I am always looking for new ways to be innovative. I love that through Inc, I get the chance to speak with so many experts on innovation, such as Clayton Christensen, Sunni Brown, Adrian Slywotzky and Geoffrey Moore. These experts shake up my initial notions on innovation and inspire me to try new techniques with my company. So when I came across Mark Proffitt’s predictive innovation workshop, I was very intrigued. Imagine being able to predict what consumers will want before it is available on the market. Imagine not playing catch-up with your product, but being the frontrunner of an amazing solution. To learn more, I spoke with Proffitt himself. I was so impressed that I took Proffitt’s workshop on predictive innovation -- here’s a summary of what I learned.
Perfect Solution for Every Problem
A main lesson that I learned is that there is a perfect solution for every problem that exists. Take transportation, for example. Right now, most of us drive cars. There are many fatal accidents on roads every single day. According to Proffitt’s analysis, consumers currently choose safety over fuel emission when considering which car to purchase. The government, however, has pushed strongly for better fuel mileage which is why hybrids are on the rise in car production. That’s an important improvement but it still leaves an unmet desire in the car industry: supreme safety.
Proffitt argues that cars must become a lot safer before we can jump to the next generation of automotive technology, which he believes could be something as futuristic as flying cars. Proffitt believes that safety and better fuel efficiency can harmoniously coexist in this futuristic world: “If you do not have the stop and go of traffic all the time, it’s a safer environment for driving and you also get better fuel efficiency.” But what is the perfect solution for transportation? I say that it’s the Star Trek transporter. It gets you where you want to go instantly with no accidents. One of the examples in the workshop showed how to predict this.
Step-by-Step Path to Innovation
Proffitt has a structured way to find innovative solutions that will meet unmet desires in the market. One part of the structured approach is to look at solutions as One, Many, and Continuous which will help you further your predictions. Take, for example, the use of video between video makers and video viewers. The One maker for Many viewers option appeared first—the cinema. Next came Many video makers to Many viewers: TV. After that came home movies (One maker to One viewer) and surveillance (Many video makers to One viewer). The expansion of TV, with movie rentals and subscription services, shifted TV from Many viewers to Continuous viewers. This opened up many options for innovation. Satellite TV along with sponsored web content satisfied the Many makers to Continuous viewers role. YouTube was successful because it filled the Continuous makers to Continuous viewers role.
Predictive innovation shows a progression of improvements in a cyclical pattern leading to the perfect product; once a product is out, customers’ unmet desires are measured and the process goes back through the whole cycle all over again, producing an even better product to meet another unmet need. You see this with Apple products. First there was the iPod, then the iPhone, then the iPad. It started with an initial piece of software and then expanded. Steve Jobs had the idea of the iPad before the iPhone, but the iPhone was produced first since there was a bigger need for touch technology to be incorporated into a phone. But Apple was aware that in the future, the iPad would be a need that customers would ask for and they were ready to deliver.
With this information, I can’t help but wonder what opportunities in innovation exist for timesheet software. How can someone continuously enter their time as opposed to going into a timesheet software program and entering their time once a week?
What opportunities exist in your industry? Can you capitalize on them in the next year? How do you, as a consumer, react when a piece of truly innovative technology is produced?
Have you considered going after a government contract? You might be wondering where to even start. These contracts offer the opportunity to work with the largest spender in the United States, and successful execution of a defense contract can result in a highly profitable relationship with the U.S. government. It can be daunting, for sure, but it can also be highly profitable and worth it to your business.
I spoke with Jim Hiles, managing director of National Security Solutions Business Development for MorganFranklin, to find out more about the current state of government contracting. Hiles’ areas of expertise include proposals, negotiations, contracting and government acquisition.
Hiles explained that it is harder to be a government contractor now than it was 10 or 15 years ago.
“It is now more difficult to compete in government contracting based on compression of proposal response times in Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contracts (IDIQ) and Task Order environments,” said Hiles. “Increased uncertainty of budgets and funding profiles, and prolonged operation under no-budget scenarios, such as continuing resolutions, also make things more difficult. There are several levels of bureaucratic review and approval in the acquisition process, which may create difficulties for various teams to work in concert toward the best outcome for all.”
So it’s now more difficult to be a government contractor, but does that mean it’s also harder to get started in this industry? Hiles says that starting brand new as a government contractor is actually easier than it was 10 or 15 years ago:
“In many ways, it is easier now because of the access to information on programs and Web-enabled processes, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Central Contractor Registrant and Tax Identification Number filings. Additionally, an increased number of set-aside programs, such as Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business and Women-Owned Small Business, expands the universe of potential paths for new entrants to establish themselves in a protected status.”
If you are a veteran-owned or women-owned small business, you will have an advantage as the government actively seeks to fund these types of businesses. In regards to the current state of the DCAA (Defense Contract Auditing Agency) auditing process, Hiles says that communication is essential:
“The ‘customers’ of DCAA feel there are areas in which it could improve. An increased level of attention from senior staff would build an increased level of trust with companies in the auditing process. Additional clarity and context in the written and oral communications would also speed the delivery and efficiency of information provided to the DCAA. Improvement in these areas would decrease costs to our company, since it would provide a more clearly articulated audit process.”
Clear communication during the auditing process equals savings. The need for increased communication directly results in collaboration technologies propelling government contracting forward.
“The Department of Homeland Security has interactive industry sessions that include instant messaging between attendees as well as recordings and transcripts of events,” says Hiles. “The Army Acquisition Technical Interchange Liaison Office uses Army Single Face to Industry to post and organize presentation materials and keep them available long-term. The emergence and maturation of the use of collaboration technologies by industry teams are also propelling government contracting forward.”
There is an opportunity right now to cash in on available government contracts. What are your best tips for winning a government contract? What pitfalls should businesses look out for?
Wordpress.com's parent company, Automattic, has announced a partnership with Federated Media this week that will give Wordpress.com's 24 million blogging sites access to Federated's vast digital advertising network. In other words, that Crimean military history blog could actually make you a little cash. For bigger fish in the blog pond, it could mean a significant new revenue stream.
The announcement, which was made at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, is thin on details right now. There's no word on how Automattic and Federated Media will share profits on Federated ads embedded in Wordpress blogging sites. More importantly, there are no details yet on how much the bloggers themselves will get to wet their beak.
This much is explained:
1. It will be an opt-in program for both bloggers and advertisers.
2. Federated is promising to embed ads "seamlessly" with sponsored posts and using what it calls "semantic search" to target specific conversations, rather than just key words.
I believe Federated Media will gain the most in this deal. For starters, it "Automattically" (get it!?) gains bragging rights to an extended reach of 24 million sites, putting it in the big leagues with the likes of Google and Yahoo.
Verizon has a new service called Facetones, a mobile app that creates and displays a video slideshow of your friends’ Facebook photos whenever a call from them comes in or you call them. The app, which syncs your phone’s contact list with your Facebook friend list, is created by Vringo, a provider of software platforms for mobile social and mobile video services. The app is available on the Verizon VCAST app store. It is also available as an Android app and soon will make its way to the Apple app store. The app first appeared in the Android store this May.
“We’ve not released a specific roadmap or release dates as of yet, but consumers could expect to see Facetones expanding its social reach to where it may be able to link to multiple sources of social information about your friends. Candidates for this kind of integration could include Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter or photo sites.”
It seems an obvious choice for photo sites would be Flickr, which would have the possibility of creating really cool slideshows of all sort of different things based on the caller’s interests.
“In 2006, phone personalization was based on simply selecting a ringtone,” said Medved. “However, we felt that just hearing your phone ring was outdated. We identified this vacuum and decided that the screen should display meaningful visual content when receiving an incoming call. At first we did this through our Video Ringtone App (Vringo) which allows an extra layer of personalization and further integrates the social element by enabling your video ringtone to play on your friend’s device when you call them. This we termed VringForward and it’s a patented technology and industry first.”
Vringo identified a hole in the market that they could easily fill. Their observations and predictions of the Smartphone and mobile market continued to be spot on.
“We predicted that visual content such as photos and videos would play a major part in the social platform evolution. Additionally, we understood that phones, however smart they become, remain phones and the key activity for consumers is still the phone call. However, the consumer can be well-engaged with visual and social opportunities during those focused moments during the phone call. This is how Facetones was born.”
It reminds me of the information I see when using rapportive.com in my Gmail account. Rapportive adds social media data to the right sidebar of the Gmail window so you can see information about the person with whom you are communicating: a picture, their latest tweets, LinkedIn data – it’s all there. It’s as if your memory for names and faces just improved when you use tools like this.
At Journyx, we’re investigating ways to apply this kind of idea to project management and group collaboration technologies. There are also many opportunities to integrate these ideas into sales and marketing capabilities. Have you done anything like this?
Have you downloaded Facetones? Does having a video slideshow make your call a more engaging experience?
The international wireless association that represents the wireless communications industry is officially recommending to employers to let workers "bring their own device to work." I put that in quotation marks because its actually the name of CTIA's formal campaign being pushed at this week's Enterprise & Application conference in San Diego.
So, do you agree? Should employers let their workers use their personal smartphones and tablets for work? Should employers provide the device, so it's strictly for business?
The issue comes with trade-offs.
Employers that let their workers use their own devices have the advantage of saving money. It's on the employee to pay for the device and the accompanying wireless contract. Some bosses may allow certain employees to expense their monthly wireless bills. At the very least, employees can write off their devices as an unpaid business expense.
From a morale standpoint, employers may face some grumbling from employees who don't want to foot the bill for what is at least partially a work tool. Then again, some are relieved to pick their own devices. I can't tell you how many people I know with a corporate Blackberry and a personal Android or iPhone.
Network security is also an issue. IT departments are often loathe to have company data living on a device that they don't ultimately control. For the worker, do you really want your employer to be able to wipe your phone clean in the name of protecting its own data? What if that data is co-mingled with your data?
AT&T is offering a new solution called Toggle, that basically partitions smartphones and tablets in two. Users can flip between work and personal life. So far, this is available only for Android phones. It may make it easier to keep your professional contacts, apps and e-mail separate from the personal. But, I'm not sure how this will appease IT departments who want to keep company data safe, encrypted and controlled remotely in case it gets lost or stolen.
What's your company policy—and what do you think of it?
It took almost two days, but Research in Motion has confirmed what half of its 70 million users have already known since early Monday morning: it's experiencing the e-mail and messaging outage from hell.
Tuesday night, Research in Motion assured customers it would be back up for good by Wednesday morning. There's no word on how long it will take to get the backlog of emails and messages delivered.
The outage is affecting the following places:
Europe, the Middle East (or Southwest Asia, as we now say in the post-colonial era), Australia, Chile, Argentina, and Africa.
In other words, customers in the United States, the Pacific Rim and Antarctica caught a break on this one.
Let's do this Harper's Index style.
Number of Continents affected: 5
Days off and on without service: 2
Million users screwed: 35
Number of lousy "core switchers" to blame: 1
The outage underscores Blackberry's core strength and weakness.
Regardless of your carrier, every time you send or receive data on a Blackberry, it routes through Research in Motion. This is great for security reasons, allowing RIM to encrypt customer data.
However, if and when they go down...
I’ve written about Netflix before and how much I like the service. I love the instant gratification of streaming movies and apparently I am one of the few people who doesn’t use the DVD option. So, as you all know, many customers were not happy with Netflix’s price increase followed by the split of the DVD and streaming movie services. This combination was so lethal that around one million subscribers left Netflix for other services.
The Price Increase
The first derailment for many customers was the price increase of Netflix. Before the hike, customers received unlimited movie streaming and one DVD at a time for just $9.99 a month. The rate increase raised the price to $7.99 for unlimited movie streaming or $7.99 for unlimited DVDs that come one at a time. To get both services together like before, the price moved up to $15.98 a month. What was lacking was an increase of services on Netflix’s part. Netflix did not say that they would increase their streaming library or increase the amount of new releases on DVD. So why would customers pay more?
Netflix Announces Qwikster
The next shocker for Netflix customers was the announcement of Qwikster. Qwikster was to be the DVD portion of Netflix, making Netflix just a movie streaming service. With this separation meant two websites, two accounts, two passwords – oh, and of course, the higher price tag. A user named Willie Williams said it best when he commented on the Netflix blog:
“Individually, your DVD and streaming services do not offer enough to justify the expense. As a bundled service, they supplement each other and provide the value that made Netflix wonderful. DVDs allow you to view newer releases in a fairly timely manner. The streaming service allows for viewing of the older catalog of movies that come up when you think of it but might not be worth waiting for to arrive in the mail.”
Williams also describes how other services would be cheaper than the new Netflix plan based on his five DVD per month average: simply go to RedBox, pay $1 per movie and get five DVDs for $5, thus saving $3, and then replace Netflix streaming with Amazon Prime and save $2. These two Netflix competitors provide quicker access to new releases compared to the usual 28 day wait with Netflix.
The Death of Qwikster
On Monday, Netflix announced that there is no more Qwikster. The price increase will stay in place but there will not be separate services/websites/accounts for streaming movies and DVDs. To try and show an increase of service, Netflix said they have added hundreds of new movies and thousands of TV episodes to its movie catalog. Netflix also says it is “now done with price changes”.
Netflix had it right for so long and this will surely go down as one of the worst corporate debacles. What can we learn from Netflix? Essentially, listen to your customers when you make a mistake. Do more market research before forcing a major change on your customers. Netflix obviously should have done more research before splitting their services. Perhaps the data they had regarding how many people rented DVDs didn’t accurately represent how customers really felt about Netflix. Let’s hope there is a significant increase of available movie content on Netflix: they’re going to need it.
I conduct many interviews via phone, such as with Clayton Christensen, Sunni Brown, MailChimp’s CEO Ben Chestnut, Adrian Slywotzky and Geoffrey Moore. I love phone interviews because I can learn a plethora of information from really interesting people in a fairly short period of time.
However I’m not happy with the technology I’ve been using to conduct these interviews. I use the speaker function on my office landline and have a voice recorder next to the speaker phone. Sometimes the recording turns out fine. Other times, the person with whom I’m speaking is on a cell phone or has bad reception and the audio comes out fuzzy, making it difficult to transcribe. It’s also an incredibly lengthy process to transcribe the interviews.
I’m a huge fan of Skype but I dislike that Skype lacks a built-in recording capability. In order to record Skype conversations, you must use an outside recording application and here are the best ones I’ve found so far:
Pamela is a Skype-certified app that records both audio and video calls through Skype. Pamela is free for up to 15 minutes of recording. For around $25, you receive unlimited call recording, as well as blogging and podcast support.
MP3 Skype Recorder
MP3 Skype Recorder is a free audio recording app. It stores the recorded audio into convenient MP3 files, which can be easily played on iTunes.
VodBurner allows the user to create a final video of the entire conversation. This would be perfect for adding my interviews to YouTube. VodBurner records the video for both conversations at the same time and allows the user to edit the conversation into one video. After a 14-day trial, VodBurner costs about $100 for a license, but you can get around that if both computers are using VodBurner as it is completely free for calls between VodBurner users.
HotRecorder is a Voice Over IP (VoIP) recording tool. However, it only works for versions up to Skype 1.4. On the upside, HotRecorder provides voicemail for VoIP services. On the downside, the trial version only allows two minutes worth of recording, which is disappointing. I do like that HotRecorder also works with Google Talk and other VoIP services.
While all of these are Windows compatible, the same may not be true for the Mac. However, there are Mac apps out there with the same functionality. I’d love to hear about the Mac apps you’ve used for this.
I really wish these apps had automatic transcription services, as well. I do a lot of writing and, while it’s useful that I can make videos of my interviews with VodBurner, I’m really looking for a tool that automatically transcribes the audio. I want an all-in-one tool that Skypes, records the audio and video, and transcribes the conversation to text. Know of anything like this? Which Skype recording app do you find most useful?
Co-founder and former CEO of Apple Steve Jobs, has died at the age of 56. The news was made public late Wednesday from Apple's corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Jobs stepped down as CEO earlier this year. In recent years, he had battled and beaten back pancreatic cancer and gone through a liver transplant.
Jobs is considered both one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs and captains of industry in the modern age. He was truly a pioneer of the personal computing revolution.
It was just yesterday that Apple announced its latest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S.
The iPhone is just one of the iconic technology products associated with the genius of Jobs. There are many, many others; from the Macintosh computer to the iPod, iPhone, and the more recent iPad.
He is a visionary of the business that will surely be missed by many.
Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.
Steve Jobs wasn't there to understate the moment with his trademark "one more thing." But Apple CEO Tim Cook and company held their own today rolling out several more things after unveiling the new iPhone.
The first big headline is that it's not the iPhone 5 as some had hoped. It's actually the iPhone 4S. The operating system, however, is iOS5. This was not a huge surprise and Apple fans will likely not feel short-changed when they hear the deets on the 4S.
Upgrades include a faster processor (dual core A5), a better camera (8 Megapixel), GSM/CDMA baseband for globe-trotters, and a new antenna that should finally put antennagate to rest.
The iPhone 4S will go on sale October 14. Pre-orders start October 7.
And yes, it will be available through Sprint.
And yes, it will be available in white from day one.
By the way, the 3GS is still not going away. In fact with a two year contract, you can get one for free. As in, no cost.
iOs 5 and iCloud
While the iPhone 5 still eludes us, Apple's mobile operating system is making the jump up to version five. iOS 5 and Apple's new free cloud service, iCloud, will be available on October 12. iOS5, which will be a free download to iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS users as well, allows for seamless syncing among all of your various Apple devices. If you've ever lost your religion while trying to port your entire music library from your old iPod to your new iPhone, or to a new computer, then you'll be thrilled to know you can store it all on the iCloud and sync it up anytime. Finally!
Meet Siri, your humble personal assistant.
This is only available on the iPhone 4S and will not work on older model iPhones. Siri is voice-activated technology that allows you to boss around your phone. Tasks like putting a meeting on your calendar, fetching a phone number, calling up directions, even dictating an e-mail can all be done by the sound of your voice.
I can hardly wait to see all the "Masters of the Universe" wannabes barking orders into their phones with an air of importance, while standing in line to board a plane with the rest of us little people. (In other words, please don't do that.)
The iPod Lineup
On the same day that Microsoft has announced it is officially discontinuing the Zune, Apple says its recommitting itself to the iPod. It's not going away anytime soon.
The big headlines here: Apple is dropping the prices slightly. The 16G iPod touch will now go for $199. The Nano dropped to $129 from $149. The shuffle remains the same at $49.
Other interesting tidibits here:
- The iPod classic didn't make the cut. It's gone.
- The iPod Touch will now come in white and come pre-loaded with iOS 5 starting October 12.
- For those of you who like to use your Nano as a watch, it will now come with 12 new watch face types. That includes Mickey Mouse.
Today is a first: Apple's first major launch event in the post-Jobs era. Scheduled for 10 a.m. PST, Apple is hosting what has become an annual event; the ushering in of this year's latest iPhone.
This year, Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 5 or at at least the iOS 5.
Just as football fans tailgate before the big event, geeks spread rumors and speculate.
Here are six things to watch for:
1. Yes, yes, it goes without saying that we all want to know about the latest, greatest iPhone. With baited breath, can we expect the faster A5 processor, an 8-megapixel camera and a GSM/CDMA baseband good for any major carrier? Just how light and skinny will the iPhone 5 be? Will the screen be a full four inches? Is Apple actually launching the iPhone 5 anytime soon or just an iPhone 4S running iOS5? So many geeky questions, so little time.
2. Apple TV. It may finally be primetime for this pet division of Apple. There's been a lot of chatter about Apple's "three screen strategy." Today may be the day we hear something that gives this legs. Apple has built a 500,000-square-foot data center optimized just for storing video in the cloud. I'm just sayin'.
3. Special guests: Don't be shocked if Netflix CEO Reed Hastings shows up (see #2 above). Also, don't be surprised if someone from Facebook shows up. Mark Zuckerberg will likely at least be there in spirit. Apparantly, the partnership and integration between iOS and Facebook is expected to go to a whole new level.
4. Sprint gets skin in the game. This shouldn't come as a surprise that Sprint is finally going to carry the iPhone. However, the eleventh-hour rumors are that it's hocked its socks to do so. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sprint has agreed to pay Apple $20 billion over the next four years in an exclusive deal to carry the iPhone 5 (leaving everyone else with the iPhone 4S). This would translate to Sprint buying 30 million iPhones and even under the best of circumstances sales-wise, it still wouldn't break even until 2014.
5. Steve Jobs. We all know this will be Tim Cook's baby. Cook took over as the permanent CEO of Apple earlier this year. Jobs has retired for reasons everyone assumes are health-related. In recent years, he has battled and beat back pancreatic cancer and survived a liver transplant. However over the past year, Jobs's public appearances had become spottier, and have shown him looking increasingly gaunt and frail. There is an outside chance that Jobs may show up for a walk-on assist at today's launch or perhaps a pre-taped hello. Whether we see Jobs or not, his presence will definitely be felt.
6. What about the iPod? Write it down, October 4, 2011. This may be the day Apple's famous "click wheel" goes into mothballs. There is a strong chance that we'll get a new and improved line-up of iPods just in time for the holiday season.
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