Archive for September, 2008

Innovation in a strategic vacuum – not exactly a recipe for success

September 24th, 2008 | Category: Innovation direction,Strategy

I visited a company (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) the other day who, although doing the everyday stuff OK, seemed to¬†have no business direction or worse still,¬†any strategy aimed at the future. We discussed some possible innovative ideas and some new ways the company might market itself but I couldn’t check any of these against my first innovation question “does it fit with strategy?”. All I got was silence and “well we might do this, or that”. The whole experience served to remind me how difficult it is to create meaningful innovation in a strategic vacuum. It can work but only if the company has a single decision maker in charge of the business who can decide if the innovation is what he or she wants. Otherwise, it is very easy to go around in ever decreasing circles, eventually disappearing in a puff of obsolescence.

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My Citizen M experience – why innovation can drive you mad

September 19th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Opinions,Product Reviews


While visiting Philips Applied Technologies last week, I had the opportunity to try out the Citizen M hotel described in a previous post. As a reminder, Citizen M sets out to create a quirky, low cost, five star hotel experience with the help of some cool technologies from Philips.

To be honest though , my own experience was a bit mixed, so here goes with the good and the bad:

Good stuff:

1. On-line booking was relatively easy once I’d got the hang of the website and you could do some cool things like individualise the look and feel of the room. I chose “party”, “cyan” and medium temperature.

2. Checking in and out was easy and I was assigned a card to use for any purchases during your stay.

3. The room itself was reasonably comfortable if not massive. OK for a one night stay. The bed was really comfy.

4. The room controller has a lot of functionality, controlling among other things lighting, alarm, TV, blinds, and music. You could set it up to get some quite cool effects. Incidentally there was a 500 euro fine if you absconded with the controller.

5. The bar was good and the whole place seemed to be pretty busy.

6. The food quality was good

7. It was quite engagingly quirky, although I’m not sure about Marvin the hotel mascot, who appears in each room

Bad stuff:

1. The toilet was curiously exposed, although you could pull the doors around it closed. It just felt a bit wierd, that’s all.

2. The sink was small and awkward to use

3. Oh dear, the shower! In order to get the water flowing, you had to close the doors but when you got inside, you had to endure 10 seconds of cold water hell until the shower got up to temperature. The shower also had a rather serious leak.

4. Although the food was of good quality, the choice was limited and to get a hot meal you had to use a microwave cooker.

5. Am I being stingy but 116 Euro for one night doesn’t seem like “low cost” to me?

Overall, I’m not sure I’ll go back for more. Certainly not until they fix the shower – it really was a maddening experience and you can almost hear the conversation about not wanting to spoil the room design with a different, more useable shower arrangement. Innovator’s Sweet Spot Verdict: Near Miss.

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Technology Innovation at Philips Applied Technologies

Last week I visited Philips Applied Technologies in Eindhoven and I was given the inside line on a number of impressive new technology applications.¬†Philips Applied Technologies¬†are¬†well experienced in applying and integrating a wide range of technologies including software, electronics, robotics, precision motion and sensors. They act as a consultancy wing of Philips, helping to broaden the use of Philips technologies and applications for a very broad range of clients in areas as diverse as retail, healthcare, energy and semiconductor manufacture. While there, I had a look around “homelab”, a demonstrator for the home of the future, I saw a number of neat technology applications and I experienced the Philips 3D TV in 42″ LCD format. Watching the new TV, without any special glasses, is a seriously convincing visual and sensory treat – I watched a very realistic 3D film sequence from Journey to the Centre of the Earth and witnessed Pinnochio’s nose grow out of the screen. It works by having an extra lenticular layer in the screen which is designed to interact with the displayed image and special¬†processing chips to send the correct images in real time to your right and left eyes to create the 3D effect. It’s a bit like a super whizzy version of the lenticular display signs you sometimes see which give a moving image or a 3D image as you move your head. To view the screen, you need to position your head so you can’t see any ghosting and then enjoy. Apart from this the only limitation seems to be that the resolution of 2D images suffers so the display is effectively limited to 3D. Initial applications are in digital signage retailing at up to $13,000 for the 42″ version. I think it’s called WOWvx.

Heres a quick video about Philips 3D TV to give you some faint idea of how cool it is.

Other cool things being worked on are lab-on-a-chip devices, already being used to detect high alcohol or drug levels in drivers, a new Optical imaging mammography system, Near Field Comms technology to enable WiFi, low cost noise cancelling headphones, some amazing precise mechatronic systems (for use in future 22nm fab lines) and some clever ways to configure LED lighting systems.

I was really impressed by the capabilities and technologies that Philips Applied Technologies have on offer. I can imagine that when used with strong market and consumer insight, application of the technologies they have on offer could easily result in some true market breakthrough products.

From the Open Innovation perspective, the whole High Tech Campus in Eindhoven has been through something of an opening up process over the last few years and Philips is finding new ways to showcase and connect with customers through initiatives such as “Meet and Match” where technologies are demonstrated and explained and customer needs elaborated.

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Latest experiences with Nine Sigma part 2

September 12th, 2008 | Category: Why Technology Innovation?

Soon after I wrote the last post, I received a response from Nine Sigma and it seems their client is interested on both my latest proposals. The client posed a number of penetrating and stimulating questions and I’ve fired off my responses. Hopefully I should hear more in the next few days. I wait with anticipation!

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Latest experiences with Nine Sigma – Open Innovation

September 08th, 2008 | Category: Open Innovation

Well, as promised in a previous post, I’ve submitted another proposal to Nine Sigma. Mindful of my previous experiences, I was very careful to make sure that the client was actually open for real breakthrough innovation. In fact, when I clarified the client’s desires, I was so inspired by the problem¬†as posed¬†that I submitted two proposals. In particular, I really liked the clients¬†wish to seek out breakthrough technologies for their problem (increasing the feed rate of alumnium sheets for car body panels) and for innovative approaches that have not yet been applied in this industry. This request suited me down to the ground and I was able to combine a TRIZ analysis of the problem¬†with some in depth, patent assisted, research into interesting technological fields. Following this approach,¬†I was also able to generate a patent which differed significantly from any prior art I could find. So, a good experience so far with Nine Sigma on my latest proposal. Hopefully this time I might get more than a little interest – I’ll find out more in a few weeks if previous experience is a guide.

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Successful Sporting Innovation and, shock horror, it’s British

Back from my vacationing now and kicking the blog back into life. While on my hols, I’ve been avidly watching the Olympics and I have to say, from the Brit point of view there has been a beacon of innovation in the shape of the Great Britain Cycling Team. Just over 12 years ago in 1996, GB cycling was an international joke but now, after an admittedly large cash injection, some really strong strategic management, focused implementation efforts, inspired coaching and leading edge technology innovation (basically anything which could give a proven time saving), GB cycling is the force in world track cycling. UK Sport set various targets for British sporting teams going into the Beijing Olympics; the cycling team was¬†tasked with delivering a higher than average¬†6 medals. In the end the cyclists won 14 medals; eight golds, four silvers and two bronze medals. Not only that but there were some fantastic breakthrough performances from young riders such as Stephen Burke and Jason Kenny which shows the system is really working and gets me excited about things going even better in London 2012. There has been a lot in the press, questioning why other sporting teams such as the GB athletics team can’t deliver the same type of transformation, unfortunately these sports are still being run by paid amateurs for now. Anyway, regardless of this, I think Dave Brailsford and his team have really hit the sporting innovation sweet spot. What an inspiring innovation example!

Just as a reminder, here’s a picture of Bradley Wiggins winning the individual pursuit. Apologies to non-Brit (especially Australian) readers.

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