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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A smart machine to make your favourite beer

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A one-stop-shop where craft beer enthusiasts can simply brew beers without having to be a master brewer. While most beer brewing machines have their body, kegs, and some variable components that require a steep learning curve to be mastered, it combines both the “Brewing Tank” and the “Fermentation Tank” into one machine. Through the LCD screen, tank window, and the app, you can program, monitor, and create a brewing experience in your own kitchen. http://www.igulu.com/

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Virtual fencing to control stock

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This system, supported by CSIRO, works by giving audio cues to cattle through solar-powered smart collars as they approach the fence and a small electric pulse if they continue on. Over a short period of time, the cows learn to turn away when they hear the audio. If they do go as far as receiving the pulse, it’s significantly less than the shock of an electric fence, minimising any stress and ensuring welfare of the animals.  It can be used on properties to reduce expensive fencing and keep stock out of areas that are difficult to muster or control. https://blog.csiro.au/turns-can-teach-old-young-cows-new-tricks/

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An unmanned shop on wheels that can move from location to location.

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Moby Store, launched by Wheelys, a Stockholm-headquartered startup, is now testing a model of a 24-hour store run entirely by technology that can be moved from one spot to the next. The Wheelys cofounders decided to test in China rather than Sweden in part because of China’s large population, but even more so because of the country’s near-ubiquitous adoption of paying with your phone. Purchases are made using an app to scan a barcode and paying over the phone. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608104/in-china-a-store-of-the-future-no-checkout-no-staff/?

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Will local businesses WIN THE WEST?

PARRAMATTA Square and the cultural infrastructure currently underway will deliver a Smart City and core CBD to greater Sydney. Expansions at Westmead will create a world class health precinct, as well as opportunities for nearby hospitals to expand their services to an ageing population. Rail, light rail and road infrastructure, intermodal facilities at Moorebank, expansion of the higher education sector and new high school campuses, all point to new developments that will accommodate the rapid growth of Western Sydney’s population in future decades. The Federal government’s decision to directly invest in the development of Western Sydney’s airport at Badgery’s Creek is a milestone. By providing a gateway for lightweight freight, domestic and international travellers, Western Sydney will not only have better access but more competitiveness on the world stage. Innovative businesses, local councils and not-for-profit service providers will all benefit from this growth. The current job and entrepreneurial opportunities in Parramatta and the growth corridors in Western Sydney are distinctively different from the region’s blue-collar heritage. Knowledge-based employment and business opportunities will require digitally savvy, customer-centric and flexible workers who are able to constantly learn and adapt. Western Sydney’s new-found accessibility will create export opportunities but this will also open us to increased global competition. Automation of routine physical and clerical tasks will take away many of the jobs employing people today. New digital and easy-to-use technologies can lead to more knowledge based jobs for those businesses investing in human capital and innovation to improve their agility and profitability. Automation of low-value added activities will become the norm with intuition and customer-centric thinking keys to enabling sustainable growth. Success isn’t a given though, and local businesses will need to work hard to reap the benefits. KPMG Enterprise’s R&D and incentives Partner, Paul van Bergen, who is based in Parramatta, advises businesses on the best way to maximise opportunities. “Think about what customers will demand in the future,” he says. “The winners in the West will be companies which strategically invest in developing products and services that customers want and need, creating alliances to leverage skills to provide world class solutions from local suppliers. “Some of this investment will be in the form of R&D, some in trialling innovative business models. For many, this might involve encouraging entrepreneurial behaviours to create, accelerate and commercialise new business models. “Increased funding from NSW and Federal governments is available for collaborative R&D and developing digital technologies for established businesses.  “Through the Western Sydney University LaunchPad accelerator, companies can access expertise and leading-edge technologies subsidised by the NSW government technology vouchers. “For example, the School of Engineering Computers and Mathematics has assisted traditional manufacturing companies in developing solutions that apply the Internet of Things to create new service lines. “This enables closer relationships with technologically demanding customers. Partially funded by R&D tax offsets, this reduces the after-tax cost of transforming a business to become a global player.” Cloud technology has changed the way we work, how health and social services are delivered and how businesses provide goods and services in the future. For businesses looking to capitalise on Western Sydney’s growth, this means that the need to invest in and embrace cloud technology is no longer a choice. It’s an imperative. It’s important to keep tabs on the cost effectiveness of all business activities. Understanding what cloud technology can contribute to improve profit margins, better decision making and ensuring businesses deliver a unique and consistent customer experience. Gordon Irons, KPMG Enterprise’s Partner – Technology Advisory, says: “Cloud-based solutions make it possible to get more value out of existing data and IT services.  The mid-market can now access user-friendly business systems at a fraction of the cost of the amounts historically paid by their larger competitors. “This increased flexibility will enable Western Sydney businesses to become more nimble, responsive and entrepreneurial. “The ability to harness accurate, meaningful and real-time information from systems that can be accessed via a mobile device or any internet connection will help all these Western Sydney businesses to become more competitive, agile and profitable.” by David Pring, Partner-in-Charge at KPMG Enterprise Parramatta. First published in Western Sydney Business ACCESS.

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Sensors in collars protect wildlife from poachers

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A new system uses ballistic shockwave sensors embedded in tracking collars to help save endangered African elephants. The system sends coordinates to authorities immediately after the sensors detect gunshots. Although elephant poachers attempt to minimize the sounds their weapons produce, high-powered gunshots produce an acoustic shockwave that poachers cannot suppress. This technology can be used to protect more wildlife via detect tracking devices. https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/06/07/sensor-detects-shooting-at-elephants-helps-authorities-catch-poachers/amp/

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Magic wallpaper for your child’s bedroom

MagicWallpaper

This new Magic Wallpaper is designed to encourage your child’s imagination. It’s covered in characters, each of which is a digital marker that when scanned using the Magic Wallpaper app, unfolds a digital story on mobiles and tablets. The app lets you choose between audio storytelling or a reading mode, which has sound effects embedded in certain words. http://creativity-online.com/work/castorama-the-magic-wallpaper/51901

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A robot that runs faster than Usain Bolt

A robot that runs faster than Usain Bolt

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A robot that could revolutionise manual work.

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A dexterous multi-fingered robot has been created at the University of California. It practiced using virtual objects in a simulated world and learned what kind of grip should work for different items by studying a vast data set of 3-D shapes and suitable grasps. When a new object is placed in front of it, the robot’s deep-learning system quickly figures out what grasp the arm should use. The creation of this robot shows how machine learning and the cloud could revolutionise manual work where precision and consistency are key. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/607931/meet-the-most-nimble-fingered-robot-yet/

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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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Truly great innovators do these 4 things

In the process of researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I talked to dozens of successful innovators, from world class scientists seeking to cure cancer and create new computing architectures, to senior executives at large corporations and entrepreneurs at startups. It was a pretty diverse group. One of the underlying premises of the book is that there is no one “true” path to innovation, so I expected to see a variety of approaches and that’s indeed what I found. Some of the people I talked to were slow and deliberate, spending years or even decades on a difficult problem. Others were fast and agile, iterating and pivoting toward a viable solution. However, I also noticed that some remarkably constant themes emerged. Over time, it became clear that while the people I talked to were vastly different in background, training, personality type and method, they tended to have four attributes in common. While none of these will make you a great innovator, you are unlikely to innovate without them. 1. Actively Seek Out Important Problems The most striking thing I noticed in my research was how innovators approached problems. They didn’t wait for them to arise, but actively sought them out. It is that passion for solving problems, rather than any particular personality type or ambition, that separates all of the innovators I talked to from most people and organizations. Experian, for example, set up a special unit to seek out and solve its customers toughest problems. IBM regularly sets up “grand challenges,” like developing a system that can beat humans at Jeopardy!. Steve Blank, whose ideas inspired the Lean Startup movement, encourages entrepreneurs to “get out of the building” and talk to customers. One of the most interesting people I talked to was Jim Allison. Low key to the extreme, he’s the type of guy who you would scarcely notice in a room. As a boy, he decided to be a scientist because he just liked “figuring things out.” So for more than 20 years, that’s what he did, sought out gaps in our understanding of the immune system and tried to figure them out. But in the mid-90’s he had what turned out to be a revolutionary idea. His decades of study led him to believe that our bodies were shutting off the immune system too early to fight cancer. It was this insight that led him to develop cancer immunotherapy, which today is considered a miracle cure that saves the lives of thousands of terminally ill patients who once had no hope. Allison is an extreme case, but I found that most innovators had some version of the same story. Most never dreamed they would do anything important, they were just trying to solve a problem. 2. They Overcome Failure Not all of Jim Allison’s story was happy. In fact, after he had his initial breakthrough, he spent three whole years trying to convince pharmaceutical companies to back his idea. There were no takers. “It was depressing,” he told me. “I knew this discovery could make a difference, but nobody wanted to invest in it.” This is more common than you would think. Often, the stories we hear about great innovations are fairy tale versions that gloss over the uncomfortable parts. We hear about the triumphs, but not the frustrations and so we mistakenly believe that pathbreaking ideas are supposed to come to us as magical epiphanies. Consider the case of Alexander Fleming. We often hear about how he discovered penicillin when the bacteria colonies he was growing became contaminated by a mysterious mold. Yet what is rarely mentioned is that his discovery couldn’t have cured anyone and that it was another team altogether who made penicillin into a useful drug. The truth is that innovation is never a single event and rarely is it ever accomplished by a single person. It often takes decades for a fundamental discovery to have an impact on the world and along the way countless people play a part in making it happen. 3. They Have A Vision, But Remain Flexible When Alph Bingham was a chemistry graduate student at Stanford in the 1970’s, he was struck by how many ways there were to approach a tough research question. “The professor would present us with a problem and 20 different people would have 20 different ideas about how to solve it,” he told me.“ So when he first came up with the idea that became InnoCentive at Eli Lilly in the late 1990’s, he envisioned a platform that would work much the same way. It would allow chemists to post unsolved problems in order to attract insights from other chemists. What he found though was that most of the time answers came from some adjacent field, like physics or biology. So it became important to encourage experts on the platform to cross disciplines. Something similar happened when Children’s Health in Dallas set out to create a revolutionary new program that would go beyond simply delivering care by going out into the communities to address the social determinants of health. At first, it seemed clear that the best way to do that would be to leverage the hospital’s primary centers. Alas, the plan proved to be unworkable. So it created an entirely new infrastructure made up of health care navigators who help families connect with other resources in their community, such as Children’s Health and Wellness Alliance, a nonprofit that weaves together more than 100 community resources such as schools, social service and faith-based organizations. Every story I came across had an initial vision that was flawed in some way. So to be effective, innovators need to be quick to recognize problems and pivot to a new idea. 4. They Maintain A Deep Commitment To Collaboration What struck me most about the dozens of people I interviewed was that the vast majority, with few exceptions, were not only helpful in providing me with their formidable expertise and experiences, but showed a genuine interest in my project and asked me a number of questions about it. That’s unusual. Later, when I sent them excerpts to fact check, in almost all cases they pushed me to give more credit to others and less to themselves. In some cases they agreed to look over early versions of chapters. You can imagine my surprise when, more than once, the early […]

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Solar powered trucks

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Canadian Solar, one of the world’s largest solar power companies, has acquired a minority equity interest in eNow, a U.S. company specializing in solar-based energy management system for the commercial transportation industry. The investment will accelerate the expansion and growth of photovoltaic (PV) based mobile energy solutions which will reduce transportation fuel costs while making a significant impact in cutting vehicle emissions in the commercial transportation industry. http://investors.canadiansolar.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=196781&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2272206

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Solving the plastic waste problem with plastic roads

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Scottish startup MacRebur has one simple, clever invention to solve three world challenges: using millions of tons of waste plastic that sit in our landfill sites; reducing the millions spent on new roads, maintenance, and pothole repair; making our roads stronger and longer lasting. They launched in January 2016 and their new product has already been laid on roads in Cumbria and Dumfriesshire in the UK, as well as on a runway at Carlisle Airport. www.macrebur.com

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Inside The Race To Build A Battery That Can Power The 21st Century

The garage startup has become as much of an American icon in the twenty first century as the automobile and the drive-in were to earlier generations. The idea that anyone with an idea can change the world is as romantic as democracy itself, but it’s not altogether true. A garage startup only works if there is existing technology to build on top of. The problem is that every technology eventually runs out of steam. When that happens, progress will grind to a halt without a significant breakthrough. As technology becomes more complex, that type of advancement becomes so hard to achieve that it becomes out of reach for any single organization, much less a few guys in a garage. That is essentially where we are with energy storage. Lithium-ion, the 40 year-old technology that powers everything from smartphones to electric cars is nearing its theoretical limits just as the renewable energy revolution is demanding cheaper batteries that can store more energy at lower cost. Solving problems like these requires a massively collaborative approach. A Brief History Of Energy Storage The lithium-ion battery was originally discovered by the American scientist John Goodenough, in 1979, with funding from the National Science Foundation. Over the next decade, the technology steadily improved and by the early 1990s, it became commercially available in Sony Camcorders. Since then, lithium-ion batteries have increased in energy density by a factor of six, while costs have dropped by a factor of 10. That’s made them good enough to power our phones and laptops, but they’re still not powerful enough — or cheap enough — to power electric cars or the electric grid. Experts believe that to create a true transformation, battery costs need be below $100/ Kw/hour and the current technology is unlikely to get us there. So getting where we need to be is not a matter of simply improving efficiency, we have to come up with completely new materials with greater energy density and lower cost. When the Department of Energy began thinking about how to solve such an enormous and seemingly intractable problem, it realized that it needed to take a very different approach. The result is the Joint Center For Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which is currently in the fourth year of its five year mandate to develop next generation batteries. Pooling Scientific Knowledge The basic idea behind JCESR is that the knowledge required to create a breakthrough solution is spread out among a diverse number of scientists working at a wide variety of institutions, such as the national labs and academic institutions. So the first step was to combine their talents and coordinate research through a single hub focused on the energy storage problem. Venkat Srinivasan, Deputy Director, Research and Development at JCESR explains, “National labs tend to have bigger teams of people working on bigger problems, while academic researchers are more specialized in their expertise. Our structure allows us to access stars in the academic world and apply their specific expertise to the problem of next generation storage.” “For example,” he continues, “Matthew Sigman and Shelley Minteer at the University of Utah have done pathbreaking work in chemical stability in the pharmaceutical field, but we recognized that the same technology can help us make better batteries. Their work has really propelled our mission forward, while working on batteries has taken their research into new areas.” So combining the expertise of five national labs along with a number of the country’s top universities gives JCESR an incredible amount of scientific talent. Yet the battery problem is about more than science. The aim is to come up with a solution that not only works, but can win in the marketplace, which is why getting input from private companies is crucial. Bringing In Private Industry Scientists are focused on discovering new phenomena, but have little insight into the practicalities of the marketplace. For example, a researcher that discovers a new material with vastly more energy density than current batteries will have no idea whether it is feasible to procure, manufacture and distribute. That’s a big problem, because by the time a scientist verifies his results, prepares them for publication and goes through peer review, it can take years before he realizes that he wasted his time. So getting input from partners and affiliates in the private sector has been invaluable for focusing research at JCESR on the most promising paths to a better battery. It has also greatly benefitted the companies that have participated. As Brian Cooke, a Group Vice President at Johnson Controls told me, “We saw our involvement as an opportunity to shape the future, so the science coming out of JCESR would have the greatest benefit for our customers, our company and our industry. It has also enabled us to interact with top notch researchers from some of the country’s best labs.” Yet it isn’t just big companies that are benefitting. Through JCESR’s affiliate program even small companies can participate, which gives them a better idea of how to focus their efforts. That’s especially important for firms that can’t afford to go off in the wrong direction and waste limited resources. Mike Wixom of Navitas, a four year old company that focuses on military and industrial applications, told me, “As a small company, we’re fighting for our survival on a daily basis. Becoming JCESR affiliate gives us an early peek at technology and you get to give feedback about what kinds manufacturing issues are likely to come up with any particular chemistry.” Innovating The Discovery Process Historically, the process of making a new battery has been mostly trial and error. Building a battery for use in a car has vastly different requirements than, say, for the grid or a power tool. So, for the most part, battery developers experimented with different combinations until they get the right specifications for the product they were trying to make. One of the major achievements at JCESR has been to build tools to make this process more rational and efficient. The first is a computer model that analyzes the complex interplay between technical and economic factors that a battery will need to achieve. The second is materials and electrolytes “genomes” that known properties of the various possibilities. “Moving to the materials genome is like moving from your local library to the Internet,” says Mike Andrew, a […]

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Making seawater drinkable

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New research from the University of Manchester developed a graphene-based sieve that can filter out salt from seawater. The graphene oxide membrane could be a cheaper and more efficient filter for desalination plants to use. https://futurism.com/scientists-just-figured-out-how-to-use-graphene-to-make-seawater-drinkable/

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An easier way to find affordable in-home aged care

IdeaSpies careseekers (1)

A new online marketplace, Careseekers, is reinventing the traditional way people find in-home aged care workers.The start-up is using digital technology to directly connect more than 1,200 skilled, qualified care workers with people who need care, making it easier to find affordable in-home care. http://anthillonline.com/digital-disruptors-careseekers-set-revolutionise-aged-care-sector/

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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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Paint that could cool a room

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While still in the developmental stages, nanopaint is seen as an effective means of dealing with a number of different issues. As an example, the application of nanopaint on the exterior of a building could be used to block infrared rays and thus help to keep the interior of the space cooler, while also making it possible to absorb solar energy on days that are sunny but cool. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-nanopaint.htm

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4 Things You Need To Build An Innovative Culture

  In the late 1960’s, Gary Starkweather had a serious spat with his boss.  As an engineer in Xerox’s long-range xerography unit, he saw that laser printing could be a huge business opportunity. His manager, however, was focused on improving the efficiency of the current product line, not looking to start another one. The argument got so heated that Starkweather’s job came to be in jeopardy. Fortunately, his rabble rousing caught the attention of another division within the company, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) which wasn’t interested in efficiency, but inventing a new future and they eagerly welcomed Starkweather into their ranks. Within a decade, Xerox’s copying business declined sharply, but the laser printer took off and soon became the firm’s main source of revenue. In effect, the work that was squelched in one culture, thrived in another and saved the company. We tend to think innovation is about ideas, but it depends on people even more. Here’s how you create an innovative culture. 1. A Focus On Problem Solving When you think about an innovative culture what probably first comes to mind is a bunch of fast moving hipsters guzzling down energy drinks and pulling all-nighters, pausing only to play a quick game of foosball or frisbee. Or maybe Steve Jobs on stage with a devilish grin just before he wows the audience with “one more thing…” Yet in researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I found that very few of the organizations I studied looked like that. Some were fast moving startups, but most of the successful ones were led by executives that were mature and thoughtful, not brash or erratic. Others were large corporations and world class labs that tended to be fairly conservative. The one thing I found in common in every fantastically innovative place I looked at was a disciplined passion for identifying new problems. Unlike most organizations, which are content to struggle with everyday issues, the enterprises I studied had a systematic method of finding new problems to work on that would take them in new directions. The approaches vary considerably. IBM creates grand challenges, like building a computer that can beat humans at Jeopardy. Experian set up a Datalabs division to find out what’s giving its customers “agita” and launch new business off the solutions they build. Google’s “20% time acts as a human-powered search engine for new problems. We tend to think of innovation as fast moving, but the truth is that it usually takes 30 years to go from an initial discovery to a measurable impact. So the “next big thing” is usually about 29 years old. If you want to innovate effectively, don’t chase the latest trend, find a problem your customers will care about and solve it for them. 2. Create Safe Spaces In 2012, Google embarked on an enormous research project. Code-named “Project Aristotle,” the aim was to see what made successful teams tick. They combed through every conceivable aspect of how teams worked together — how they were led, how frequently they met outside of work, the personality types of the team members — no stone was left unturned. However, despite Google’s nearly unparalleled ability to find patterns in complex data, none of the conventional criteria seemed to predict performance. In fact, what they found mattered most to team performance was psychological safety, or the ability of each team member to be able to give voice to their ideas without fear of reprisal or rebuke. Interestingly,  highly innovative teams can be safe for some ideas, but not for others. For example, two of the scientists at PARC, Dick Shoup and Alvy Ray Smith, developed on a revolutionary new graphics technology called SuperPaint. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit in with the PARC’s vision of personal computing, the two were ostracized and eventually both left. Smith would team up with another graphics pioneer, Ed Catmull, at the New York Institute of Technology. Later they joined George Lucas, who saw the potential for computer graphics to create a new paradigm for special effects. Eventually, the operation was spun out and bought by Steve Jobs. That company, Pixar, was sold to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion. Xerox PARC is now a shadow of its former self. As it turned out, anything that didn’t have to do with the researchers’ vision for the future had no home there. So if you want to innovate consistently for the long term, you need to create a “safe space” for all ideas, not just the ones that fit with your initial mission. 3. Foster Informal Networks In 2005, a team of researchers decided to study why some Broadway plays become hits and others flop. They looked at all the usual factors, such as production budget, marketing budget and the track record of the director, but what they found was that what was most important was informal networks of relationships among the cast and crew. If no one had ever worked together before, both financial and creative results tended to be poor. However, if the networks among the cast and crew became too dense, performance also suffered. It was the teams that had elements of both — strong ties and new blood — that had the greatest success. The same effect has been found elsewhere. In studies of star engineers at Bell Labs, the German automotive industry and currency traders it has been shown that tightly clustered groups, combined with long range “weak ties” that allow information to flow freely among disparate clusters of activity results in better innovation. So before you embark on your next reorganization designed to “break down silos” you might want to think about how informal relationships develop within your enterprise. The truth is that innovation is never about nodes. It’s always about networks. 4. Promote Collaboration All too often, we think of innovation as the work of lone geniuses who, in a flash of inspiration, arrive at a eureka moment. Yet the truth is that research shows that the high value work is done in teams, those teams are increasing in size, are far more interdisciplinary than in the past and the work is done at greater distances. Just as importantly, there is growing evidence that it is crucial how these teams function. A study done by the CIA performed after 9/11 to determine what attributes made for the most effective analyst teams found […]

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