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If The Shoe Fits: Hollow Bros and True Brilliance

Friday, April 21st, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI have some great links for you today.

Yes, I realize I’m preaching to the choir and that those who really need to see this won’t.

Unless, of course, you forward it to where it’s most needed.

I’m sure you are tired of my griping (ranting?) about the bro culture, but maybe you’ll feel better knowing that bro culture dates back to ancient Greece, although knowing doesn’t make it any more palatable.

Philosophers are the original, archetypal “brilliant jerks.” And hundreds of years have done little to change that.

It’s not surprising how many brilliant jerks have an “I’m the next Steve Jobs” mentality, which is rarely warrantedtrue genius is all around us, including the urban ghettos — and gravitate to startups.

So what does a life of true brilliance, genius, if you prefer, look like?

It looks like Robert W. Taylor  (died 4/2017) who, in 1968 said, “In a few years,” he wrote, “men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” and then proceeded to make sure it happened.

Even more so, it looks like John Goodenough.

In 1946, a 23-year-old Army veteran named John Goodenough headed to the University of Chicago with a dream of studying physics. When he arrived, a professor warned him that he was already too old to succeed in the field.

Recently, Dr. Goodenough recounted that story for me and then laughed uproariously. He ignored the professor’s advice and today, at 94, has just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity. He and his team at the University of Texas at Austin filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safe that it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles. His announcement has caused a stir, in part, because Dr. Goodenough has done it before. In 1980, at age 57, he coinvented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package.

Stupid professor, along with as all those who believe that creativity is an act reserved for the young.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Educationally Speaking

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/waldec/4507270630/

No matter your circumstances, married/involved/single, there are probably kids somewhere in your world.

I read a lot of articles about education, but three about kids really stood out for me and I believe will be of value to you.

The first looks at the unpleasant fact that our so-called modern education is producing workers more fit for 19th and early 20th Century jobs than those that will be available when they enter the workforce. In other words, acing standardized tests does not prepare you for anything more than functioning in rote.

In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Speaking of behind-the-times teaching.

The only thing that can be said for the traditional approach to math, which, along with critical thinking, is one of the most critical skills needed in the future, is that it stinks.

Whether you look at the results by age (including adults), race or gender math skills are sadly lacking in the US and many other countries.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

John Mighton, a Canadian playwright, author, and math tutor who struggled with math himself, has designed a teaching program that has some of the worst-performing math students performing well and actually enjoying math. There’s mounting evidence that the method works for all kids of all abilities.

Finally, or maybe foremost, is culture.

Just as in companies, the culture in a school is the determining factor on whether kids learn — or not.

The prevailing culture of many schools, especially the vaunted charter schools, has been one “no excuses.” A culture focused on regimentation and inflicted mostly on poor children of color.

But as any idiot knows, regimentation is not going to produce the next Marc Benioff or Larry Elison, So what does?

Ascend Public Charter Schools network began to retrain teachers to focus on social and emotional development. This provided the framework for creative problem solving to help prevent conflicts between students, or between teachers and students, from escalating.

Does it work? Is it making a measurable difference? Short answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Around the same time that Ascend was transforming its culture, it put in place a new curriculum, more closely aligned with progressive schools, that focuses on intellectual inquiry rather than received knowledge. At Ascend’s lower and middle schools in Brownsville, passing grades on the annual state English test increased to 39 percent in 2016, from 22 percent in 2014, while the rate on the math test increased to 37 percent, from 29 percent. It’s hard to isolate the cause for the improvement, but it is likely to be a combination of both the academic and cultural changes, which makes Ascend a bold testing ground for the theory that children from low-income homes can be educated the same way as children from affluent families.

Finally, what about adult education, specifically the much ballyhooed MBA? Does it provide the education that provides the skills to climb the corporate ladder?

Not really, according to Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professorship of Management Studies at McGill University, who looked at CEOs from what is considered the most elite university on the planet: Harvard.

Joseph Lampel and I studied the post-1990 records of all 19. How did they do? In a word, badly. A majority, 10, seemed clearly to have failed, meaning that their company went bankrupt, they were forced out of the CEO chair, a major merger backfired, and so on. The performance of another 4 we found to be questionable.

I sent the article to another Harvard-educated CEO I know. His reaction?

Excellent  article. Very true. It took me years to unlearn what I’d been taught at business school…

The article is well worth your time, especially if you, or someone you know, are considering spending the money/going into debt for your MBA.

One more irreverent note, compliments of CB Insights, that is oh, so, true.

Hack: How to hire MBAs
My co-founder Jon stumbled upon this hack to get lots of MBA resumes which I’m going to let you in on.
Whatever the job title, throw the word “strategic” in front of it.

Image credit: .waldec

If The Shoe Fits: Channel Nintendo

Friday, March 10th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast week we looked at what companies are doing about product security — which is little-to-nothing in most cases.

Unlike Nintendo.

Nintendo’s new Switch console — think Zelda — is making news, but its unique security effort should be in the limelight, too.

Unlike Tide, Nintendo realized the console’s tiny, SD-sized game cartridges would be irresistible to kids — so its designers came up with the perfect solution.

They didn’t wait for a curious kid (and the resulting lawsuit) to choke or even die from swallowing one, before addressing it.

They thought it through and spent the needed time and money to assure that kids wouldn’t eat the cartridges in the first place.

And they succeeded.

The cartridges are coated with something that makes them taste terrible.

Terrible as in spitting them out.

To avoid the possibility of accidental ingestion, keep the game card away from young children,” a Nintendo spokesperson told Kotaku. “A bittering agent (denatonium benzoate) has also been applied to the game card.” (The agent is non-toxic.)

Adults, too. Hilariously, it was an adult game reviewer who decided to lick the cartridge.

I put that Switch cart in my mouth and I’m not sure what those things are made of but I can still taste it. Do not try this at home.

— Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann) February 25, 2017

No question, it’s a brilliant solution — the only kind that really works, since it requires absolutely no effort from consumers.

Three cheers for Nintendo.

Wouldn’t it be nice if founders and full-blown enterprises followed Nintendo’s lead before something happened?

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: Live from HIMSS

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
https://www.ibm.com/watson/health/

IBM Watson Health and Broad Institute launch major research initiative to study why cancers become drug resistant.

Hi Folks,

I had the chance to attend one of the largest healthcare IT conferences this week in Orlando known as HIMSS or Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.  

What this mouthful of a name means is if you want a venue showcasing the cutting edge technology in healthcare with 40,000 of your closest friends…well you’re in the right spot.

I was there as a representative of my company and had a chance to have some meaningful conversations, but it was the conversations off the floor that were perhaps more valuable.

As anyone who has attended a convention of this size knows, you’re in for a menagerie of vendor sites and sounds. It can be overwhelming and enlightening 

While I had some downtime I took a walk on the floor to see what else is occurring within the medtech sector.

During one of these occasions I had a chance to meet with some folks from IBM. Now IBM needs no introduction, but within healthcare they are a new entrant.

They have utilized their Watson cognitive thinking system to tackle some of the toughest problems in medicine today.

They are currently focused on oncology and determining patients at risk or treating mutations earlier than currently possible.

Something that struck me was the fact that this technology is very affordable to their customers. Their mindset is that all people, regardless of income, location, background or country should receive the same level of care as anyone else.

I was floored.

Healthcare is big business and while most mean well, the stated goals are not so noble.

Where did this culture come from at IBM? 

As of now I don’t have that answer, but I wanted to at least inform you that a company of that size has genuine concern for the well being of us all.

Flickr image credit: IBM

Ducks In A Row: Pros And Cons Of Omada Health

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

http://vator.tv/news/2014-04-09-omada-health-raises-23m-for-chronic-disease-prevention

Companies are becoming more and more involved in their employees personal lives, especially health-wise.

That’s understandable, considering how fast costs keep rising.

Startup Omada is a good example of what’s new.

The company’s business model is unique, as it doesn’t just charge employers per customer, but it actually depends on the success of each individual to make money. Omada’s revenue is outcome based.

This means that client companies pay only when there are positive results and that’s a good thing.

Accomplishing it, however, can feel invasive.

Its flagship program, Prevent, is modeled around the National Institutes of Health study called the Diabetes Prevention Program and is designed to help participants modify their behavior and reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The client company contracts with third-party organizations to identify those most at risk for at risk of diabetes or heart disease and enrolls them for intensive personal counseling.

The digital scale that each user gets, which is connected wirelessly to their Omada account, does daily weigh-ins to track their weight loss, as that is a good indicator of blood sugar and the risk of diabetes. Omada then gets paid based on the percentage weight loss that user has seen.

However, weight is not always an accurate indicator. Based on my lifetime weight I should be diabetic, have high blood pressure and likely a heart condition.

But I don’t.

In fact, I am amazingly healthy, always have been, and require no medication, whereas 85% of people my age are taking at least one prescription drug.

While Omada’s process would work for many people it feels invasive to me and if I were an employee I’d want to opt out of it.

So the real question here is not the value of the program offered, but whether the employer forces people to do it and penalizes them if they refuse.

Image credit: Vator TV

If the Shoe Fits: Keep The Best — Get Rid Of The Rest

Friday, January 13th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAs I’ve said before, Steve Jobs may be a good role model for building a company, but not for building a culture.

Just think what would you could build if you combined the best of Apple’s culture with the best of cultural benchmarks — the way Pearl Automation is doing.

Founded in 2014 by three former senior managers from Apple’s iPod and iPhone groups, Pearl has tried to replicate what its leaders view as the best parts of Apple’s culture, like its fanatical dedication to quality and beautiful design. But the founders also consciously rejected some of the less appealing aspects of life at Apple, like its legendary secrecy and top-down management style.

Pearl’s cultural focus is totally inclusive, based on the idea that, since, every employee is contributing to its success, every employee has a “need to know.”

The start-up, which makes high-tech accessories for cars, holds weekly meetings with its entire staff. Managers brief them on coming products, company finances, technical problems, even the presentations made to the board.

Of course, the first thing you need to do is accept that you are not Steve Jobs.

The next thing is to understand that both creativity and failure are necessary to succeed.

Eswar Priyadarshan, who sold his mobile advertising company, Quattro Wireless, to Apple in 2010 and stayed for four years, said that he learned about design and aesthetics during his time there. But he noted that Apple’s high compensation, focused product mission and top-down decision-making tended to damp the risk-taking necessary to start a company.

Mr. Priyadarshan, who is now chief executive of BotCentral, a six-person start-up, compared Apple to a community of warrior monks. “Warrior monks don’t talk and do whatever is asked,” he said.

The actual question you need to answer is: do you want to lead a team of warrior monks or are you more excited about herding a team of innovative, quirky, creative cats.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: the Stupidity of Crowds

Friday, November 11th, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow much do you rely on the so-called “wisdom of crowds” when you’re making decisions?

Do you think for yourself or check everything, from where to eat to the best language to use, against the “wisdom of crowds?”

If this election taught you nothing else it should have taught you that crowds aren’t particularly bright.

Stupid is more accurate

When I wrote The Value of Thinking in 2013 I asked a simple question.

But what happens to the crowd when everybody stops bothering to think?

At that point the old saying, everyone has a right to be stupid, but some just abuse the privilege, kicks in with a vengeance.

In the March redux I said,

…crowdthinking has increased geometrically, while independent thinking, let alone deep thinking, has decreased in proportion. You have only to consider the questions on Quora and the crowd’s actions/reactions at any political rally to see just how bad it’s become.

From failed startups to Tuesday’s election the wisdom of crowds has led down more garden paths than can be counted.

But for the legion of readers who demand hard data to back up common sense I give you the words of Anand Sanwal and the data of CB Insights.

Can we please never utter ‘wisdom of the crowds’?
I know lots of management consultants sold corporations on this “wisdom of crowds” nonsense, but can we now stop?
Here is what the crowd thought of Trump’s chances over time.
Totally, utterly stupid crowd.
stupid crowd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupid crowds do immeasurable damage.

Image credit: HikingArtist and CB Insights

Christmas 2016: Shoes Shoes Shoes

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Thanksgiving is just around the corner (where did the year go?) and Christmas is right on it’s heels.

Among other things, the holidays mean gifts — preferably unique.

I thought this year I’d post ideas occasionally as I run across them.

This one is for that special woman/women/yourself.

And in the unlikely event that some else gives her the same thing it won’t even matter.

It’s one present where more is better.

Shoes.

But not just any shoes.

How about five pair in one?

And at around $200 they aren’t even overpriced.

After all, what woman doesn’t want more shoes?

Because one can never have too many shoes!

Innovation and the National Park Service

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Bureaucracies are not noted for their vision or rapid adoption of new technology and the National Park Service is a prime example of that.

So it was a major surprise to see that the NPS is integrating cutting edge technology in iconic Yellowstone Park’s infrastructure.

Not only that, but NPS is doing it with a public/private partnership, to boot.

The new concrete, called Flexi-Pave, is made with stones and recycled tires, and Michelin has been helping them install it all over the park.

Wow. If NPS can do something this radical maybe there’s hope for progress on other fronts and from other bureaucracies.

Video credit: Tech Insider

Wasting US Research

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
https://twitter.com/teachDetroit/status/687090207649325056/photo/1

snow INSIDE classroom window

There is something wrong in the US.

We do the research, but the results are often implemented in other countries, with enviable outcomes, but ignored here.

It was adoption of the work of American Edwards Deming by Japanese industry, especially automobiles, that changed “made in Japan” from a symbol of shoddy work to one of world-class quality—decades before the US moved in that direction.

Despite being honored in Japan in 1951 with the establishment of the Deming Prize, he was only just beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. at the time of his death in 1993.

When it comes to education, it’s Finland.

Year after year, Finland is ranked as one of the world leaders in education while America lags far behind.
But it’s not that Finland knows more about how to build effective schools than the US does.
Almost all education research takes place in the US, and American schools can’t seem to learn from any of it — and yet Finnish people do.
Over time, the ideas have helped shape the Finnish education system as one that prizes autonomy, peer learning, collaboration, and varied forms of assessment. These were all ideas developed at one time or another by American theorists, yet modern American classrooms — noted for their heavy reliance on tests and teacher-guided lectures — bear little resemblance to those up north.

Bjarke Ingels, Danish architect of Two World Trade Center, Google North Bayshore and many others, made a telling comment that the US would do well to take to heart.

“The education of our youth is one of the best investments any society can make. In that sense, not investing in our future is simply the worst place to cut corners.”

It took the US 40 years to embrace quality and we’re still playing catch-up.

We don’t have 40 years when it comes to education.

Image credit: @ Detroitteach

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