Thinking and Working Individually Can Create a Team of Corporate Innovators

Teamwork, Change, Ideas, Innovation

Ideas inspire change and innovation. How are you encouraging your team to make a quantum leap and share individual ideas that can become a company-wide team championship? Talk about a win-win situation.


Japanese Compete To See Who Can Turn The Back Of Their Truck Into The Best Garden, And The Result Is Awesome

Nature, Gardens, Ecosystem
Image credit: zoenren-osaka

Gardening is increasingly becoming a luxury for the younger generation. As more people move to small apartments in the city, having a plot of land to cultivate and play around with isn’t really an option. However, as these Japanese landscapers prove, with a little creativity and imagination anything is possible!

The annual Kei Truck Garden Contest, held by the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors, brings gardens to the people. Kei Trucks are tiny flatbed trucks that are commonly used in the construction and landscaping industries in Japan. Every year, landscapers from across the country bring their trusty vehicles together and set to work creating amazing and whimsical little gardens in the cargo hold, to see who can take the title of best mobile landscaper.

These little slices of mobile natural beauty incorporate many different forms of design, from the traditional Japanese garden to more modern elements, using lighting and even water features to create unbelievably intricate scenes in a tiny, and totally unexpected space.

So perhaps if you would like a garden but didn’t think you had the space, you could take inspiration from these guys and create yourself a pop-up garden. Scroll down to check the landscapers work out for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments!

Overcoming innovation challenges

Insurance, Innovation, Tech
Image Source: International Travel & Health Insurance Journal
ITIJ 208
For the travel insurance industry, sometimes the development of products and their delivery can seem to be happening at a slower pace than in other industries. ITIJ investigates the challenges insurers have to overcome when trying to bring a new product to market
Speaking to industry experts, it seems that the primary challenges faced by insurers depend on where in the world a company operates. For US-based insurance firms, the complex regulatory environment can cause no end of headaches, although there are ways and means of mitigating the issues that being regulated in 51 states causes. For European companies, meanwhile, the problem of legacy IT systems was mentioned by more than one contributor.
Rules and regs
Carolyn Leckie, Director of Marketing for US-based travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, believes that the state-level regulation environment in the US serves as a limiting factor when it comes to innovation in the industry, saying that ‘it restricts new coverages’. This sentiment is echoed by Robert Gallagher, Senior Vice-Present and Chief Operating Officer of AIG Travel in the US, who told ITIJ: “The time it takes to get new products and rates filed can be lengthy. While the role of the regulator in protecting the consumer is an important part of the process and one that we endorse, it can extend the time it takes to get from product and service development to availability on the market.”
The path to regulatory approval can be a bumpy one, but there are ways and means to fill the potholes on the way. For Squaremouth, the answer lies in having the right partner. Leckie said: “Finding the right underwriter is key. Our underwriter, Berkshire Hathaway, is proactive, listened to our needs and assisted us. The research they’ve conducted
The state-level regulation environment in the US serves as a limiting factor when it comes to innovation in the industry
helps us determine what is important to customers and allowed us to tailor our new products based on these needs.”
Bringing a new product to market is an expensive business, and even for global insurers the issue of prioritisation of resources is a key consideration when it comes to innovation. Chris Price, Head of Travel Insurance in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Zurich, told ITIJ that a company as large as Zurich has many competing initiatives, some of which fall under the banner of ‘company strategy’ and others that are just good ideas. “The skill,” he said, “is balancing these imperatives for as smooth a process as possible.” IT is one of a number of resource-heavy issues that must be considered when it comes to product – and indeed company –  progression, a concern echoed by Rafael Senen Garcia, Chief Executive Officer of Coverontrip, a new digital insurer in Spain, who is well-versed in the challenges faced when bringing a new product and company to the marketplace. The IT legacy is an issue he faced in particular, as his new business process required the design of new software. Among the other challenges he cited were distrust, immobility, fear, being outside of your comfort zone, vanity, insecurity, and mediocrity. An intimidating list, to be sure. “In order for your innovative product to reach safe port,” he said, “you need co-operation and collaboration within your organisation.”
The issue of regulation, however, is not considered to be overly burdensome by Garcia – as long as products are compliant in the first place. The real question, he said, is momentum of the marketplace itself. How does an insurer know the exact right points, to launch their new product? Is it too soon, too late, are the customers really demanding this from their service provider? “But these questions are not actually obstacles,” he opined. “They are part of the nature of the innovation process.”
Another problem faced by the insurance industry is historic – with huge amounts of knowledge and expertise on the table, sometimes it can be difficult to take a fresh approach to a problem, said Paul Firkins, Hood Group’s Sales and…Continue reading


When the Stars Align: A New Constellation of Innovation

Innovation, Constellation
Image Source: Karina Mullen Branson

By Samantha Becker and Seth Greenberg | EdSurge

Innovation is happening all over higher education today—but it is happening in islands, pockets and clusters. Around the country it’s happening at large four-year public institutions like Arizona State University and small two-year colleges like Wayfinding Academy in Oregon. On campuses, it’s happening in the Office of the President, where grand visions find their footing, and in the office of an instructional designer, who may be helping a faculty member create their first course integrating VR content. Each of these institutions are home to optimistic changemakers: people who are passionate about supporting engaging, relevant learning experiences that are accessible and affordable to all.

But who are these people?

At the end of April, about 130 of these “dreamers, doers, and drivers” gathered for an unconference at Arizona State University’s research center, EdPlus, under the umbrella idea of Shaping the Future of Learning in the Digital Age. The event was brainchild of ASU’s new CIO, Lev Gonick, and co-convened by 13 institutions and organizations, and included representatives from industry as sponsors and thought partners. The backdrop of ASU was a fitting one; Edplus represents arguably the largest innovation hub at any higher ed institution and the university more broadly has been recognized as the most innovative school in the country by US News and World Report, in part for leading the charge for more accessible, affordable education.

The format of the event is worth reflecting on. Intimate events for increased information sharing, network-building, and cross-campus collaboration are becoming more popular. And the unconference format enables participants to engage with major themes—and each other—in ways that deeply resonate with them.

Even in a space where everyone was bound to have their own institutional and personal agendas, we saw several themes emerge, some of which become became fodder for “neighborhood” action-oriented discussions.

1: Innovation in the Neighborhoods

As participants leveraged the power of ideation and design thinking, along with a helpful tool called Ideation360, here are a few of the ideas that bubbled to the top:

  • How to foster personalized learning environments (PLEs):
  • Understanding the implications and use cases of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality VR) — categorized as extended reality (XR), along with artificial intelligence (AI);
  • More effective understanding of how to use data and analytics to measure learning and drive decision-making;
  • Applying micro-credentials to recognize all forms of learning;
  • How to nurture the next generation of diverse, university leaders
  • Rise of new organizational models for collaboration

Each of these topics shared more questions than answers. A collection of popular tweets represents…Continue Reading

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The most dangerous stage in self-driving innovation

Innovation, Driving
Image Credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images


Self-driving cars will probably save a lot of lives in the future. But right now, the tech is new, and most of it requires human intervention. Experts refer to several levels, 1 through 5, of automation in cars. A 5th level car would have no steering wheel or gas pedal. Several cars on the market now fit into the middle category; requiring human intervention with some autonomous features. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, about the risks of having humans only partly in control. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Missy Cummings: Well I think that one of the problems with these levels are that they seem linear and that we should go in order: No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. But the reality is there are really two different paths. There’s the 1, 2, 3 path, and then there’s the 1, 2, 4, 5 path. And the reason that this is an issue is because level 3 which is where the automation is partially capable but not fully capable, and we have to have that in the cases where the cars can’t perform under all conditions, then the car hands over control back to the human. And this is the deadliest phase. In fact, I’m pretty much against level 3. I don’t think it should exist at all. Because one thing I know as a former fighter pilot is having a human step inside the control loop at the last possible minute is a guaranteed disaster.

Molly Wood: And yet we see car makers going there. In fact, I think we arguably see Tesla pushing that on consumers. Does it make drivers part of a living R&D lab on city streets?

Cummings: Well I think there are two issues here. No. 1, should we have…Continue Reading

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Creating an Ecosystem that Encourages Disruptive Innovation

Innovation, Ecosystem
Image source:

By Gene Quinn | IPWatchdog

Without strong patent rights the incentive for risk-taking entities and the investors who support them is simply not present. The risk-reward calculus tilts too far toward risk for investors when patent rights are weak, as they are now in America. This is one reason why today there is more funding in China for inventions related to artificial intelligence than in the United States.

A weak patent system that tilts toward risk and away from reward only works to starve those small, nimble actors most likely to achieve paradigm-shifting, disruptive innovation. Large entities full of mid-level managers and bureaucratic red tape have lost the ability to innovate. That is why giant tech companies like Google and Facebook either acquire smaller innovative companies or they simply copy smaller companies, as Facebook has rather notoriously explained is its policy and they have obviously done with respect to Snap.

When the risk-reward calculus tilts toward risk, particularly when it does so in such a dramatic fashion as it has over the last decade in America, those nimble, creative actors are starved of the capital they so desperately need. This is true because innovation doesn’t just happen, despite what so many of the tech elite want you to believe.

If by chance you believe innovation just happens, as if by magic, ask yourself why it is the Microsoft invests $11 billion annually into research and development? If innovation just happens why spend so much money to create something that will already come to fruition on its own? Saying, or believing silently, that innovation just happens and doesn’t require an ecosystem to support, encourage and nurture it is ludicrous. You might as well believe in leprechauns riding unicorns sliding down rainbows!

Taking risk is absolutely required in order to achieve innovation of a magnitude great enough to have any hope to compete with entrenched market players. This should hardly be surprising. By its very nature innovation is the act of introducing something new; something that has never existed before. Challenging what is established is never easy. The path of least resistance is simply to go along, not to disrupt.

Oddly, the merits of disruptive innovation are trumpeted in every corner of the business world and throughout Silicon Valley, but then policies are advocated that make such innovation all the more difficult to achieve. If we want disruptive innovation we need an ecosystem that supports, encourages and nurtures risk-taking.

If you want to ensure you have a bountiful harvest you don’t just plant a single tomato plant and hope for the best. You plant several, perhaps many, which maximizes your chances of getting the tomatoes you want and need. Innovation is no different. The more risk-taking that results the greater the likelihood that one or more of the resulting innovations will be disruptive.

Assuming America wants paradigm-shifting, truly disruptive innovation we need to recognize the need to incentivize the risk-takers and those that provide the capital to those risk-takers who dare to challenge the status quo. This means policies, laws and rules that foster innovative activities from smaller entities who are most likely to innovate.

With an eye toward policies, laws, rules and actions that would most benefit innovators, their endeavors more attractive to investors and more feasible to pursue, the U.S. should adopt policies, laws, rules and actions including:

  1. Treating patents as property, not a government franchise, not as a public right, but as a vested property that is presumed valid in all forums and treated as a real asset with a quieted title at some point.
  2. Declaring loud and clear that software, medical diagnostics, medical discoveries and biotech innovations are patent eligible.
  3. Recognize that a patent cannot be property without the right to exclude, and when a patent has been infringed and withstood all invalidity challenges the patent owner must presumptively be entitled to an injunction.
  4. Institute fewer post grant challenges because surely if the Office is correct about the 96+ percent quality output of examiners there cannot be as many mistakes made during prosecution as have been identified by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).
  5. Requiring the PTAB to issue final written decisions confirming the validity of patent claims challenged by not instituted, which would allow estoppel to attach to those claims the PTAB has necessarily determined to be not likely invalid.
  6. Introducing a new category of entity between micro-entity and small entity for companies with 50 or fewer employers, which would benefit small businesses and start-ups that actually innovate.
  7. Moving applications to the front of the line where the micro-entity or small business applicant has received angel, venture capital or crowd funding, which will advance technologies that have the greatest commercial potential.
  8. Reducing or eliminating all USPTO fees for micro-entities and the newly created small business category.
  9. Redefining micro-entities so that the number of patent applications filed no longer disqualifies applicants from micro-entity status, which unnecessarily disqualifies serial independent inventors.
  10. Instructing patent examiners to actually follow the law and presume the applicant is entitled to a patent unless a credible rejection can be made, and terminating or reassigning patent examiners who refuse to follow the law and instructions from senior Officials.
  11. Terminating, or reassigning, patent examiners who have not issued patents for years.
  12. Shift quality review of patent examiners away from primarily considering only patents granted to equally considering patent applications that are denied.

Turning the patent system around is possible, but bold action is required given the significant hole America has dug for itself, and given so many nations around the world understand that a strong patent system is the way to economic prosperity.

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The 10 I’s of Innovation

Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration

When you are inspired, an idea can promote imagination, with resources that provide information to identify factors for inventing and inviting creative minds to the table to integrate their insights for implementing innovation.

There is not one single ingredient that brings innovation to fruition, but all of the components that formulate innovation should not be underestimated or devalued.