Sep 19

My Citizen M experience – why innovation can drive you mad


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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Sep 17

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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Sep 12

Latest experiences with Nine Sigma part 2

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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Sep 8

Latest experiences with Nine Sigma – Open Innovation

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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Sep 5

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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Aug 7

Artificial retina follows TRIZ line of evolution

Further to my previous posting on the BMW GINA concept car, I’ve just been reading an article in New Scientist about an example of increasing flexibility of form in vision systems. Going back many years, the first light sensitive¬†devices were composed of a single photo-transistor (1 point detection). Later, charge coupled devices (CCDs) were developed, initially in single row, line form (1 dimension or line). Later still CCDs were developed in a two dimensional flat array. Over time this basic format has been developed so that the number of devices has greatly increased, leading to far better image resolution. Until now, however, the CCD has remained two dimensional,¬†bringing increased complexity in the lens and focusing system and restricting field of view (compared to the human eye). According to the article, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign have created a hemispherical CCD. They have done this by slicing off the detection portion of a normal CCD and cutting fine holes in it to form an ultra-thin mesh. This mesh is then formed over a special elastic hemispherical former and then placed in a hemispherical support to create an artificial retina. A very neat example of theTRIZ law of increasing flexibility applied to shape and surface.

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Aug 5

Getting to Gemba – a day in the Cardiac Cath Lab


On Friday last week, I spent the day¬†at one of¬†the Cardiac Catheterisation Labs at St. Thomas’ hospital, London. Not as a patient, you understand, but as an observer. You might ask¬†why a moderately squeamish person like myself¬†would do this willingly? Well, my reason was a principled one. I firmly believe that it is impossible to innovate effectively without a¬†clear understanding of the context and usage of your final innovation. Ideally, I like to “go to gemba”,¬†otherwise known as¬†the place where the problem exists, so I can¬†dig for tacit knowledge and observe unconscious behaviours. In¬†this case, however, I’d rather got the cart before the horse because, due to the wonder of Open Innovation and Ideagoras, I answered an RFP (Request For Proposal) on Nine Sigma about improvements to catheter systems, used, for example, in cardiac pocedures, without ever seeing how such an item might be used. At the time it was a bit difficult to see the system in action because a) my foot was in plaster and b) I didn’t know any cardiologists. So, I went ahead and broke my rule and answered the RFP with what I hoped was a pretty creative and novel solution. The Nine Sigma clients at the other end thought so too for a while until they got frightened off by the potential development time. Meanwhile I found a willing cardiologist and he invited me into his cath lab for a day. It was quite an experience – I didn’t pass out and I learnt a lot! Here are a few observations:

There are a lot of people in the lab during a procedure. I’d imaginged just a cardiologist and maybe a radiologist before I went but actually there were two cardiologists present during all the procedures I witnessed (admittedly more complex than average), one radiologist, one catheter nurse, one nurse to look after the patient who is conscious throughout, one technician to monitor the vital signs and at least one further technician behind the scenes to record key image video sequences

Everyone has to wear heavy lead oversuits to protect them the from x-ray radiation from the imaging system. My feet really ached at the end of the day – so much for a sedentary lifestyle!

The x-ray dose and contrast fluid (used to show the artery size on the x-ray image) dose are strictly limited due to the exposure risk to the patient and capacity of the patient’s kidneys to process the contrast fluid from the blood stream.

You can do an awful¬†lot “percutaneously” – see, I’ve got the jargon going already¬†– it means through the skin, under local anaestetic. You can even fit a replacement atrial heart valve using a catheter!

It can be really tricky to find and unblock arteries sometimes, especially if the blockage is close to the intersection with a larger vessel. This can be a very frusutrating and fiddly procedure requiring super-human levels of patience. This illustrated how much the cardiologists rely on “feel” when using the catheter system.

There are already some very impressive technologies available to reduce the friction in catheter systems. One such solution is known as “crosswire”, a 0.014″ diameter hydrophillic coated guide wire often used to break through blockages (as part of a procedure known as Angioplasty). Aparently “a lot of people don’t use crosswire because although its easy to position, it doesn’t stay put”. This is because it can be pushed out by the patient’s blood pressure.

There is a tremendous array of different catheter systems in the lab store, with different end forms, from many different manufacturers. Each cardiologist has his or her personal favourites.

Anyway, I didn’t disgrace myself and I’ve been invited back for another day or so. What did I learn that I didn’t know before? The key things I learnt were:

  • the guide wire isn’t just a means of steering the catheter into place as I thought. It is a functional tool in it’s own right
  • Feel is really critical to the cardiologist
  • There is a huge benefit in speeding up procedures in terms of patient wellbeing and lab efficiency
  • Current catheter systems lack¬†the level of detection capability and controllability needed for some more complex PCIs (Percutaneous Cardiac Interventions)

The whole experience reminded me that in terms of innovation getting to gemba is critical. When was the last time you saw your products in use up-close and personal?


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Aug 2

Innocentive in the press – More PR for Open Innovation

Category: Open Innovation

Further to my posts on Open Innovation “Ideagoras”, I’ve only recently seen an article from the New York Times on Innocentive. Aparently, the New York Times article was the 3rd most e-mailed article of the day. I guess I must be out of the loop because the first I heard about it was in an e-mail from Alexander Orlando of Innocentive in which he said:

According to the stats I got from engineering, 5000 new Solvers registered last week after the NYTimes article went live, between midnight on July 22 and midnight on July 27

This goes to show that Innocentive is continuing to grow at a rapid rate and the importance of good PR.

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Jul 30

Open Innovation – an interview with Dr Bettina Von Stamm


Recently I met Dr Bettina Von Stamm of the Innovation Leadership Forum at the FDIN Breakthough Innovation seminar where she delivered a very interesting and insightful presentation on Open Innovation. Afterwards, I asked her if she would mind answering a few questions on the topic of Open Innovation for this blog and here is what she had to say:

1. Can you tell us a little about your background and about the Innovation Leadership Forum 

The Innovation Leadership Forum is the umbrella under which I conduct all my activities: anything to do with understanding and enabling innovation, primarily in large organizations. This includes teaching, writing, working with companies, and running a networking initiative. While I have been thinking and working around innovation for the past 16 years, the current networking group has been running since 2004 – though it built on a networking initiative, the Innovation Exchange, I ran for 5 years on behalf of London Business School. We started with 4 companies in 2004 and are now up to 17 subscribed members, some more are currently considering to join us. I would talk a lot more about this wonderful group – but I think the real interest here is around Open innovation. Those who’d like to find out more can always email me or have a look at the website.

2. What would you say are the main benefits of engaging in Open Innovation?

I always say that innovation happens when you connect previously unconnected bodies of knowledge. For me, that is what open innovation is about. It is also about allowing people with different perspectives and different backgrounds to take a look at our issues, problems, opportunities with a different set of glasses, a set of glasses that we would never put on. The way the human brain works means that we organize things in boxes, and not only that, we tend to stick new things into existing boxes, often ignoring the fact that they don’t really fit… This is one of the barriers innovation comes up against. By opening up to the outside world, and inviting others to look at issues through different glasses we might come up with entirely different solutions.

That was a rather long answer to your question; the short one would be: the main benefit of open innovation is that it allows us to access a large group of people with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking, which is key to innovation. 

There are other benefits, for example, working with external partners on an idea makes it more difficult for it to be killed; it would plainly be too public and embarrassing; especially with radical innovation this can be a considerable benefit.

Another is that all organizations have to manage their resources carefully. Tapping into outsiders can provide a useful additional resource. However, I believe that at some point in the future this may raise interesting questions about what organizations actually stand for – that becomes a rather philosophical discussion…

3. In what ways is Open Innovation different from earlier models of collaboration? 

I think that most other forms of collaboration are about problem solving Рrather than uncovering opportunities. In more traditional forms it seems to be the case that we identify a problem and then start to look for the right partner who can help us solve it. Open innovation is different; we are looking for external parties to help us uncover new areas of opportunity that we can, perhaps jointly, pursue. 

Implicit in the above is that we have to have a different mindset if we want to engage in open innovation. Here all the arguments about believing that we have all the talent inside our own organization, that we know best what our customer wants etc. come into play.

4. What steps would you advise an organization interested in engaging in Open Innovation to take?

Talk to some organizations who are doing it. but be careful, what is right for one organization is not necessarily the right approach for another. You need to understand your organization’s culture; you need to know which aspects would support open innovation and which aspects would get in the way. You need to work with both.¬†

You should also think about what the areas are where you are willing to share, where you are truly willing to open up. True collaboration only works if there are benefits for both parties, and both parties share openly and honestly. If it is one-sided Рas much of traditional subcontracting and outsourcing is Рit will not work. 

This also means that you need to think about what you can do to help develop trust and respect between the collaborating parties. Given that they might come from quite different perspectives, with different values and mindsets, you are in trouble otherwise (the prejudices we have against those who are different from us can be quite a powerful obstacle).  

5. What are the critical components you need for successful Open Innovation? 

In a way I have already mentioned it above:

  • A willingness to share
  • Trust and respect between both parties
  • A win-win situation
  • Structures and processes that enable and support open innovation, and provide a solid link back into the organization

 6. Specifically in terms of Breakthrough Innovation, why can an Open Innovation approach help? 

This comes back to my first point. We all suffer from what is called so wonderfully ‚ÄėBetriebsblindheit’ in German. It basically means you cannot see the wood for the trees. We get so used to our way of thinking and doing things that, at least for most of us, it is quite difficult to still see the patterns and rules according to which we are behaving and judging. As we all know, for radical innovation we need to think ‚Äėoutside the box’. Given the way our brain works this can be rather tricky, and it can be much easier for an outsider to see an entirely different approach or solution.

¬†My thanks to Bettina for this interview. One point which comes home to me from Bettina’s answers very clearly is that fundamental to Open Innovation is a new mindset which, in itself, needs to be “open”. Sometimes, in my view, this can be the biggest obstacle to innovation of them all.



Jul 29

Turning unconscious behaviour into insight

I’ve just watched a video on ethnosnacker which really brings to life how ethnographic research can uncover and rationalise unconscious and seemingly irrational behaviour. The video shows two shoppers making purchase decisions and they both illustrate a four step process all shoppers go through. the four steps are:

  1. find a reference point
  2. compare other products against the reference point
  3. chose the product
  4. final check

This insightful model has had profound impact on point of sale design across many categories. Very impressive – good one Siamack.

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