW THEM. (APING VISION/STS/GETTY IMAGES) Crucial to that change, according to Professor Dodgson, is the need for an attitudinal shift on the part of government and business. The corporate sector in Australia talks a lot about innovation, he says, but their record of investment in research and development is low by world standards. Australian managers are not particularly adventurous. Our boards of directors are much more concerned with cost-cutting, efficiencies, rather than investing for the future,’ he says. ‘Often in this whole area of innovation and R&D, it’s not a question of how much you spend, but spending it wisely, astutely.’ That also includes a role for government. Dodgson points to Silicon Valley as a good example of strategic government practice. Contrary to the arguments put forward by economic rationalists, governments in the United States have long played a central role in fostering the phenomenal success of America’s high-end technology sector. ‘The iPhone, which is perceived as being an invention that came out of Apple laboratories and research—if you trace back where those ideas came from, it was government-funded research,’ he says. ‘If you look at the venture capital industry in America, the largest investor in early-stage venture capital in America is the government. The government puts twice as much money into the venture capital industry at early-stage than the private sector.’ Getting government on board Andes argues governments and other funding bodies also need to be far more sophisticated in the way they think about the innovation process. He says most economists and policy makers are focussed on what he calls the ‘formal’ model of innovation—one that starts with a research institute or university at one end of the line, and ends with the commercialisation of their discoveries at the other end. But that linear approach, says Andes, no longer reflects the reality of modern innovation-increasingly industry specific, often not connected to a laboratory, and usually involving a variety of actors. ‘There is a lot of research that shows that companies actually learn from each other, they learn from partnerships, they learn from suppliers, and they learn from customers, through feedback and other mechanisms,’ he says. ‘And this really drives a nontrivial amount of innovation in the economy.’ Added to that, he says there’s often a failure to understand that the process of innovation isn’t always radical, that it can be incremental. ‘Consider a car manufacturer learning from the company that makes wheels for them how to use a lighter metal,’ Andes says. ‘It’s a small, incremental innovation, but it may save a lot of money, it may save energy, it may reduce manufacturing costs. These are the types of things we see through informal and incremental innovation, and often they are just as important or more important.’ Did you know Future Tense is also a podcast? Subscribe on iTunes, the ABC Radio app or your favourite podcasting app and listen later. In that vein, economist Jason Murphy warns against the popular political view that all modern innovation should in some way be digital or have a high-tech component. Murphy nominates the “wheel-a-board” as one of his favourite examples of successful recent innovation. ‘Trunks and suitcases had been invented for millions of years along with the wheel, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the two concepts were brought together,’ he says. ‘Now of course, everyone in the airport is dragging along their luggage on little wheels. It goes to show that yes, you can make an incremental improvement to a product that has been out there for a very long time and make a big, big difference. ‘There is a great deal of really economically important innovation that doesn’t really have anything to do with invention … Innovation is important when it is adopted broadly, not just when it is invented.’ The downside of innovation Dodgson says it’s crucial to acknowledge that the process of change always brings losers as well as winners. As […]

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“B” rating has benefits

I was given this hand crafted Apolis shopping bag for Christmas. The brand is clever because it appeals to people with a social conscience and has a B (Benefit) rating. http://www.apolisglobal.com . B Corps are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems – they use business as a force for good.

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