Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tech Tuesday: New Year's Eve Edition

Things tech I am thinking about today...

  • The Times Square ball countdown to the new year began in 1904, and in 1907 had a ball with one hundred 25 watt bulbs.  In 2008 LED lights saving 88% on energy and enabling designs using 16 million colors brought the ball into a whole new era.  (TMCnet)
  • The Times Square Alliance, the group who bring us the Time Square Countdown on New Year's Eve, have a free app for iPhone and Droid to ring in the new year!  (Interactive Intelligence).
  • With the primary season ready to rev up with the Iowa caucus next week, my son shared some tech with me that helps you find the candidate most like you! Whether D or R, you can have fun with this!  (Project Vote Smart)  Comment back--how did it work?  It was pretty accurate when I did it!  It takes about 10 minutes to answer the questions and I am sure is market research!  Fun anyhow!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Is There Magic Sauce?

I just found out my friend Sarah has launched her own business start up!  This is for Sarah!

Invention v. Innovation: What's the Difference?

Invention is the idea, and innovation is bringing the idea to market.  As we claw our way out of the Great Recession toward recovery, invention is needed to generate new economy.

Enjoy today's reads as we head into the Christmas weekend! 

Question of the Day?  Do you still think there are great American inventors?
  • Invention v. Innovation (IP Frontline)
  • Invention is The Mother of Economic Growth (Bloomberg)
  • Malcolm Gladwell on the difference between invention and innovation (Tech Dirt). 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tech Tuesday

My Tech Tuesday reading:
  • As Banks Start Nosing Around Facebook and Twitter, the Wrong Friends Might Just Sink Your Credit (Beta Beat)  
  • What is a Brand Worth Online?  (IdeaLab)  
  • Mobile App Trends 2012 (IT Business Edge)
  • A look back on what PC World said the hottest new innovations would be in 2009.  How did they do in their predictions?  (PC World)
  • 2012 Innovation Honors (International CES)
  • The NTSBs Proposed Phone Ban: Tech Policy Goes Off The Road
    (Consumer Electronics Association)
    * 2017 Update: The Truth and Consequences of Districted Driving (Best of Bikers). 
Question of The Day: Do you support the proposal by The National Transportation Safety Board to ban use of all portable electronic devices while driving?  Post your comments.

How I see it: While it always seems like a good idea to make laws to protect human life, we must think before we act.  Freedom of American citizens on the one hand, and the regulatory powers of government on the other, are always the politics of lawmaking. 

Adult Americans do not need a nanny state.  What we need is to learn how to be safe drivers and use technology responsibly.  Banning modern communication technologies will hurt jobs and business growth in this fragile time of economic recovery.  There must be a better way. 

If we all make our personal safety, as well as that of others a main priority while driving, and remember a motor vehicle is a powerful, and potentially deadly machine when not operated properly, we might pay a little more attention while driving.  Each of us making a choice to drive safely so we do not end a human life is one we should all make right now.   

Think about if you die from doing something stupid driving.  Who will be hurt by your death?  Think about killing another person.  Someone's father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or grandparent?  What child will suffer the loss of their provider and caregiver?  How will that change their life?  

Let's stop being stupid and drive smart from this day forward!

Stat of the Day:  In 2010, 32,885 people lost their lives in motor-vehicle accidents; “distraction-affected crashes” caused 3,092 of those fatalities, while 10,228 resulted from drunk driving.

Follow us on Twitter @whatsnewamerica

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday Startup

What's New for a Monday?
  •  Innovation in urban planning is a challenge for old rust belt urban cities like my hometown--Buffalo.  "Buffalo, Then and Now (1902-2011)" is a very interesting read.   (The Atlantic).
  • As a follow up, this book "Small, Gritty, and Green" by Catherine Tumber is an interesting idea for American small to medium industrial cities to show innovation and ingenuity in urban revitalization. 
  • Three Things Entrepreneurs Do For Our Economy (Kauffman Foundation).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

China Thieves: Time for Justice

Quick Saturday thought before heading out the door...

Thought leadership = global leadership. The Chinese, in all their supposed superiority, have yet to learn this lesson. (Bloomberg--China Based Hacking Cyber Cold War).

Last week, I blogged about Steve Jobs' wisdom, "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

Stolen American intellectual property, not Chinese ideas, are meeting their demand for what is new. This strategy will work in the short term, but not forever. 

America needs to give the Chinese justice right now, and make them pay for their thieving ways using every means of economic, political, technological, and monetary force we can to make China pay back what they have stolen. Bottom line: The Chinese lack character, morals, and integrity. This is why they will never be America. How can we make China pay for what they steal?

First, we need to innovate new cyber security systems for government and business, and effectively lock out the Chinese hackers.  

Then, we can fight them with monetary policy, trade policy, and other political means.

Most powerful of all, we can use market forces. Is it more important to get cheap goods or stand up to the bully who steals your lunch every day?

U.S. companies can also gradually focus on developing nations. American innovation and investment in the next emerging markets can put competitive pressures on the Chinese. When China no longer has ideas to steal, they will have to stand on their own innovation capabilities.   Their students may have studied in America, but they cannot copy the fabric of what it means to be American. Chinese culture is not America. What makes America great is who we are. The fruit of who we are produces our innovation, economy, government, military, and free society.

  It is time for America to get a backbone and tell China we could care less how much debt of ours you hold. American political, financial, and technological innovation can lock the Chinese out of our market of ideas.

China can only copy and steal from America.  China is goof at building things, but terrible in creativity.  We are the nation where people like Steve Jobs are free to become inventors and innovators without restraint. Right now, the Chinese want what we have so they are stealing it. Those days are numbered. Eventually, China will want new things, and will not be able to steal them for America. Then what? They obviously cannot produce world changing ideas.

When China's thieving ways produce global justice and they are punished by government policy, market forces, and American genius to prevent the thieves from breaking in, America will still be innovating, entrepreneurs will be creating new ventures, and China will have to stand in line to get the American life--again.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Innovate or Die. Innovate and Die.

Every Friday, we will devote this space to HOW TO NOT DO IT!  Let's be honest.  We all have ideas that stink and do not work out from time to time.  We are not here to "pile on" people who had decent ideas that did not work out.  We all can feel bad for good people who chased a dream that died. 

This space will draw attention to innovation and entrepreneurship failures that fit the category, "What were they thinking?!" Failures so big or ridiculous we all need to learn a lesson from them. 

As we come to the end of another year, here are my two picks for the "What were you thinking" prize for 2011.  These are the business school case studies of tomorrow on innovation and entrepreneurship gone bad.

What were they thinking????  Lesson: INNOVATE OR DIE. 

Founded in 1971 by the Borders Brothers, Tom and Louis, while in college at The University of Michigan, then acquired in 1992 by Kmart, they stopped making a profit in 2006.  In February 2011, they filed chapter 11 and closed its doors in September. 

If you boil down to one underlying strategic error Borders made, it is this: LACK OF INNOVATION.  They were never first movers on anything.  They were forever "come-along" "me-too" players in the book selling industry when the internet and Amazon changed everything. 

  1. Giving their online business over to competitor Amazon was a huge mistake.  It was a branding message to the market, "We really fell behind, and want to make money off this internet thing, so Amazon does it better than us, so buy from Amazon."  Unbelievable!
  2. Ever hear of Kindle and Nook?  Absolutely.  Ever hear of Kobo and Cruz?  Me neither.  Too late to the e-book and e-reader game as well.  The CEO and Board of Borders failed their investors, ruined the brand, and fell behind in the book seller race never to catch up.  
  3. Borders majored on the minors and minored on the majors.  Again, by being behind the times instead of leading the times, Borders decided it would be a good idea to invest into CD sales of music when iPod and the Apple Store were revolutionizing the music industry.
  4. Bad management also plagued Borders.  Too much debt, expanding too much during the real estate boom years, and their branding and marketing failures are now a lesson that B-School case studies will teach for years to come on HOW TO KILL A BUSINESS.

What were they thinking? LESSON: INNOVATE AND DIE.

When CEO Reed Hastings got over-confident and then lost 800,000 customers, you have to ask, "What were they thinking?"  The market understood that Netflix would eventually raise prices.  Streaming content means licensing costs from content generators.  People get that.  They will compare on demand from their cable provider versus Netflix. 

But call the red envelopes we get in the mail to buy movies Qwikster?

After losing 800,000 customers their shareholders panic.  Then, those they buy content from want more money up front just in case they are a little short on cash.  Then, being short on cash, Reed Hastings has to go to the capital markets for money.  We get it.  Netflix is toast.

We do believe streaming video is the future of entertainment.  We also believe the content generators are looking for ways to eliminate the middle man distributor like Netflix and vertically integrate (MBA speak for "do it yourself). 

It was nice while it lasted.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On Political and Social Entrepreneurs; You or The Market?

Today's thoughts:

  • Political campaigns are high risk entrepreneurial ventures that make America free as compared to say—China.  For the stats scoring these ventures, Nate Silver does a great job.  (FiveThirtyEight). 
  • In the Ugandan children’s education funding project I lead, I have been working on getting resources into Bugiri district.  The last mile is always the hardest.  (Social Edge).  
  • This article just struck me as "pie in the sky."  “Forget The Stock Market; Invest in Yourself” (Fast Company). 
    • There are many non-financial thinking people in business.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Many visionary thinkers have no idea what something costs, but they come up with great ideas!
    • When you work on a venture, since there is not an unlimited supply of capital, it is a good idea to have a financial person on your team to ground the venture in a profit and loss orientation, and more importantly in a positive cash flow!
    • Why this article struck me as pie in the sky is it seems very "shoot from the hip;  trust your hunches."
    • There are many people who make statements such as  "you can do better investing in yourself than in the securities markets."  While that may be true, without quantitative measurements, investing in yourself may be gambling just as much as someone going into the stock market who does not know how to do a valuation and wants to play the casino. 
    • When you make a decision to invest in yourself, just make sure you do the numbers and project your return on investment. If you can make 8-9% in a balanced portfolio net of fees, you have to be be able to do 10% return on yourself to make it worthwhile. 
    •  This has helped many entrepreneurs from using dollars as toilet paper.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I am reading today

  • Social Innovation gift idea from actor Matt Damon (Just Means)
  • Great books to read about innovation (The Idea Connection)
  • Zadro Health Solutions.  Check out Zadro 365 Sunlight.  Four weeks of artificial sunlight makes a big difference during the long gray winter! I am trying it this year!!!
  • The Foursquare app is amazing.  Want to see how they used analytics to determine the most rude cities in the world? No offense to all of you polite folk in these locations:)  (Foursquare)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Christmas Gifts Since 1929: Why An Organization Can Never Stop Innovating

Why did I start a blog and podcast about ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship?  In my inaugural post of this project, I answered this question in a quote by Peter Drucker: The purpose of a business is to create a customer.  America still does this better than any other nation. That is why we are still the leading creative force in the world!

As the Christmas hustle and bustle reaches its annual climax,  it is evident that a successful business never stops looking for the next big thing.  That is how you create customers, beat competitors, and stay in business.  In finance, we say, "Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results."

As the passing of Steve Jobs is still fresh in our minds, one of the most important legacies he left is his wisdom.  An oft quoted nugget from Mr. Jobs is “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”  

What lesson does Christmas past have for the future of America?  If we want to stay on top of the global heap--KEEP INNOVATING.  Here are "must-have" Christmas gifts of bygone years as told by the ghost of Christmas past--you can still buy all of these--but they are no longer "must-have!"

1929--Duncan yo-yo. 
1930--Minnie and Mickey Mouse handkerchiefs
1936--Monopoly by Parker Bros. 

1943--The Slinky  *I am thinking about Ace Ventura right now...
1952--Mr. Potato Head
1975--The Pet Rock
1978--Hungry Hungry Hippos
1980--Rubik's Cube 
1981--The Smurfs 
1982--BMX bike
1983--Cabbage Patch Kids
1985--Care Bears
1989--Nintendo Game Boy
1990--Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1992--Talking Barney Doll
1993-1994--Might Morphin Power Rangers
1995--Beanie Babies
1996--Tickle Me Elmo

2000-Razor Scooters
2002-2003 Beyblades
2005--Xbox 360
2006--Playstation 3
2007--iPod Touch
2008--Elmo Live
2011---Kindle Fire, Let's Rock Elmo

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Startup

Ideas To Get Your Brain Back in Gear, Yeah It's Monday Again

Here is what I am reading to start the week:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Expeditionary Learning: Tapestry Charter School

Here in Buffalo where I live, there is a school that is truly outside the box.  Tapestry Charter School is part of the expeditionary learning model.  Education is a hot topic today.  Are American students really falling behind other nations?  Are we not able to compete in the global world?  Are we really turning into a nation of people who are math and science challenged and cannot think?

Tapestry Charter School is an educational innovator creating lifelong learners. 

Peter Drucker Tribute

As I begin this new venture, I must pay tribute to Peter Drucker who has inspired me on the journey of innovation and entrepreneurship. I will often return to these quotes as a source of wisdom.

  • Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information.
  • Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.
  • Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.
  • Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
  • Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
  • Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.
  • Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.
  • Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.
  • Management by objective works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.
  • Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
  • Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.
  • My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.
  • No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
  • People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.
  • Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.
  • Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.
  • The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.
  • The best way to predict the future is to create it.
  • The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.
  • The most efficient way to produce anything is to bring together under one management as many as possible of the activities needed to turn out the product.
  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
  • The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.
  • The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.
  • The purpose of a business is to create a customer.
  • There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
  • Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.
  • Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.
  • Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans.
  • We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.