Tue, 20 March 2018
For large companies, does innovation happen tucked away in a lab? How does a professional services company innovate? I delve into these questions with Michael Whitaker (“Whit”) of ICF. He dispels misguided concepts about service innovation. The unique challenges of this industry demand a unique process. Whit shares his process for innovation at ICF.
A global company, ICF delivers strategic consulting services. ICF employs experts in a range of fields. It may seem an unlikely place to innovate. But it’s a non-traditional industry creating non-obvious solutions.
Whit joined ICF after ICF acquired his startup, Symbiotic Engineering. He went from a small, nine-person company to a large, global one. Innovation at Symbiotic Engineering may have been tenable. It is a bigger challenge at ICF. He watched efforts to instill an innovation culture. But it didn’t take off. ICF lacked a clear pathway to innovation. With advancing technology, ICF recognized the need to keep apace. It was time to get serious about innovation. ICF established Whit’s position as President of Emerging Solutions.
Whit employs a “pragmatic agitation approach”. The ICF performance engine is delivery of expert services. To provide clients with the cutting-edge, ICF must keep ahead of technology. It’s a delicate balancing act.
In the services business…
You have to weave innovation into the company’s daily workings. Service innovation must happen while keeping the performance engine on track.
[shareable cite="Michael Whitaker, ICF"]The vast majority of employees throughout their entire careers have been incentivized and trained for execution, not for innovation.[/shareable]
This industry conditions most employees to execute not innovate. Execution and innovation are different skill sets and mind sets. How do you get the domain expert to think about innovation?
Whit considers his role as supportive and integrative. He works to lay out clear and believable pathways to innovation.
The book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change has been a good resource. He highly recommends this book to those pursuing service innovation.
Steps to building service innovation include:
To learn more about ICF, visit their website: https://www.icf.com/
You can follow Whit on Twitter at Papa_Whit
On Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelwhitakericf
Would you like to continue the discussion with Whit? Join him at The Innovator’s Community on the Slack channel.
If you know someone who would be a great guest for the show, drop me a note.
Tue, 13 March 2018
I’m searching for real innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI). A surfeit of AI products leaves me skeptical. Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but the term appears on countless products. Even so, some companies do the work of real innovation in AI.
Charting AI Territory
DeviceBits is one such company. This start-up charts a unique path. Their AI customer support suite is distinctly real innovation. AI customer support is new ground and makes a widespread impact. It brings value to people’s everyday lives.
The Rankled Customer
Who hasn’t reached peak frustration with some new tech product that won’t function? You seek answers on the internet and through product instructions. Finally, you call customer service. This heightens the tension. Maybe the customer service agent can’t resolve the issue. Or the agent doesn’t answer the phone quick enough. At this point, you may do one of the following. 1) vow never to buy that company’s products again. 2) return the faulty item to the store. 3) shelf it until something better arrives on the market. From the company’s perspective, they lost a customer.
The Catalyst for Real Innovation
This frustration was the catalyst for JC Ramey, DeviceBits CEO. His previous start-up focused on mobile application development. This was early in the mobile applications market. The business grew from a basic text messaging app to millions of apps. In a short time, the growth of technology was exponential.
During this tech spurt, JC observed customers - including himself, friends, and family. People struggled to understand, use and fix these products. This highlighted an area for improvement: customer support. JC had career experience in tech and telecom. He’s also a self-described “ultimate consumer.” This gave JC insight from both sides.
AI Innovation Gets Real
DeviceBits’ customer support solutions integrate AI. Customer service agents access AI generated knowledge portals. The portals enable quick response and resolution. Another option is AI assisted self-service. Customers can resolve issues on their own using this interactive support. These products exemplify real innovation. They reach beyond incremental improvements. DeviceBits transforms a critical aspect of business.
Key lessons JC shares from his experience (big telecom to start-up):
1. Put yourself in the place where things happen.
2. Your team is critical.
[shareable cite="JC Ramey, DeviceBits CEO"]Know your swim lane really, really well. And no matter how brash you may appear, everybody respects the knowledge that you have and what you bring to the organization.[/shareable]
Track DeviceBits at https://www.devicebits.com/
Today’s Killer Innovations podcast begins Season 14. It’s hard to believe the show has run for thirteen years. I’m thrilled to propagate the best of the innovation world. Killer Innovations exists to foster creativity and innovation. This past year welcomed two new resources to stoke the innovation fires. The Killer Innovations mobile studio and The Innovator’s Community. I'm excited about the new season and hope you are too.
Direct download: Real_Innovation_in_Artificial_Intelligence_S14_Ep1.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:57am PDT
Tue, 6 March 2018
Are VR/AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality) glasses the future? It might bring to mind an awkward image. People lumbering with bulky headgear. Besides intense gaming, what are the practical uses for VR/AR technology? By refocusing the innovation and having the courage to pivot, GridRaster Inc. reveals that VR/AR technology is not reserved for gaming enthusiasts. This innovative start-up is creating the foundation for a new world.
Seeing Beyond the Bulky Glasses
Rishi Ranjan, CEO and Founder of GridRaster Inc., joins me in the mobile studio to share his insights on this burgeoning technology. VR/AR tech has amazing, unexpected uses. But it’s hard work on the road ahead. It’s a road with some twists and turns, such as when the GridRaster team made the decision to pivot.
Rishi highlights the complexities of developing infrastructure to sustain VR/AR for the future. Speaking of future, Rishi believes VR/AR glasses will be the next ubiquitous device.
“We strongly believe by 2025, everyone will be walking around with these glasses. But, we have to start building the infrastructure today.”
Mobile phone shelved, we will all don a pair of streamlined VR/AR glasses to interact with the world. Think sunglasses with superpowers.
Consumer or Industry: Refocus
Things weren’t so clear for Rishi in the beginning. When GridRaster Inc. started in 2015, the focus was on VR/AR for the general public – the consumer. They centered the technology around the mobile device platform. Gaming was the assumed end use.
GridRaster soon realized refocusing the innovation was essential. Their focus shifted from consumer to industrial and retail businesses. Industries can afford to invest in this technology and see a return on investment.
Time to Pivot
Rishi states, “This will be the beachhead - they can build the network based on these use cases.” GridRaster continues to develop and refine their technology. As they establish infrastructure, the game's afoot. By refocusing the innovation now, their future customers will have a product that is usable and affordable for gaming and beyond.
[shareable cite="Rishi Ranjan, GridRaster, Inc."]It’s hard to change the passion, but you can’t afford to lose time in a start-up.[/shareable]
Balance and Adapt
Rishi has two lessons to share:
1. Keep your family onboard with the start-up process.
2. Be ready and willing to adapt, refocusing the innovation if needed.
Check out GridRaster’s innovative VR/AR technology at https://gridraster.com/.
Follow us on the road at The Innovators Studio on Facebook to check out where the mobile studio is headed next.
If you are looking for advice and coaching around your innovation efforts, then reach to The Innovators Network or look into joining the community of innovators that are hanging out at The Innovators Community.
Direct download: Refocusing_the_Innovation_for_the_Future_S13_Ep53.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:03am PDT
Tue, 27 February 2018
Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” Marco Carvalho would like to share this lesson with a fellow entrepreneur and innovator.
As Marco travelled the world, he discovered the need to reach out to others and extend a hand. Be it mentoring, networking, sharing of information and expertise, innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum.
Small Town Entrepreneur with Big Dreams
At thirteen, he teamed with a friend’s father to bring internet to his hometown in Brazil. Arriving in Shanghai as a late teen, he confronted the complete aloneness of his situation. A mentor would have made the way smoother. Although the road was difficult going it alone, Marco acquired a gamut of international business development and trade experience.
Mentoring that Made the Difference
Marco’s dream is in the realm of interactive children’s toys. Endeavor is a non-profit organization that promotes entrepreneurs worldwide. Through the support of Endeavor, Marco developed a solid network of mentors and supporters. Now based in California, he continues to expand his vision in interactive entertainment through his company, Immersive Play.
[shareable cite="Marco Carvalho"]When you’re an entrepreneur, everybody will tell you that you’re crazy.[/shareable]
Making the Right Connections
Technology barriers in product development led Marco to connect with Chirp. This U.K. based company uses sound to encode and transmit data. The U.S. network Marco gained through Endeavor allowed him to further Chirp’s exposure in the U.S. He now oversees Chirp’s business development efforts in the Americas. This is a symbiotic relationship. Marco uses Chirp technology in his Immersive Play products.
Keep the Dream Going
Marco states: “When you’re an entrepreneur, everybody will tell you that you’re crazy.” This didn’t deter him. It generated excitement.
Marco’s advice for entrepreneurs is two-fold:
2. Innovation takes time. Don’t rush it, test it…
Marco and I had the honor of hearing Eric Ries speak at a CES event. Eric provides an excellent gauge for keeping innovation on track.
To check out what Chirp has to offer, visit https://www.chirp.io/
Immersive Play can be found at https://www.immplay.com/
Seeking an innovation mentor or a community to share what you’ve learned as an entrepreneur? Join The Innovators Network.
Direct download: No_Entrepreneur_is_an_Island_Mentoring_Networking_Sharing_S13_Ep52.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:54am PDT
Tue, 20 February 2018
Imagine a major sporting event that you can’t sit at home with friends to watch on TV. Maybe you’ve had to work late or you’re a student returning from classes on the subway. You do the next best thing. You take out your mobile device to live stream it. To add to the excitement, you live chat with friends who are streaming the event. Then, you hear your friends cheer. What just happened? You missed it - the winning goal your friends saw first. Only seconds of delay but big disappointment. It’s prime time for a live streaming innovation.
South Korean start up company Hecas has tackled this problem. The company focuses on live video streaming solutions. Hoisoo Cho, Hecas Marketing Director, joined me in the mobile studio to discuss Hecas and its live streaming innovation.
Making Real Time Real
In live streaming, latency is the delay between a live event and the time it appears on your viewing device. As Hoisoo points out, what’s called live is not in real time because of latency. South Koreans love video live streaming. From sporting events to K-pop to personal broadcasters, South Koreans like to connect and watch in real time.
[shareable cite="Hoisoo Chu"]The seconds of latency will make the difference between users who stay or leave.[/shareable]
Hecas has stepped up to meet this demand for mobile low latency live streaming. With the Olympics hosted in South Korea, the timing couldn’t be better. Their customer driven solution has gained traction with big players in South Korea. Companies like South Korean Telecom have tapped into Hecas’s mobile live streaming innovation. Now Hecas is ready to break through international markets.
“The seconds of latency will make the difference between users who stay or leave.” Hoisoo affirms. For video streaming, I agree - latency is the new metric. It’s impact on a variety of applications is going to become more critical.
Friends and Failure
Two things that Hoisoo learned in the start up process:
Listen to this week’s podcast to learn about Hecas. It’s journey from a group of college friends to a company working with the largest telecom company in South Korea is inspiring.
Track how Hecas is shaping the future with live streaming innovation at http://www.hecaslab.com/
Direct download: In_Real_Time_-_Live_Streaming_Innovation_S13_Ep51.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 11:50am PDT
Tue, 13 February 2018
A video game competition between siblings is one of those simple joys of childhood. But it is no simple thing when one of those children has physical limitations that have kept him from that joy. His smile when at last he can play a virtual soccer match against his sister speaks volumes. Xogo is an accessible innovation that makes things possible for the physically challenged.
Motivation and Inspiration
People with disabilities are a largely underrepresented group in the U.S. Bansen Labs, the company behind Xogo, focuses on the needs of these people. One of their goals is to make technologies accessible at a reasonable price. Their merging of business and social good is inspiring.
Ray Abel, CEO of Bansen Labs, tells us about this remarkable product. He shares what brought the company from class project to the Cable Labs Fiterator. One of the things that sets Bansen Labs apart is its unique perspective. Dalton Banks, Bansen’s Chief of Product, grew up with a person who was physically disabled. This was his inspiration behind the class project.
When it comes to accessible innovation, Ray feels that those who have a personal connection have the advantage. The result is a product that looks better, works better, has a broader range, and a lower price.
From Classroom to Living Room
When you think of gaming, you may not think life changing innovation. From its beginnings as a class project, Xogo has emerged as an innovation with a broad range of uses. This technology interface product enables people easier access to and control of home electronics.
As the Xogo technology matures, its potential uses have expanded. If you know someone who gets frustrated with technology in the home, consider Xogo. It simplifies and streamlines home electronics. Bansen Labs has created an accessible innovation that opens new worlds to people.
To learn more about Bansen Labs and Xogo, visit myxogo.com and www.facebook.com/myxogo.
Direct download: Gaming_and_Beyond_Accessible_Innovation_S13_Ep50.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:59am PDT
Wed, 7 February 2018
Innovation can spring out of ideating beyond your own needs. Look to others’ challenges to shine a light on prime areas for innovation. Innovation can also come from dire need. Both cases push innovators to ask questions. What can I do to make this better? Can innovation through collaboration improve or accelerate the process?
John Chang, co-founder of Willow, discusses his solution to an overlooked problem. A mechanical engineer, John had the technical background. But the conversation with his wife about the challenges moms face launched Willow Pumps.
As part of a business incubator, John searched for areas of innovation. The spark of an idea began with his wife’s input. It became an innovation through collaboration with mothers – relatives, friends, business associates. He asked these women “what are the unmet needs of mothers with babies.”
[shareable cite="John Chang, Co-Founder of Willow"]The most gratifying result: knowing this product has helped women and babies. [/shareable]
The recurring theme: the breastfeeding pump is overdue for innovation. The products on the market were bulky and noisy. The basic design had not changed much since the pump’s development. In designing the product, John focused on the target customer.
Now available, the Willow pump is discrete, quiet, handsfree, and mobile. The most gratifying result: this product has helped women and babies.
Learn more about Willow at www.willowpump.com.
Timing is Everything
On the battlefield getting the right product could be a matter of life or death. The problem – long lead times for innovations. As a soldier, Jay Rogers felt open sourcing and crowdsourcing could accelerate military vehicle innovations. The faster turnaround would benefit the military.
Jay founded Local Motors to build upon this idea of innovation through collaboration. His first success was the Rally Fighter, the world’s first crowdsourced vehicle. It reached market within one year.
Justin Fishkin is Chief Strategy Officer for Local Motors. He is committed to impact investing and the environment. The company mirrors these values. At the core of Local Motors’ business are co-creation and microfactories. A microfactory is small volume production in local markets. This sustainable way of doing business has future impact. Justin believes it “could solve the issues globalization may have caused in the early days of outsourcing.”
Local Motors’ innovations are a fusion of ideas from contributors in all walks of life. The company exemplifies innovation through collaboration. In a sense, Local Motors is bridging the local and the global communities. Drawing innovative ideas from the far reaches of the world and bringing production down home to local communities.
Direct download: Innovation_Through_Collaboration_S13_Ep49_UPDATED.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 9:00am PDT
Tue, 30 January 2018
Among the emerging technologies, gadgets and hype, what innovation standouts were at CES 2018? What trends have staying power?
With almost every startup claiming AI, I’m having flashbacks to the dot com era when every business changed its name to get in on the buzzword bandwagon. Is there something behind the AI buzzword that substantiates the fervor? Interestingly enough, while the competition intensifies in areas of innovation, I notice a new level of cooperation among industry leaders in other areas.
I welcomed three guests-Tim Bajarin, Steve Guggenheimer, and Teresa Hsu- to the mobile studio to discuss the innovation standouts we’ll see in 2018.
Tim Bajarin is President of Creative Strategies, Inc, and a renowned technology trends analyst. During the interview, he shared his view of some innovation standouts in Augmented Reality (AR), 8K TV and Voice User Interface.
[shareable cite="Tim Bajarin"]Don’t create what you think the customer wants – address the pain points to create the solution.[/shareable]
Tim’s eyes weren’t on AI so much as AR. He anticipates AR becoming more sophisticated in its capabilities and uses. He envisions an evolution of AR technology that eventually delivers real time information and overlays of data through a pair of voice command AR glasses.
Tim considers the leap in TV resolution to 8K remarkable. Sometimes the drivers that propel innovation come from unusual places.
Voice User Interface technology is a neck and neck competition in an ecosystem battle. In Tim’s opinion, Amazon has emerged as an unexpected leader because they asked the right questions. He advises clients: don’t create what you think the customer wants – address the pain points to create the solution.
Interested in hearing more from Tim? Follow him on Twitter @bajarin or visit his website Creative Strategies
Steve Guggenheimer has been a long time executive at Microsoft having most recently been Microsoft Chief Evangelist. In his new role as Microsoft Corporate Vice President of AI Business, Steve has shared what he sees as the real benefits of AI solutions. In summary -- he sees AI as a phenomenal area for innovation.
[shareable cite="Steve Guggenheimer"]Take time to experiment and apply AI to focused areas for innovative solutions.[/shareable]
Three types of industries Steve believes AI can be applied to are:
His advice: take time to experiment and apply AI to focused areas for innovative solutions.
The technologies on display cover a broad spectrum across all avenues of our lives. Teresa Hsu, Senior Manager with Consumer Technology Association (host of CES), shared that the trend is not just gadgets, but the technology inside and behind products that make them smarter.
Direct download: Three_Perspectives_on_the_Innovation_Standouts_from_CES_2018_S13_Ep48.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:13am PDT
Tue, 23 January 2018
What technologies are on the innovation horizon for this year? I had a chance to sit down with acclaimed Silicon Valley tech analyst, Bob O’Donnell, at the The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to discuss the highlights of the show and where tech innovation is headed.
Bob shared that many of the products on view at CES were technologies debuted in past years, but with tweaks, improvements and continuing development. In his opinion, we are now coming in to the necessary, but less thrilling, phase of making things work together – a gradual progression, migration and integration - steps that need to happen to make these innovations a viable reality.
Fully Autonomous Vehicle
One of the biggest features at CES that Bob was most excited about was the fully autonomous vehicle. The timeline for final market release of these vehicles is a good example of how public expectation and actuality are not synchronized. Bob shared that this is a great example of where the public may expect an innovation to become accessible within six months, but in reality it will be three to five years before we are closer to these vehicles hitting the road.
Voice-based computing was everywhere and the competition is stiff in the area of voice-assisted tech. Bob proclaimed that this is the new OS war with a lot of contenders. The advances and possibilities in smart home technology were impressive although smart home and voice assisted technologies are not without their problems.
[shareable cite="Bob O'Donnell"]Voice-based computing is the new OS war[/shareable]
2018 Technologies On The Innovation Horizon
Want to keep up to date with what Bob is tracking? Check out www.Technalysisresearch.com
[callout]Click below to listen to Bob O'Donnell's discussing the technology and innovations at CES 2018[/callout]
Direct download: What_Technologies_Are_On_The_Innovation_Horizon_For_2018_S13_Ep47.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 8:16am PDT
Tue, 16 January 2018
Have you ever circled around a busy city block searching for parking? You know how frustrating it can be. If you run a business that depends on drivers finding a parking space, parking becomes mission critical. Is there an innovative parking solution that addresses this problem?
This weeks guest, Jeremy Leval, discusses the parking challenge and how Parknav addresses it. He shares his journey from entrepreneurial youth to becoming a part of an innovative solution to a very common problem.
[shareable cite="Jeremy Level"]Don’t overlook the benefit of accelerators and incubators to grow your business[/shareable]
As a child with the lemonade stand, Jeremy had the idea of offering free pretzels to keep the customers coming back for more. His desire to challenge himself and stand out compelled him to try new things, learn new skills and use these skills to establish start-ups. Jeremy continued to move into new avenues of entrepreneurship, seeking ways to solve everyday problems in creative ways.
Innovative Parking Solution: Parknav
While enrolled in an MBA program, Leval kept the entrepreneurial flame burning by teaming up with a colleague, now Parknav CEO, to establish a forum for engaging a community of entrepreneurial-minded people. Jeremy found that listening to and learning from others’ mistakes was especially useful in side-stepping potential pitfalls in his own venture. He emphasizes the value of having input from people who are disconnected from your particular venture and are willing to provide a critical, independent and qualified viewpoint.
After college, he met a University of Illinois professor who had a simple problem: finding street parking in the city. Such was the beginnings of Parknav, a navigation system that finds that elusive street parking space for you.
As Parknav began to come together as a business entity, Jeremy and his business partners had to determine where to focus their product offering – who was their best target audience. They came to a decision to pivot from their original consumer focus to focus more on a business-to-business solution.
[shareable cite="Jeremy Leval"] Don’t give up on the first no. Persevere.[/shareable]
During the interview, Jeremy shares his advice to innovators:
[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on innovating solutions to very common problems[/callout]
Direct download: An_Innovative_Parking_Solution_That_Predicts_Where_You_Can_Park_S13_Ep46.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:35am PDT