Tag Archives: innovation

IBM Connect 2013 Notes: Innovation Lab

This is another in a series of my notes on IBM Connect 2013. here are my notes from 2011 and 2012. These notes cover the Innovation Lab Tour showing work by IBM Research.  There were a number of interesting applications in varying states of development from proof of concepts to working apps in pilot with active users. I have cover the wrk of IBM Research in Cambridge for some time and was pleased to see what they are up to now (see for example, IBM’s Social Software Initiatives: Part Three – Internal Applications and More IBM Research on Enterprise 2.0 – Activities and Other Tools).  I looked at the following on this tour

Best Fit Expertise – with Dan Gruen

It helps find matches for expertise requirements by refining the request. There is a tree diagram that asks clarifying questions as you enter information. Such questions as availability, recent experience with required task or company are examples. Once the questions are made final, candidates get ranked and other factors are applied. You can also track requests to see where requests are coming from and what types of requests are being made to anticipate growing needs. Dan said that the model within it is being used as a framework for the related applications in the expertise area on display in the lab including the Social Media-based Expertise Locator and the Expediting Expertise discussed below.

It was great to see Dan again. I wrote about his work in 2005 and said the following. Dan Gruen presented Unified Activity Management. It looks at work from an activity perspective and lets you chart business process (e.g. responding to an RFP) and associated best practices. You drag in documented sub-steps from other processes to improve your process. You can find work process related documents and people. I wish we had this application in 1993 when we created the insurance underwriting KM system that was very process-centric. A key concept in Unified Activity Management is that you do not have document processes as a separate activity. The application records the process in the context of supporting it. Then you can access this recorded process and mix and match past processes to create new ones. This was the illusive goal of some of our early KM efforts. Just do it and the system will document the useful stuff without you having to do the extra work that often interfered with documentation. Kudos to Dan.”

Social Media-based Expertise Locator – Uri Avarham

You can use the Social Media-based Expertise Locator to find experts on any topic base don social media data such as: tags, communities, wikis, blogs, forums, bookmarks, etc. Then you can view evidence to learn what makes them an expert in the field. Next you can find out how to connect with the expert. You can also find people similar to the given expert. It was developed by the IBM Research Group in Haifa. Here is a screen shot on how it works.

Here is a pop-up on an individual.

Expediting Expertise – Jie Lu

This tool combines analytics and social software to concretely measure the user’s current expertise level for a given topic. Then it can facilitate improvement with learning recommendations. It allows you to rapidly identify and grow expertise within the organization. Here are two screen shots to show you how it looks. First there is your score.

Then there are recommendations for how to improve your score.

Social Knowledge Management – Hiro Takagi

This tool uses information sources to uncover knowledge assets. Then employees can “like,” “mention,” and/or share their discoveries. People can also post requests for documents on certain topics and others can find them. Then the documents get placed into Connections for greater accessibility and further enhancements.  It employs “cardification” by which a report card is created for each document where it can be rated and ranked. It will get elevated in Connections if people find it valuable. To get started the tool uses gamification to help useful documents go viral. Here is an image on how it works.

Work Marketplace – Steve Dill

This tool allows people to post work assignments and have others bid on doing them. This work exchange allows request to be shared within a community or across and organization. Colleagues can select, bid, or compete for work. It is especially useful for people between projects. After a project is completed the person’s participation is evaluated. A digital reputation can be earned based on the work performed. Teams can self-organize to bid on projects.

IBMers Who Tweet – Casey Dugan

This tool first takes input from employees on possible IBMers who are tweeting. They look at anyone how mentions IBM in their twitter profile or in other ways. Then possible matches are found in IBM Connections profiles. Matches are contacted to verify accuracy and asked if they want to be included in the directory that gets analyzed. No one is required to participate. Over 500 IBMers have helped classify 7,000 Twitter accounts. Then the Twitter activity is made visible and analytics are applied including sentiment analysis and topic identification augmented by demographics and interactive data visualization. Below is a sample screen shot.

IBM Social Business Clinic

Kate Ehlich provided a demonstration of a survey that IBM is offering their clients on how effective their current social business is functioning. Below is a sample set of results. You can compare the results you gave your company (red) with the global averages (green) and those for your industry sector (gray).


Enterprise 2.0 Innovate 2012 Notes: Open Innovation

I was pleased to attend Enterprise 2.0 Innovate on the West Coast for the first time. It occurrred November 12 – 15 in the Santa Clara Convention Center. Here my notes from this year’s Enterprise 2.0 2012 conference in Boston. Here are my notes from the session: Open Innovation: Making the Best of Collective Intelligence in a Socialized Enterprise, led by Andrew Filev, Founder, Wrike Inc.  Here is the session description.

“Why limit innovation to just a few dedicated professionals if you can involve input from many more creative individuals at various stages of the innovation process? The open innovation model is one of the areas where collective intelligence is leveraged in the most prominent way. This session will observe why open innovation has the potential to become the more competitive innovation for your organization.

The opportunity to plug into the best talents and their revolutionary ideas regardless of geography and cultural differences, increasing cost-efficiency of your R&D, facilitating quicker feedback loop – these and many other advantages of open innovation model will be analyzed at the session by Andrew Filev, who, in addition to being the CEO of an innovative software company, is the founder of an international robotics challenge team. Focusing on some success stories from the IT space and his own experience of implementing the open innovation model, Andrew will pinpoint some recommendations of making the most of collective intelligence in your organization.”

Andrew began by defining open innovation. It was term by Henry Chesbrough at Berkley in 2003 as a paradigm that assumes that firms should use internal, as well as external ideas. Innovation extends from the core team to other departments and external collaborators.  Possible collaborators include: research firms, universities, suppliers, end users, independent professionals, and other industry players.

Damon Gragg from ThermoFisher Scientific spoke next. He is a global software manager for the firm. It serves science. His team faced a challenge to re-do their processes to serve work across the organization. First, they had to collaborate well within their own internal group before they could reach out. They used triads between marketing, development, and test groups as the developed software. It gets all these key stakeholders involved up front. It helps ensure that ideas from all contributors get evaluated.

Then with internal processes in place after nine months they reached outside. They expanded the triads to include external people. This move helped make their software relevant to new markets. Then they included customers within the triads.  They also created an ideas exchange. Anyone can contribute and every month cash rewards are given for the best ideas even if they are not implemented. They used APIs for customers to create their own solutions. Sometimes these customer creations were included into their general products. They adopted Wrike for project management. It is a social tool that enables collaboration across multiple sites, project tracking, internal and external visibility.

Andrew next covered the principles of open innovation. First, you gather input from outside your department and outside your company. You use external research and feedback. You find new paths to the market. You also use a more open business model.  Crowd-sourcing is one example of this open innovation.

He mentioned the Netflex’s million-dollar contest for the best technology for their customer site. The Netflix Prize sought to substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to enjoy a movie based on their movie preferences. On September 21, 2009 they awarded the $1M Grand Prize to team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos”. Their site said you can read about their algorithm, checkout team scores on the Leaderboard, and join the discussions on the Forum.

There are catalysts in the business space that drives openness. These include an expansion of remote work and the increasing mobility of workers. Another is the rise of social tools in the enterprise. Globalization is another related trend as is growing market competition. Open innovation has been embraced by many companies.  For example, Proctor and Gamble has over 1,000 innovation partners.  Lufthansa has an annual open competition to improve their air cargo work that received over 200 submissions. I would add Cisco’s I-Prize competition.

Andrew gave examples from his company. They work closely with their customers to get new ideas. Their customer support team collects ideas.  There is a platform for customers to suggest ideas and people can vote on these ideas. They do customer surveys and have website feedback forms. There is private beta testing. They use APIs for integrations. They make use of user driven translations to make their product locally relevant.

Enterprise 2.0 Innovate 2012 Notes: From Project Portfolio to Innovation Funnel

I am pleased to attend Enterprise 2.0 Innovate on the West Coast for the first time. It is occurring November 12 – 15 in Santa Clara Convention Center. Here my notes from this year’s Enterprise 2.0 2012 conference in Boston. Here are my notes from the session: From Project Portfolio to Innovation Funnel, led by Dave Rochlin, Executive Director, Haas @ Work Program, Institute for Business Innovation, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Here is the session description.

“Rigid stage-gating, incremental change requests, and project portfolio evaluation methods can inadvertently crowd out investment in more impactful innovation opportunities. Yet unlike start ups, established firms need to focus resources against the  “sure things” rather than speculative development. This session discusses the application of an “innovation funnel” approach to your project portfolio, by adopting lean startup principles and innovation best practices.”

Dave said that innovation needs to be embedded in the company strategy and you need to have a culture that allows for failure. An innovation funnel approach can help in these issues. He quoted Cathy Benko of Deloitte that a predictor of future success is your current project portfolio.

Dave mentioned that many of his students do not know how innovation emerges. They also do not see it happening in their companies.  One problem is that there is disconnect between traditional project evaluation practices and innovation. With innovation you need multiple approaches, you need to be able to learn and to experiment. You need rapid prototyping so you can fail fast. There needs to be cross-boundary work. You need to focus on problems rather than solutions.

If you follow the traditional project portfolio process you miss what is on the edges where innovation can occur.  His students are placed in firms. They find many maintenance projects and those for incremental improvements that have big backlogs.  They also found only 20% were using web services and there was low customer loyalty and significant customer churn.

He said that you need to send out expeditions. You need a big picture approach. Project portfolio practices are the enemy of innovation.  They way to solve this is to use an innovation funnel.

Dave then mentioned that companies said they needed more graduates that could help with innovation and not simply execute tasks well. So they made some changes in their program at Haas to support this request.

The innovation funnel starts with problem finding. Then there is opportunity assessment, concept design, modeling, experimentation and finally real innovation. It is a funnel so stuff gets thrown out as you proceed. However, you can know the answer before you start.

He showed a pizza delivery company that provides a button that you can place on your fridge to place orders. It is Redtomato.biz in Dubai. Here is a video on the red Tomato magnet. To develop this capability they looked at the issues. Customers switch pizza vendors often and the time to order than turn people off. Also, nothing in the fridge often calls for pizza. Here is an article on it (Fridge magnet lets users order pizza at touch of a button).

So they created this button with your preloaded information and present options to order. It uses your phone to make the orders. The user syncs the ‘VIP Fridge Magnet’ via Bluetooth with a smartphone, which they use to select their pizza order. The order is then tied to the user’s account. It increased sales five fold and had a huge ROI. This would have not happen in the large pizza firms in the US because of too many obstacles. It would have been too complex and did not have a known business case.

Innovation comes when you can get a lot of attempts so one will work. If it does not work, do not stop. Learn what went wrong and attempt to correct it and try again.

So Dave asked how do you create this funnel mentality? First, embrace the duality of the CIO role.  You have to be both responsive to the business AND drive innovation for them.  If you have tight budgets that all allocated to projects it is harder. Be sure to spend time on problem finding rather than simply problem solving. Agree on what you are solving before you start to solve it. Do insight identification before data gathering.

ROI can be an enemy of innovation. Look for other measures such as return complexity. In other words how can you reduce complexity?

Dave next discussed insight versus data. Find the “why behind the what.” Otherwise you will not properly understand the data.  Beware of what you know you know. For example, Bill Gates’ statement that “640k ought to be enough for anybody.” Challenge assumptions. You can jumpstart innovation by challenging what you know.

Innovation does not come for free. You need dedicated resources. Partner with business units and other stakeholders. Do not have stage gates but rather a process for each step. Avoid the concept that you too many ideas already. Avoid the statement, “do not come to me with problems but with solutions.” Actually defining the problems can be the most important contribution.

It was asked what is keeping firms from doing this? One factor is that they have processes that work for them. They are reluctant to go away from these proven processes. Then someone comes along and changes the game and they lose.

Crowdsourcing into the future – a report on Crowdopolis LA

Our friend, Catherine Shinners of the Merced Group recently posted a comprehensive review of the conference, Crowdopolis, that we want to share here given the context: crowdsourcing.  

Before that though – an AppFusions comment:

While bringing enterprise collaboration systems together via integrations is Appfusions’ “thing” – we obviously can only do that well by also possessing a solid belief and passion in the notion of crowdsourcing to bring together the people.

The platforms do this, the integrations do this, we do this (internally), and of course we also do this with our partners and customers in our business approaches.

Crowdsourcing collaboration is no longer just a good idea – it is a mandatory idea in today’s competitive market to deliver innovation – whatever kind, with fast, smart, and solid agile iterative ways.

That said, following is a great and thorough recap from Catherine on this theme:

The Daily Crowdsource hosted a conference at USC’s Davidson Center on Thursday, July 19. Crowdopolis, a fast-paced, day-long event, showcased crowdsourcing as a growing force in changing the structure of work. new business model development, high impact relationship building with customers, widening and accelerating innovation opportunities, and streamlining business processes (middle managers, start re-thinking your careers).

Using the Crowd to Innovate with Efficiency

Crowdsourcing is often associated with widely-cast ideation used as a way to innovate or solve problems, and as kick-off keynote speaker, innovation consultant and author Stephen Shapiro noted, simply asking for ideas can be a bad idea.

Many crowdsourcing initiatives become ‘glorified suggestions boxes,’ according to Shapiro, and he cautioned, especially for enterprise efforts, to ask a crowd for a solution also means having executive ownership, and organizational home for evaluators, transparent evaluation criteria and the resources to implement winning solutions.

Crowdsourcing in this context is about innovating efficiently, not just about casting a wide net, and so it’s vitally important to be thoughtful about posing the question or the problem to solve.  A key value of crowdsourcing can be to tap into varied sources of expertise and knowledge outside of a domain — Sharpiro used the example of a decades-long issue posed by submerged oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.

The problem of how to safely extract oil from icy Alaskan waters without the oil freezing had vexed hundreds of oil experts, but a chemist from the construction industry with expertise in cement had the answer.

Crowdsourcing – Building on Expert Community Strength

Crowdsourcing within a domain also has its value, and several companies utilize the approach within an expert community as a key enabler to their service delivery models.

Topcoder is a software product development company that brings the expertise of over 400,000 developers from around the world to deliver services along the spectrum of the software development lifecyle.  Indeed, Topcoder has atomized the work processes in that cycle such that it enables them to draw out hyperspecialists from their community.

New projects are sourced out to their community via contests – Topcoder has developed more than 30 specialist contest types and their developers compete by delivering a completed project.   Using this model, Topcoder then chooses the highest quality product and the coder is renumerated.   The second ranking coder does receive some renumeration, and the third receives points towards a monthly ranking and recognition program.

According to Mike Moore, SVP at Topcoder, the best quality product is obtained for the project, while the contests drives skills improvement of others in the community and reduces the ‘single-points-of-failure’ issue in projects – when three people do each task, there’s a better chance of rapid completion of product.   Topcoder’s clients include Google, Comcast (for whom they built the set-top box technology for iPad and Android devices) and the U.S. Government, including DARPA and Medicaire (this project was for real-time fraud detection).

uTest, according to CMO Matt Johnston, is the largest marketplace for software testing services with over 60,000 testers in their community from 190 countries.   These testers provide testing for functional, load, security, usability and other tests and have worked with startups, enterprises and NGOs.  uTest uses their crowd to deliver work product to projects requiring specialized skill sets and lets them scale their capacity to meet variable demand.

Both Moore of Topcoder and Johnston of uTest spoke of the importance of community to their businesses.  Each company manages an extensive community of expert members and provide them access to community resources, validates and affirms their skills and contributions through well-structured recognition programs, and draws in the community to contribute skilled training and learning programs.   The communities seems to function as guilds of experts, with work made available to the community through crowdsourcing.

It’s not all about software development and testing.   GeniusRocket provides video advertising services from its community of 600+ professionals who have been vetted for experience and quality work.  GuideRocket moved away from a contest model, according to CEO, Peter LaMotte, and now uses a process of curated crowdsourcing that protects clients strategies and messages.   Smartling provides crowdsourced language translation services for websites and mobile apps.

Crowdsourcing for Innovation

Several companies used crowdsourcing in ways that supports co-creation of business and innovation, enhances brand standing, and leads to new business investment and business models.

Stephen Pajieg, Senior Director of Corporate Growth and Innovation for Kimberly-Clark discussed a new initiative that was targeted as a complementary source of innovaton for the Huggies brand.  Looking at a target market of six millions entrepreneurial moms in the U.S., Kimberly-Clark created an online innovation program, Huggies MomInspired,  that makes cash grants of $15,000. to innovators to use as they see fit to advance their businesses or new business ideas.

Now in its third year in the U.S. market, the program also provides aspiring entrepreneurs with basic business information for the small business owner.   Winning grantees are also able to be mentored by Kimberly-Clark employees and can join a community to share experiences and get support from other entrepreneurs.  The company’s profile with their customers is enhanced as less than 3% of financial investments are made to the more than 10 million women own businesses in the U.S., according to Pajieg.

GE’s Healthymagination challenge crowdsourced ideas for innovation in breast cancer treatment, and awarded $100,000 to each of five breakthrough ideas.  Lisa Kennedy, CMO of the program spoke of the impact crowdsourcing can have on disease solutions, citing the protein structuring game Fold.it.    Gamers were able, in ten days, to decipher the structure of a protein called retroviral protease, an enzyme that is key to the way HIV multiplies.  Kennedy pointed out that new crowdfunding models and approaches to health and science innovations are emerging such as Medstartr and Petridish.

Kristin Kuehl is the head of community innovation for Nokia’s IdeasProject – an idea crowdsourcing effort that was initially internal to Nokia, but has moved to include consumers as well.  Not surprisingly their consumers like mobile applications, Keuhl said, with the project also helping Nokia developers get closer to the consumer — staff help refine ideas and bring consumers together at hackathons.   The IdeasProject, launched at SXSW in 2011, provides a platform for ideas and also organizes challenge areas.

Crowdsourcing and Microwork

Both Amazon Mechanical Turk and the Finnish start-up Microtask use a process of parsing out mini-pieces of work to a distributed work force.   Mechanical Turk (MTurk) functions as marketplace/broker between entities that need the service and individuals who sign up as workers to complete what Amazon calls Human Intelligence Tasks (HITS).

With over 500 million products in their catalogue, Amazon also employes Mechanical Turk themselves to rationalize and cleanse their product database, according to Sharon Chiarella, Vice President, Amazon.  Human micro tasks or HITS could include simple tasks like verifying content, identifying objects in photos or decoding catpchas.

Finland-based Microtask focus is on human powered document processing.  CEO Ville Miettinen described their company as bringing human level intelligence to the cloud.  Microtask conducted a joint project with the National Library of Finland to index the library’s archives in order to better enable web search of those resources.  Old newspapers, for instance, were originally printed in an old-fashioned typefont that makes it hard to determine a word’s precise spelling, even when scanned by OCRs.  To help decipher and validate the library’s archives, Microtask created an online game, Digitalkoot and with a voluntary workforce that engaged in the game, completed 5.2 million microtasks in the first 9 months of the project.

In microwork environments, accuracy is verified by task replication — the same task is sent to more than one individual: if there is a difference in the results, the task is then sent to more people to process.

Crowdsourcing, AI and Middle Management

Where is crowdsourcing going?  Crowdcomputing Systems brings AI and crowdsourcing into a business process platform.  In thinking about where this could lead, CEO Max Yankelevich invited his audience to consider the nature of cloud computing in 2006 — largely then a repository for photos, websites — hosting content — but by 2010 the industry was delivering very complex workloads in the cloud.

Crowdsourcing today is often in the realm of simple microtasks, he said, tagging photos, categorizing items.  Yankelevich sees business processes and operations like finance, accounting and marketing as targets.   Crowdcomputing Systems grew out of AI and crowdsourcing projects done at MIT labs, and he left the audience with a provocative thought —

You can never take advantage of cognititive surplus if you have humans in the middle management layer !

Crowdsourcing – Refactoring Work

David Alan Grier, Associate Professor of International Science and Technology Policy and International Affairs at George Washington University, and author of When Computers Were Human, brought the conference crowd some historical perspective on crowdsourcing and technological change.   Crowdsourcing is a means of combining expertise, experience and skill judgement — qualities that produce valued results.

The sessions at the conference highlighted various crowdsourcing forms – innovation, contests and microtasking.   Crowdsourcing extends traditional information processing, stated Grier, by adding judgment to the mix.

Grier suggested some historical examples of types of means of production or coordination of work that earlier had harkened to crowdsourcing.  He noted the case of Reine LaPaute, a French astronomer, who collaborated with two other colleagues to divide the computational workload to determine the next passing of Halley’s Comet in 1757.   William Henry Leffingwell, an early proponent of scientific methods in business practice, wrote about “suggestion systems” in the early part of the 20th century.

As Charles Handy noted in 1989, the expensive part of work processes is in the knowledge of management, and work processes in this highly networked, digital age is undergoing what Grier calls “refactoring.”  Crowdsourcing refactors controls in work, organizational and business processes making them more efficient and flexible.


David Bratvold and the DailyCrowdsource team  put on an interesting and dynamic conference and a great party at the top of the London Hotel in West Hollywood, complete with magnificent sunset.