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SOPA, Innovation and Potential Global Impact

SOPA, Innovation and Potential Global ImpactAcross many social networks and many blogs, you may have noticed a lot of discussion of SOPA. There is a clear explanation on CNNMoney but, in a nutshell,  SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is a bill going through the US Congress that is supposed to eliminate copy infringement and penalize offenders. There are plenty of people out there with rogue web sites who steal innovative and creative products. These rogue websites are located outside of the US but they This threatens not only the competitive edge of the companies who has intellectual property and products stolen. According to a letter to the editor of the New York Times, the US Chamber of Commerce, it “threatens 19 million jobs.”

No one is advocating for online piracy

What is at stake is that the bill is poorly written in its current form. Fortunately this week, support has eroded and perhaps the sponsors of the bill will take the opportunity to improve the language so it actually targets these rogue websites. Artists, musicians, film makers, entrepreneurs and other content creators should have their copyrighted material protected. No question. It just comes back to how the bill is written and can it do what is intended?

Could innovation be stifled?

There have been discussions about how to regulate the Internet. As you know, there is everything on the ‘Net. But one of the things that makes the Internet so attractive is its openness. Now we have so many ways to communicate, collaborate and share with one another new ideas for business. We’re redefining how we interact on a personal and professional level. And this is changing how business is conducted. Not only are companies and partnerships formed but what is truly intriguing is the capacity to the varied ways people can connect to create and produce intellectual property.

Since there are provisions in the bill to shut down sites that are alleged to have violated a copyright. This means that sites would be blocked by ISP’s, be removed from search engines and be denied the ability to collect payment from online payment services (ex. Paypal). It is unclear how a site could defend itself from false accusations. So if a site aggregates information or users interact with one another, there could be an allegation of an infringement or intellectual property or the ability to enable an IP infringement. Result: the site just disappears.

What could happen globally?

It seems to me that a number of small and mid-sized businesses will not only cease to exist. Cloud computing, social media sites and many other advantages that the Internet provides an avenue for these smaller companies to compete, attract and serve their non-US customers with lower costs and easy access.

Non-US businesses may find that there are just too many obstacles to doing business in the US. SOPA could have a chilling effect as there may be fears that it is a form of censorship and potential legal issues.

Want to add your thoughts on how SOPA could positively or negatively affect how business is created and conducted?

Join us on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, on Friday, January 20th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. We want to hear what you have to say.

Certainly it’s clear that I have some grave concerns about SOPA in its current form so my bias is negative. The US House and Senate have to create a bill that will be cognizant of what is really going on online, what laws currently provide adequate protections, the types of products and companies that are created and how this could adversely affect how business is conducted. Still online piracy is a problem.

What would you suggest?


Emerging Open Innovation or Something Else?

Innovation never seems to become a dead topic. However, lately it seemed to be less favored by business leaders. And yet, it is becoming clearer that our understanding of innovation is changing. Just yesterday, a client was emphatically telling me that he’ll know his product will be innovative when people buy it. So, maybe innovation is defined by our customers?

Is it who defines it or the process that creates innovation?

In a post from the Ivey Business Journal, Henry Chesbrough posits that how innovation will be managed is evolving as new technologies allow us to connect with one another. Think about where you work. How many innovation sites have been opened over the last few years? In the Greater Boston area, it seems like one is opening all the time.

Chesbrough’s point is that it’s the process that creates innovation but there will be several changes coming in the future.

1. Innovation will be more collaborative. Collaboration will come in many forms. Between technology advances that make it easier to collaborate virtually to including customers in the iterative process of a new product, there will be ideas and opinions exchanged making fora richer experience.

2. Business models have to be adapted. Chesbrough predicts that simply having great ideas is not going to be a sustainable model for a company. He writes, “[t]hrough devices like the business-model canvas of Alex Osterwalder, organizations are learning techniques to visualize both their current business model as well as possible alternative models.”  The effects of the global recession include a re-balancing of where economic growth will come from which will also influence how business models are designed.

3. Service economies and innovation. In his last prediction, Chesbrough notes that the majority of established economies are more geared to services than products. This means that how services are created and provided to the customer must be innovated. Some companies (e.g. Lego) are already moving in this direction. Another thing that Chesbrough notes is that service companies need people but also other options to serve their customers in the best way. He suggests that creating a platform that others can use is a viable way forward in managing innovation.

What do you think?

The way we produce actually may come from how we innovate the process of innovation. This could change the business landscape quite a lot! In the next Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, the focus will be on Chesbrough’s predictions. Some of the discussion questions will include:

  • How do you define innovation?
  • Assuming innovation is always about new things (e.g. the iPad), are we emphasizing innovation to the detriment of satisfying customer needs?
  • How will partnering with customers make innovation more possible? What is the possible downside to this collaboration?
  • What could one of these future business models look like?
  • What could it mean for a business to service/support their competitors’ products?
  • What changes will emerging economies introduce?

There are many more questions to pursue with this topic. I hope you’ll enjoy the lively and thought-provoking conversation on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, July 22nd at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT.


The Necessity of Creativity in 21st Century Business-#kaizenblog recap

CreativityThere is a lot of talk about creativity and innovation. Everyone’s got to have these to build these amazing businesses! Be new! Be original! Be…what really? Is this truly necessary?

Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge, founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and I decided to take on the idea of creativity in 21st century business for our #kaizenblog chat. In preparation for the chat, I did a little research and discovered 2 videos that talked about the importance of creativity in the 21st century. There are some who say that the “knowledge workers” are morphing into something else while others focus on how we will use the abilities of the right half of our brains more so than ever before. It’s worth checking out Dan Pink’s take on creativity here. Another person who has a lot to say about creativity is Ken Robinson who says the current education system kills creativity. If you are curious about how the conversation evolved, read this Transcript for #kaizenblog – Creativity.

It seemed to make sense to start at the beginning and ask, how do you describe creativity? More than just thinking up new ideas, it seemed important to find out what we all embed in our definitions of creativity. 

  • Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker)- “Creativity to me is all about innovation, new perspectives & thinking ‘outside the box.’ “
  • soumyapr (@soumyapr)- “Creativity is the ability to add disruptive change without losing the core value of an idea”
  • John Reddish (@GetResults)- “Creativity is going beyond or within to find new/innovative ways to expand consciousness /work-and we always need that.”
  • Andrew Fowler (@guhmshoo)- Remarkable content”
  • Joey Strawn (@joey_strawn)- “Creativity is the ability to show old things in a new way and the desire to create something from nothing.”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI)- “Creativity is continuous innovating ~ looking for new and better ways 24/7 365.”
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum)- “I think creativity is the ability to not be so focused on the path ahead that you lose the scenery options.”

The descriptions at time seem to contradict each other  and that is what is intriguing about creativity in general. Perhaps it is one of those things we know it if we see it? Another aspect that almost everyone made a comment or retweeted another participant’s comment regarding how action is integral to the creative process. Linda Naiman (@alchemize) seemed to capture this when she tweeted, “If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”

I suppose we could have continued the discussion that described creativity as there were references to how target markets define the value of the creative idea, if passion plays a role, and if challenge does provide the spark for creativity to occur.

So we came back to the idea that the 21st century will demand we use the skills of the right brain. If you are not familiar with these skills, let us pause for a moment to review them. The left brain is responsible for analyzing, logic, sequencing, objectivity, and looking at parts. The right brain is responsible for noticing patterns, connections, intuition, and subjectivity. If right brain skills are truly more dominant now, how does that shape the use of creativity?

The responses seemed to reflect the tension that can polarize many into being in the right brain camp versus the left brain camp. While there doesn’t have to be an either/or answer, the tension is worth noting.

  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland)- “W/ more right brain dominance, creativity should increase, but you still need left brain skills to support.”
  • Joey Strawn- “I agree! There needs to be marriage of the halves, while ideas need to come, there must be logical uses.”
  • Richard Becker (@richbecker)- “Creativity is seeing from a unique perspective. The right brain stuff is the boundaries we do it in.”

There are boundaries to right brain thinking? It seemed natural to ask how is the application of creativity the same or different in the 21st century? This part of the discussion picked up on the earlier theme of challenge perhaps providing the spark needed for creativity to occur.

  •  Amber Cleveland- “Creativity in 21st cent. is different b/c we have more tools, the same b/c we push our boundaries just like those b4.”
  • Joshua Pearlstein (@jpearlstein)- “It is the same, you have to be creative faster.”
  • “Richard Becker- “Creativity today isn’t all that different from Iron Chef. Limited ingredients often make for more interesting dishes.”
  • Caroline Di Diego- “Failing is def an ingredient for creativity ~ too much fear of failure NO creativity.”
  • Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial)- “In the Whole Mind World – Management=Knowing how to inspire creativity and how the heck to get out of the way.”

It doesn’t seem like we got any particular answers. It is clear from everyone’s responses that creativity is a necessity in  business, maybe even as we go forth as a society. It was also clear that we embed a lot of ideas into the concept of creativity.

What is your description of creativity?

What is the intersection between 21st century thinking and creativity?



Three Questions Are the Touchstone of Your Business

Do you follow your Hedgehog Concept?

Purpose.     Moneymaker.     Talent.

Three ingredients that keep you focused on building a successful business. It does seem like they are obvious but sometimes our enthusiasm or our desperation clouds our thinking. How do you keep them in mind when new opportunities, new resources, and new people cross your path? Good To Great: Why Some Businesses Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins has a simple three question formula to help you with that focus. This is a terrific book and  Collins presents several useful and provocative ideas throughout this book but the winner overall is the Hedgehog Concept.

What is the Hedgehog Concept? This three question formula is a way to focus yourself when you get a new idea or some other opportunity comes your way.

The three questions as Jim Collins poses them are:

1. What can you be the best in the world at?

2. What drives your economic engine?

3. What are you deeply passionate about?

The beauty of these questions is that they apply to novice entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, or entrepreneurial small business owners. They speak to your core values and the purpose of your small business. When innovation is an integral part of your business culture, planning and research are necessary tasks. Integrating the Hedgehog Concept into the early stage of planning supports motivation and momentum as well as saving money and time.

Take one of your new ideas or opportunities that has presented itself to you recently and evaluate it. How does it fit in your skill set? Does it fit in with your Unique Selling Proposition or how you differentiate yourself from your competitors? How is it similar to the services and products that already bring in revenue? Even if it is something you have never done before, does it seem to fit your “family” of products and services? On a rating scale of 0 (nothing) to 10 (absolutely ecstatic), how much does this idea or opportunity light your fire? By including these questions as your touchstone in the early stages, you know whether or not to go through the market research, product/service development, and the financial planning.

What if you can’t answer the questions? You are getting fabulous information from the process. Getting clarity about your business and yourself has an ROI too! There are times when we stray from what is most important to us or we feel we ought to follow through because we got advice from a mentor or advisor. Sometimes good ideas are not yours to pursue. Is it all right to give yourself permission to let something or someone go elsewhere?

How do you use the Hedgehog Concept?

Photo by GlobalP, iStockphoto

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Want to Meet Cool Entrepreneurs in Massachusetts?

 Entrepreneurship is alive and kicking in Massachusetts! While there are entrepreneurs of all types throughout the state, Mass Innovation Nights introduces you to some that are brand spanking new and some that want to show their shiny new toys. Last Wednesday, I attended my first Mass Innovation Nights. After hearing from Betsy MacKinnon (@thebetsy) that it was an ideal place for me to network, I wanted to go see. I did not leave disappointed!

Mass Innovation Nights is the brainchild of Bobbie Carlton of Bobbie Carlton PR and Marketing. Her goal is to connect investors, media, people who want to purchase products and services, and entrepreneurs. The events are held at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts and are free and open to the public. (There is an after-party at Biagio’s for even more networking.)

I got to meet presenters from a number of different companies. Viralskool just launched a week ago and this startup focuses on crowdsourcing viral video production. There were two innovators that specialize in SMS text marketing; KaOoga and Jittergram. Another business provides an interesting service for people who are planning how to use new space, SpaceMax. Consider this as the liaison who thinks of about the efficient use of space that you have forgotten or were not aware of and the architect thinks you have already considered. For wine drinkers, there is a new app for iPhone and iPod Touch users. Check out Drync and you can remember and even get that great wine you loved at the restaurant. At the after-party, I was introduced to Bobbie who explained to me that these events are marketed solely through social media. Considering the size of the crowd, the message is getting out! The great thing about networking at the event and later at the after-party is that you get to put names to people like Jeff Cutler, Ari Herzog, Chuck Tanowitz, and so many others. (There are some people I need to meet properly as we somehow skipped the introductions.) If you are interested in new ideas, innovations, and entrepreneurship, definitely go to Mass Innovation Nights.