Analogy of a Flock of Birds to Innovation and Intellectual Property Challenges

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Have you ever sat in amazement watching a local flock of birds as they make quick and abrupt directional changes and the flock follows? When watching local bird flocks you can see right away that they are much different than migrating bird flocks, as the migrating birds fly in a straight line. It’s hard to say why the birds fly together in formation in local flocks and seem to challenge each other for who will lead the formation, but it seems that is what they are doing. With long-distance migrations it’s obvious they do this for the aerodynamic advantage.

Now then, I’d like to take this analogy and propose a thought to you. I’d like you to sit back and think about it for a moment as I compare this to the innovations and changes in any given industry, as the industry leaders jockey to position with new innovations, research and development, and other companies follow them. Occasionally, the industry has a pretty good idea where it is going in the future, but it does not know exactly how to get there – or the exact intended destination – only that it will eventually get there.

Let’s take a look at Apple and their latest iPod, iPhone, and iPad – you’ll have to admit that this is a lot of innovation for a single company in a short amount of time. It seems just like when you think there can be no new innovations Apple comes up with something new. They are definitely innovators in the industry of personal tech, personal computers, and who knows what else in the future? Each time they innovate the flock follows. Some of the other companies or birds follow very closely and try to imitate them almost exactly.

Other companies hang way back, they take it easy without trying to fight for pole position, or keep up with them. Rather as the flock makes a hard right turn, they may merely adjust slightly in their trajectory vector to catch up to them. In essence the following companies, the imitators, and the copiers of their innovations, patents, and intellectual property expend a lot less energy, although you could loosely say they are still part of the flock (industry).

Older or weaker birds do this most often, especially if they cannot keep up with the stronger younger birds, which are perhaps showing off to potential mates, or competing for pecking order. One could ask which strategy is better? Flying in the wake of the leader, and thus in their slipstream like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, or hanging way back in the “Peloton” and flying less distance each time the flock turns a different direction, it still getting to the indie destination with the rest of the birds.

If we look at Apple and its market cap, or a company like Google, or even Microsoft back in the day, we see the innovators that if they can keep innovating do tend to win the game. In a flock of birds, the leading birds probably get to mate with the other birds of their choice, and they remain at the top of the pecking order. Because of all that fancy flying and hard work they are probably also stronger birds, more physically fit, and that too is a benefit.

There will always be leaders in any industry or field, and there will always be leeches attaching themselves along for the ride. Some would say that the best strategy is to be the lead bird, or take advantage as often as possible using the “first to market theory,” and yet, I would suggest to you in this day and age of rapid prototyping, ferocious personal tech branding and marketing rollouts, that being first to market may not be prudent or even safe. Okay, but we note that many of the first movers of new technology do enjoy somewhat of an advantage – but not always.

For every Apple, Google, or Microsoft there are tens of thousands of companies, startups, venture capital funded innovative firms that are no longer with us. They too were first in their market, they spent lots of money branding and marketing, setting up distribution channels, only to have the older birds, copy their methods, innovations, and imitating their prototypes – thus, capturing most of the market share in the end.

After all, they too landed at the destination, although less tired, with less money expended, and they had plenty of energy to partake in the profits, worms, or food available at the destination in the marketplace.

Lately, we have been watching lots of lawsuits between Apple and other competing, imitating companies. Many of these companies have been overseas and they have either ripped off proprietary information, stolen patents, or outright copied Apple’s products.

In China most of the consumers believe that it is crazy to pay the full price for American products, when you can buy an exact replica or imitation for a 10th of the price. In fact you would be considered unwise, stupid, and not prudent if you decided to do the right thing and buy the original rather than the fake copy.

This means if you are working in a company and you buy a legitimate Microsoft program, or Apple product you would be considered stupid, and perhaps not a very good manager with money and therefore you wouldn’t get promoted in your company – other employees would actually laugh at you for your unwise decision to do the right thing. There is an inherent problem in the culture differences between Americans and Chinese in that regard.

When we get into the debates of pharmaceuticals we see the same thing. In the United States it costs a huge amount of money to buy certain types of drugs, but in places like Africa they buy knock-offs from other places where they have broken the patents produced the same chemical compound and use those instead, in fact in Africa they demand the drugs for free. This means that the company that spent the research and development, invested in the patents, and went through the onerous process by the FDA, and in the meantime spent hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases loses out.

The copying company is rewarded for cheating, stealing, and ripping off the intellectual property. Nevertheless, if we take this back to the “flock of birds analogy” we can see that this is very common in nature. Therefore, one could reason that imitating is a perfectly natural thing to occur. And even if we have laws of patents and intellectual property in the United States, those companies, business owners, and other cultures don’t understand what we are talking about.

Of course, as soon as we start borrowing their technologies it is amazing how quickly they rediscover why patents and intellectual property rights are important. In many cases if you can innovate, and constantly stay on the leading edge of technology and keep moving fast you can lead the flock and become the winning bird. Yes, it takes a lot of energy to do so, and it is practically the American way to do it, but we will find that in the end the rest of the flock also reached the rewards, even though it was just a few of the most innovative and strong birds that got them there.

If we want stronger birds (Eagles) we are going to have to rewards successful innovation, not to the point that they get lazy, but to the point that they can benefit from the research and development, without attracting a giant flock of followers. If we fail to do this we will find fewer companies innovating and we will slow down the technology progression. If you are against technology you might favor that concept, but if you are for the advancement of mankind you can see why this is so important.

I would submit to you that next time you watch a flock of birds flying locally as they twist and turn, you might think about the dynamics of innovation in the marketplace, all the challenges that we face in our world, and what we need to do to make sure that the game stays fair for all concerned. We must reward the leaders of the Flock if we are going to continue racing around the innovation clock. Please consider all this.

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Source by Lance Winslow

3 Ways To Build Innovation In Tough Times

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When there is economic uncertainty and all of the business world is uneasy about the landscape of the near future, focusing on and increasing your innovation process can help your organization to increase its competitive advantage. Becoming an innovation leader in tough times may not seem like the most ideal solution, but by taking advantage of the relatively small amount of ground that you will lose in a depressed economy will position your company for explosive growth during the coming boom. At the very least your organization will be able to weather the storm of any further downturn, by innovating solutions to any of the problems or challenges that arise. While it is not easy to make the decision to focus on innovation when the rest of the industry is focused on cutting costs and making their organizations more efficient, here are 3 ways that you can build innovation in tough times to weather the storm and position your company for success.

1. Understand what a good process looks like

Take the time to look across and study the innovation models of other companies, even in other industries. Find out what has worked for them and then start to develop an ideal scenario for your own process. Take the time to analyze the innovation processes that are proving successful even when tested by the tough times and then extract the most valuable components to build your own.

2. Innovate with value intent

Make sure that you align the process of your company with your mission or value proposition for your customers. Having an innovation process that can produces great ideas is only as valuable as their success in implementation. By keeping them focused on helping the customer succeed or providing the most value, you will make sure that you only spend resources-that can be even more scarce in tough times-on testing the innovations that align with your bigger goal.

3. Create sense of ownership and enable collaboration

Leveraging the creative powers of your entire organization and network as forms of inputs for your innovation process, can help to make your ideas more effective, and much less costly. By empowering your employees and even customers to contribute to your innovative process you are able to use a bank of creativity that far exceeds the capabilities of any small innovation team. Give them a reason to contribute and then collect as many ideas as you can.

Using these three ways to increase innovation you can ensure that you are competitive during tough times and poised for explosive growth when the economy turns back around.

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Source by Tomas Donovan

Brainstorming and Innovation – Not Really Working Anymore

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Well, I have a pretty large personal library with more than 3 dozen books on innovation. It’s amazing how they all read about the same and all have nearly the same advice, especially when it comes to the ‘art of brainstorming’. Still, due to all the new social norms being taught in college these days, where every question asked of a professor, no matter how stupid, is met with; “Great question,” and then followed by the nauseating improper English; “okay so… ” followed by a regurgitated answer – it’s causing the same nonsense in brainstorming sessions.

The only chance today of a brainstorming session coming up with a brilliant original solution would be to have someone in the group who is already a creative genius who can speak up, defend their concept against politically correct and status quo bias and personally persuade the group to yield to their idea. Still, this type of person is a true ‘Thought Leader’ and a legitimate thought leader hardly needs a brainstorming group or any group for that matter in the first place.

Brainstorming isn’t working anymore for innovation, and you can get better creativity from a YouTube Cat Video these days. Corporate R&D Departments aren’t producing much either considering the huge sums of money they spend on the innovative process. Those who predict the future so they can see into the looking glass aren’t much better using their methodologies.

Innovation for the Future and Future Prediction

Let’s take the Futurists of the World Future Society (WFS) as an interesting case study. The WFS has seminars to teach you how to think like a Futurist, symposiums with special emphasis on trend projections and innovation. Isn’t it interesting how all the members of the WFS are always on the same page, and how their predictions are nearly always incorrect (90% of the time)? Why is this? Maybe it’s because when you teach people to think a certain way, they lose the creative edge or ability to do high-level original thought, as you are confine their thought process to logical thinkin?g (left brain thinking) when the students who wish to focus on innovation need to be both left and right brain thinkers.

How are we going to get back to an America that is robust in original thinking and overflowing with new ideas – a nation that is so innovative that we can’t even hold back the rapid changes of our society and civilization? How can we lead the world into the future if we can’t even innovate our way out of plastic bags? Please consider all this and think on it.

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Source by Lance Winslow

5 Keys to Innovation Every Business Needs to Succeed

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Most organizations recognize the importance of innovation in advancing their competitive position or improving their business processes. However, many may not recognize that successful innovation is built on a framework of component functions, each of which is critical to the overall efficacy of the program. These functions, known as innovation framework components, individually define specific characteristics of the program and collectively describe the organization’s posture toward innovation.

One of the most basic elements of the framework, frequently overlooked, is the definition of innovation that the enterprise wishes to adopt or define for itself. This can (and probably should) vary dramatically from enterprise to enterprise. From the foundational definition of “a new idea, method or device” (Webster Dictionary), to “a change that creates a new dimension of performance” (Peter Drucker, leading strategy innovator) or the more action-oriented, simple but meaningful “idea applied” (we like this one a lot), each enterprise needs to create its own definition that is aligned to the objectives that their innovation program is targeting.

But the term’s definition is clearly not enough and is only one of the elements of the overall framework that companies must assess and customize to their individual challenges, objectives, operating model, and culture. Some of the other critical components include:

1. Strategy – Alignment is key

Every enterprise defines its own value chain within the market and develops strategies to execute within that value chain. Innovation plays a role in this strategy and ideally enforces it with contributions that enhance the company’s competitive position or improves its internal effectiveness. The enterprise must target its innovation resources to align with its overall strategy. It needs to communicate clearly its challenges and articulate objectives for the solutions it is seeking, so that enterprise resources can focus on delivering innovation targeting those specific objectives. Within the strategy framework pillar the company has to define success criteria for innovation across time as well as the criteria for idea selection and program governance. Innovation strategy development falls on the shoulders of executive leadership.

2. Process and Tools – The foundation for success

Innovation processes and tools must rise to the level of the innovation itself. A suggestion box won’t work. Because innovation contributors are naturally resistant to inefficient and arcane interaction tools, this aspect of the framework is ultra important to get right. Investment in the right solution yields substantial results, a high level of participation and with it, large pools of idea contributions. AT&T, for example, operates one of the largest (with over 120,000 active participants) innovation crowdsourcing platforms and operational systems called the Innovation Pipeline (or TIP). If implemented internally, the development of such processes and tools is best addressed by company’s innovation resources (e.g. within the CTO organization), not by the Project Management Office (PMO). Alternatively, it can be sourced from trusted partners who can integrate the tools and processes in a way that meets the company’s specific innovation goals.

3. Inducement – A call for leadership

Participation in innovation is key to its success; mass participation is nirvana. Crowdsourcing has proven invaluable to solving extremely complex problems precisely because of the cumulative effect of mass ideation. Methods to induce participation vary dramatically across company cultures, but two of the more effective approaches include broadly publicized contributor recognition (with or without financial reward) and an opportunity by the contributor to participate in the execution of the idea throughout its lifecycle. Company leadership, including areas of the HR organization, has a critical role to play in developing and managing this framework component.

4. Culture – New behaviors and attitudes

The belief system within the company is the component most resistant to change. In all likelihood, the behaviors and attitudes that prevail have developed over an extended period of time, likely across several management chains and have been documented to produce certain predictable, albeit unremarkable results. Change in culture necessary to support peak innovation effectiveness will in most cases be highly disruptive to the organization and will cause discomfort and possibly displacement. Aspects such as intolerance of failure, “CYA” tactics, group-think behavior and hyper-individuality are cancers working against an effective innovation culture. All need to be uprooted without demoralizing the entire organization. This challenge can only be addressed by a leadership team with a visible and artfully communicated commitment to the changes they are championing.

5. Collaboration – The value of connections

Enterprise innovation must develop connected relationships with external sources of ideas and know how to avoid the “not-invented-here” pitfall. The most valuable external resources include customers and their corresponding centers of innovation, but also suppliers, partners, academia, and the general developer community. For organizations which accept radically open innovation (Gartner Maverick Research –Radical Openness, September 2012 [registration required]), partnerships can extend to virtually all segments of the industry and all willing participants, including virtual “innovators for hire.” Developing and managing these partnerships most often is best facilitated through special-purpose teams organized specifically for this mission. For example, AT&T has created a Foundry organization to support this framework pillar.

Innovation is considered to be a natural product of interactions among highly creative people. Whereas creative contribution is an important component in the overall effectiveness of a program, in and of itself it is not enough to assure the program’s success. In fact, an argument could be made that it is even secondary to a well executed set of component activities within the overall innovation framework. On the scale of an enterprise, management expects results from an innovation program to have a significant amount of predictability. An innovation program can only deliver predictably consistent results when it is managed against a well designed program framework that is aligned with the company’s objectives to harvest and apply innovation.

Contrary to common perception, process is not the antithesis of creative innovation, but the glue that holds it together and gives order to the random and unstructured ideas that continuously erupt within the enterprise. A well architected enterprise innovation program built on relevant, enterprise-aligned framework component processes greatly increases the probability of achieving meaningful results and the overall program’s success.

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Source by Norbert Sluzewski

Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Inconvenient Truth

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Entrepreneurship and innovation: The popular belief

Entrepreneurs are widely believed to be the agents behind economic growth and innovation. They are, we are told, the movers and shakers who create new industries, unseat current leaders from their thrones, and open new frontiers for everyone. Popular culture tirelessly propagates one success story after another – from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who was glorified in “The Social Network” movie, to Tesla’s Elon Musk, an immigrant who became a household name, to Google’s Sergey Brin, whose internet search engine name has officially become a verb in English.

So persuasive is the narrative of the entrepreneurial technological prowess and success, that many countries – including developing countries that feel they are lagging behind – develop comprehensive policies to support and promote entrepreneurship and even set aside sizeable funds to invest in startups via government-run venture capital programs. But is this fascination with and belief in entrepreneurs justified? How likely are entrepreneurs to push the technological frontier and bring about the kind of change that governments want? Entrepreneurship Professor Sergey Anokhin from Kent State University says the hard evidence is far less convincing than the popular culture makes you believe.

The dark side of entrepreneurship

In a study of 35 countries over a 7-year period, Professor Anokhin from Kent State and Professor Joakim Wincent from Sweden’s Lulea University of Technology show that there is no universally positive relationship between entrepreneurship and innovation. While for the world’s leading economies such as the United States the positive link between startup rates and innovation may be true, for the developing economies the relationship is actually negative. Such countries are more likely to see innovation championed by the existing companies, not startups. With few exceptions, entrepreneurs there pursue opportunities of a different kind that are based on imitation and dissemination of others’ ideas, and are not equipped to produce truly advanced “grand” innovations. On average, startups are less efficient than existing firms. Accordingly, if local governments support entrepreneurship, economic effectiveness may suffer, and innovation is less likely to occur. In fact, successful technological development in emerging economies is often associated with an aggressive entrepreneurial behavior of large corporations, not individual entrepreneurs. Such is the case, for instance, of South Korea with its chaebols.

The figure below shows the vastly different impact of startup rates on innovation and technological development (as measured by patent applications) across countries. Only rich countries can expect more entrepreneurship to result in more innovation, says Dr. Anokhin. For the lesser developed countries, as the plot demonstrates, an increase in startup rates will only lead to less, not more innovative activities. The problem, according to Sergey Anokhin, is that developing countries often look up to the leading economies when trying to design their own policies. Moreover, quite naturally, the very textbooks that the students across the world use, are written by the scholars from the world’s leading countries, and do not take developing economies’ context into account. Taken together, it often locks policy makers in assuming the relationship between entrepreneurship and innovation that will not hold in their particular parts of the world. The pro-entrepreneurship policies will not bring about the effects expected, and the limited resources will be wasted to support activities that are largely detrimental.

What it all means

It is time to recognize that the relationship between entrepreneurship and innovation varies across countries, says Professor Anokhin. That is why World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Fostering Entrepreneurship explicitly acknowledges that Silicon Valley success stories do not necessarily resonate in other parts of the world. Broad-strokes policies that aim at fostering entrepreneurship to boost country innovativeness may well be misguided. A contingency approach that takes regional specifics into account should be employed instead.

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Source by Sergey Ahmetov

The Key to Innovation

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Every day, we see new problems arise that have some effect on our lives. As members of a community, we can ignore them, which many do, or we can, as other pioneers in the past, explore them and come up with a method to live with our challenge or we can change our environment to cope with the new predicament.

In our past, the innovator might be the artist or architect, the carpenter or engineer, or the software programmer or business manager. However, today, we find that all people in every career need to have the skills to change their own world.

People who deal well with change, the recognized innovators, will tell us that there is a method to handle the challenge. First, we need to distinguish what new attributes have affected our surroundings. For instance, let us say our old building needs a means for the older members of the community to get from one floor to another. In many cases, only a few members of the neighborhood even have recognized the need, but we were given the task to come up with a solution.

First and the key to success, we need to create a method to communicate the need. The days of solving problems in a vacuum are over. Oh yeah, we can come up with the grandest elevator, or people mover, but at the end it will be the public around us that will judge our design and we will be the birth mother of a landmark or the scapegoat of a white elephant. Good communication fosters better research, which promotes multiple design concepts, involves the skilled laborers who will build the mechanism and more importantly plants the seed of acceptance when the new-fangled apparatus is added to our environment.

Does this process run smoothly? Honestly, real change to our environment always causes conflict. There are those who will vehemently protest the addition of any alterations to their old ways. We hear “why spend the money” or “we could have done it better.” Remember, all points of view are valid. However, as the person tasked to get those older members to the next floor, we have to transform our lives. Innovators need to listen to all, but the stress we carry by moving towards a new and changed surroundings needs to be noted and then released. This is important.

Once we build our foundation of a communication using reports, newsletters, and 3D drawings showing concepts and the impending alteration, we can follow any known process for solving a problem. Expect hiccups along the way and stay close to the process. Many innovators have been shocked to discover their designed sports car turned into a box with wheels when they left decisions to a less than informed purchasing manager or substitute construction supervisor. Watch the baptism of your creation throughout the process without stepping on toes. Be the cheerleader for positive change and incorporate the team to bring the change.

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Source by Charles W Robbins

Gaming Mouse – The New Innovation Unveiled

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Gaming is a time pass for few while a passion for many. Day by day youngsters are getting acquainted with a wide variety of online games that may or may not need a mouse. Many gamers feel that using the mouse in between the game would hamper the tempo and would lead to tossing the game sometimes. Though, there are many that wouldn't need a mouse there are certain games that necessitate the usage of it. Keeping in view the need for the hour, the technology market has come up with an alternative; specially designed for gamers. It is the wireless mouse specifically designed for the gamers. This is gaining popularity all over the world and many add-ons are already released to enhance the gaming experience.

As the name suggests, a wireless gaming mouse is specially designed for ardent gamers. Besides providing an exceptional experience to the gamers, this mouse is designed to be an all-rounder. They are embedded with buttons that can be used for different purposes while playing the games as well as during regular computer works. Here are a few benefits that you can expect from any sort of Wireless gaming mouse,

• It can be moved flexibly and looks even more sophisticated than a wired mouse.
• Additional switch buttons embedded to the mouse, would enable you to browse through the tabs easily.
• The programmable buttons on either side of the Wireless gaming mouse makes your gaming experience much more enchanting.
• If you need to use the mouse frequently during the game, then Wireless mouse is the best option you can ever think about.
• It can be used as an alternative to many shortcuts such as cut, copy, paste and many more. Even cursor movements are easier with the wireless mouse.

Besides above-stated advantages, the wireless gaming mouse is designed and structured in such a way that they support the gamer in all ways needed; especially in fast-paced games where this decides the winner. The response time of the majority of the gaming mouse is 1 minute, which means it is faster than the wired mouse. Besides, speedy response, these can be reprogrammed every time you play a new game provided if you set a DPI rating for your mouse along with customization. This customization feature is the USP which is not available with the regular wired ones. More comfort with premium quality for little extra money is the tag that you can attest to a gaming mouse.

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Source by Rizvana Manzoor

A Deeper Look Inside Plantronics Impressive Sound Innovation

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Plantronics Incorporated located in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA is among an elite group of manufacturers developing superior wireless telephone headsets. As we approach the mid-way point of 2013 we are seeing this popular manufacture stocks increase as they continue to engineer breakthrough consumer products. Experts agree that this sudden surge in stock revenue are because of Plantronics latest CS500 and Savi W700 wireless systems. Consumers seem to be very pleased with their latest additions to there already impressive telephone headsets. Let’s review some of the main turning points for Plantronics over the past two years to dive deeper into what separates their sound innovations from the rest.

Discontinuing CS Series Systems

Announcing that the first generation CS models were going to be discontinued and replaced by newer systems had many very surprised. Whether frustrated or just plain exited to see what was coming next, consumers were rewarded by the popular Plantronics CS500 series systems which include the new CS540, CS510, CS520 and CS530 models. Over delivering once again, Plantronics is satisfied with the user reviews and profit margins that the CS500 models are generating.

Introducing New Savi W700 Series

During the same timeline Plantronics also announced a new product line which includes the Savi W710, W720, W730, W740 and W745. What is very unique with this announcement is the fact that these systems won’t only connect to office phones but Bluetooth mobiles and computers at the same time. Finally users will have the ability to use a single cordless headset for all of their favorite systems. Opening up a new door for high volume callers of the 21st century as many businesses move toward VoIP and mobile platforms.

Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound

Plantronics offers a diverse selection of headsets not only for professional callers but recreational users as well. The new GameCom 780 includes all inclusive Dolby 7.1 surround sound for those that listen to music, play games and watch movies over the internet. Plantronics owns a huge share in the computer headset share and is viewed as one of the industry leading performers. Offering hundreds of models to choose from creates ultimate versatility to satisfy anyone’s hands free requirements.

Conclusion

Plantronics Inc. is heading in the right direction as a global telecommunication expert and leader in sound innovation. As 2013 continues to be a year for change in the unified communication field, Plantronics is staying ahead of the curve developing new technology for all levels of users.

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Source by Jeremy Aldo

Operational Innovation

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Many equate innovation with product innovation or market innovation. While these are important, another kind of innovation, just as important, gets ignored. This innovation is operational innovation. Good leaders develop and coach other leaders in this.

Focus on business processes

The idea is simple -you focus on few vital value adding business processes and achieve breakthrough improvements in them. At  Schneider Electric, it began with the creation of an enterprise process model, which describes a business’s operations in terms of a small number of value-creating end-to-end processes. The processes included Develop Transportation Solutions, Acquire New Business (ANB), Acquire Transportation Order, Move Freight, and Provide Ability to Move Freight. These few processes encompassed virtually all work performed by Schneider’s thousands of employees. By defining the Acquire New Business (ANB) process, setting its boundaries, determining its metrics, and targeting it for improvement, Schneider appropriately defined the problem to be solved.

Missed opportunities

Most companies set too narrow a scope for their innovation efforts and thus can make only incremental improvements. The first time around, Schneider conceptualized the effort purely in terms of proposal preparation, thereby excluding numerous groups and activities relevant to the larger goal of acquiring new business. By focusing the second time around on the entire ANB process, comprising as it did eight different departments and a host of different activities, the Schneider team could address the full range of issues responsible for slow customer response.

The operational innovation at Schneider thus consisted of developing a new powerful way of acquiring new business. For anyone familiar with business to business selling, the advantage of rallying all knowledgeable people, irrespective of their departments, behind the new business acquisition will be obvious.

Innovate in operations

Viewing an enterprise as a suite of business processes, measuring and improving them, and even achieving breakthrough improvements in them can lead to powerful innovations in operations. This one of the key roles of leaders.

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Source by Hemant Karandikar

Accurate Diagnosis & Patient Comfort at the Core of Innovation in ECG / EKG, EEG, and MRI Technologies

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Over the past decade, researchers have made several undeniable breakthroughs in curing diseases that were once thought to be deadly and incurable. And this feat can be attributed to significant improvements in diseases diagnosis and testing.

In recent years, newer as well as safer methods of disease testing have been developed to avoid incorrect diagnosis among patients and to ensure they do not have to undergo any additional harm. Development of the latest diagnostic tests and procedures – such as electrocardiogram (ECG), electroencephalography (EEG), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – enables physicians to make accurate decisions about their patients.

Thanks to constant innovation and dedication of healthcare companies and research organizations, diagnostic testing has helped achieve tangible improvements in not just the survival of patients but also in their overall health and quality of life.

Portable and Wearable ECG / EKG Monitors a Prominent Innovation in Cardiovascular Health

The electrocardiogram (ECG) has played a crucial role in understanding cardiovascular diseases. Its wide scope of application encompasses clinical diagnosis and prognosis of cardiovascular diseases, biomedical recognition, health assessment, fatigue study, and others. Ongoing research in the technology is mainly focused on accuracy of ECG diagnosis and application, big data mining for ECG, and improved ECG instrumentation.

Remote ECG monitoring systems are fast becoming commonplace medical devices for remote as well as long-term physiological monitoring. These devices are not just targeted for elderly and frail patients but also for healthy individuals merely looking to monitor overall wellbeing.

Wearable technology is one of the most prominent innovations in the field and continues to be used in everyday clinical practice.

Qardio, Inc., a global digital health company, launched a revolutionary wearable ECG monitor in January 2017. The QardioCore is reportedly the first wearable medical ECG / EKG monitor that lets users monitor heart health without any patches or wires. This innovation is a far cry from conventional ECG monitors used in hospitals, which are known to be bulky and burdensome. By contrast, this wearable device is designed for monitoring anywhere and anytime.

Looking to capitalize on the growing trend of remote patient monitoring, especially to maintain heart health, medical device companies are working on devising new and innovative methods of tracking patient health. One such example is startup AliveCor's Heart Monitor. The monitor comprises a case that can be simply attached to the back an Android device or an iPhone, while the test is administered and results are revealed through the company mobile app AliveECG. This gives new meaning to the concept of having health at your fingertips.

Increased Focus on making EEG Technology Minimally Invasive

Generation after generation, scientists and researchers have tried to understand the human brain. The 18th century pseudoscience of "bumpology", which believed that the shape of a person's skull lent insights into their mental state and personality, was discredited as a science 50 years after its introduction. It was nearly a century later that studying the electrical activity inside a living brain came to be the go-to technique to understand various neurological conditions.

Although the technique, called electroencephalography (EEG), was rather invasive initially, contemporary research and modern technology have enabled the development of non-invasive methods to study brain function, pathology, and behavior.

In recent years, the many intrinsic advantages of EEG have allowed the technique to expand its application scope to include diagnosis of conditions such as epilepsy, seizures, dizziness, head injuries, brain tumors, headaches, and sleep disorders. After a groundbreaking move away from analog to digital recordings, automated and integrated computer-EEG systems have opened doors to adaptable and accessible research methodologies. These systems have also become relatively portable and cheap.

Capitalizing on recent technological innovations, Maryland-based BrainScope raised U $ 16 million in August 2017 to be dedicated toward research and development of mobile, non-invasive devices to assess traumatic brain injury. In September 2016, the company launched "Ahead 300", the third version of its commercial product BrainScope One. It comprises an EEG headset and a handheld display equipment to help clinicians conduct 4 tests to determine the existence of a traumatic brain injury. These tests – two cognitive performance and two sensor-based tests – have the potential to allow the device to eliminate one third of unnecessary CT scans.

For several developing regions and countries, access to costly diagnostic technologies such as EEG means overcoming a number of geographic and economic constraints. However, penetration of the Internet and proliferation of smartphone usage has brought these countries closer to gaining access to advanced technologies. The Bhutan Epilepsy Project, for instance, has been tackling the aforementioned challenges by using a smartphone-based EEG. Developed by the Technical University of Denmark, the device and overall setup amounts to less than US $ 500, is highly portable, and is easy to use.

Constant Innovation in MRI Hardware and Software

Perhaps one of the most common and widely-used diagnostic / medical imaging technique, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been highly valued for its versatility. MRI has a wide range of applications in the field of medical diagnosis, ranging from neuroimaging, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal to angiography, liver, and gastrointestinal. And even though the effect of this imaging technique on the improved health outcome of a patient is uncertain, its role in the diagnosis and treatment of various disorders is irrefutable. Based on recent developments, GE Healthcare has been among the front-runners in MRI technology.

Innovation in design is crucial in MR technology and this can add immense value to patient-friendly medical imaging. Take the 2011 Optima MR430s, for instance. This GE Healthcare innovation marked a major leap in MR imaging as it was designed for specific targeted anatomy, be it an arm or a leg, rather than traditional whole-body systems. Overcoming the challenges of immobilization and patient confinement, this innovative scanner has helped improve patient experience. For physicians, this has meant fewer demands on a full-body scanner, smarter investment options, relieving patient backlogs, and low total cost of ownership.

In the last couple of years, however, major advances in MRI technology have been on the software side. This has resulted in more simplified cardiac imaging workflows, faster contrast scans, and allowing MR scans of the lungs.

In September 2016, the US FDA granted approval to the MAGnetic resonance image Compilation, or MAGiC, software by GE Healthcare. This is reportedly a first-of-its-kind multi-contrast MRI technique that delivers eight contrast media in a one acquisition. This is done in a fraction of the time taken by traditional imaging, primarily by allowing users to flexibly manipulate MR images retrospectively. This has led to fewer rescans and therefore significant time and cost savings.

Cardiac MRI has been a rather limited field owing to lengthy exam times, complexity, and high cost. RSNA 2015 saw GE Healthcare introduce a new MRI technology, one with the potential to simplify cardiac MR to a great extent. The ViosWorks cardiac MRI software helps create what the company calls a 7-D cardiac MRI exam.

Conclusion

Advances in diagnostic / medical imaging over the last five years alone have revolutionized practically every aspect of medicine. Access to detailed imaging has enabled physicians to see things from a new perspective. With doctors realizing just how accurate and valuable these tests can be and manufacturers investing in research and development, the day isn't far when exploratory surgery will become obsolete.

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Source by Nishita Pereira