Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crowdsourced Movies... Way Cool

Bloomberg Businessweek featured Joe Sumner as its innovator of the week in its July 23-29, 2012 issue. Besides being son of Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting, he is founder of Vyclone, a company lets a number of people in close proximity shoot a video on their own iPhones, upload the clips, and view a movie that is automatically spliced together from the different angles. A simple to use video editor even lets users toggle from one angle to another with the tap of a finger. Such crowdsourced videos will most certainly have an impact on citizen journalism and home movies allowing non-professional users weave together multiple videos to provide richer, fuller stories.

Check out the full article here.

Interestingly, Joe came up with his idea in 2010 after he watched about 450 videos of a performance of his rock band Fiction Plane on YouTube. These videos had been uploaded by fans with mobile phones. The footage was mostly grainy, shot from awkward angles, and had horrible sound. That's when he realized the need for a way to link all of these videos together and make a compelling movie. Many of us have probably thought of something similar as we've watched videos on YouTube. The difference is Joe did something about it. As I discuss in Principle# 1 of my book, Living in the Innovation Age, Innovation is One Percent Ideation and 99 Percent Implementation. Being the son of Sting doesn't hurt either! :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

3M Embraces Open Innovation

What so you think happened to a company that began by mining stone from quarries for use in grinding wheels over a century ago? Would you believe that same company today has over 76,000 employees, 55,000 products, and operations in more than 70 countries? Over the past century 3M has created a vast array of amazing products that are now household names. For example, any other company would have long discarded an adhesive that did not perform its job of sticking things together and would have recycled its yellow scrap paper; however 3M took those two ingredients and created Post-It notes.

But even 3M is not immune to challenges in making sure that it continues to be an innovation leader. For years 3M prided itself on at least 33 percent of its sales from products released in the past five years. Today, 3M struggles to keep that level at 25 percent.
Just over a decade ago, 3M tried to fix the problem by hiring James McNerney of GE fame as the new CEO on December 5, 2000. Not surprisingly, the biggest change he introduced was with GE's Six Sigma program with the goal of decreasing production defects and increasing efficiency. Wall Street loved his changes as 3M's lackluster stock jolted back to life and McNerney won accolades for bringing discipline to an organization that had become inefficient and sluggish.

Sadly, innovation at 3M, however, did not come back. I document the case study in my book, Living in the Innovation Age (See the side box - When Good Metrics Go Bad).

Well, 3M has since abandoned its rigorous Six Sigma based approach to innovation in favor of one based on openness and collaboration. Principle #4, Innovation Seeks to be Free, in my book discussed two mainstream techniques that are based on such openness, transparency, and collaboration. 3M's approach is based on what is referred to as Open Innovation, in which ideas are encouraged from everyone and everywhere, inside and outside the organization. Fred J. Palensky, Chief Technology Officer at 3M, recently discussed 3M's Open Innovation initiatives in an interview in Strategy+Business magazine where he provided an example of an entirely new kind of sandpaper that came about as a result of Open Innovation. The mineral technology came from the abrasives division, some of the shape technology came from optical systems, coating technologies came from the tape division, and mathematical modeling and fracture analysis came from the corporate research center. Altogether, the abrasives division used seven different technologies to create the product, only two of which came from the division itself, which is a testament to the power of Open Innovation. Of course, Open Innovation is only truly possible in the presence of a highly collaborative culture and innovation-focused leadership. I discuss both of these concepts in Chapter 7 of my book.

The Bottom Line - 3M owes its success to innovation. Yet, just a few years ago, it was struggling in this very core competency. Experts agree that the drop in innovation was not surprising. Efficiency programs such as Six Sigma are designed to reduce variation and eliminate defects. But these types of initiatives can have an adverse effect on creativity and innovation, both of which thrive in an environment where failure and risk taking are tolerated, encouraged, and even celebrated. Not surprisingly, 3M’s current CEO cut back many of McNerney's innovation initiatives and in fact, has gone in an opposite direction of Open Innovation, which is actually much better suited to 3M's innovation culture.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Apple pays $60M to settle iPad case

On February 14, I had blogged about the troubles Apple was having over the use of the "iPad" name in China. Later on March 7, I posted a blog on China's baffling trademark system.

Today, Apple has paid $60 million to settle a dispute in China over ownership of the iPad name. Apple's dispute with Shenzhen Proview Technology highlighted the possible pitfalls for global companies in China's infant trademark system. The outcome also reflects Chinese courts' preference for encouraging adversaries in commercial disputes to settle instead of pushing for a ruling.

The Bottom Line - The Apple case has once again highlighted the possible pitfalls for global companies in China's infant trademark system. It also highlights a tension within the communist government that wants to cling on to its protectionist practices and yet wants to attract technology investors to develop China's economy.