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Expert Interviews: How 6 Industry Leaders Drive Innovation

The word “innovation” might be an overused buzzword in today’s business world, but there’s no denying that fresh value-creating ideas can open up new revenue streams and customer bases which could determine the future of your company.

This is probably why so many companies are scrambling to build an innovative culture. Unfortunately, not all companies have got it down pat. According to a McKinsey survey, 84% of executives agree that innovation is important to their growth strategy, but only 6% are satisfied with their innovation performance.

Why? It’s simple. They haven’t found what works.

There are many factors which come into play when you want to innovate. But perhaps one of the biggest bedrocks for innovation is the right company culture.

So how does one create an innovative company culture?

The people who know best are of course the people who do it the most. We had a quick chat with industry leaders — both startups and the big boys — to see how they steer their companies towards innovation.

Read on to get insights from:

Brage Johansen, CEO of Zaptec — one of the most forward-looking Norwegian tech companies with a space program.

Rafiq Razali, CEO of Media Prima Digital — Malaysia’s largest fully-integrated media company.

Greg Paull, Co-Founder of R3 — a global consultancy which works with the world’s top marketers.

Shakira Shanaz, Head of Operations of KFit Group — Southeast Asia’s fastest growing online-to-offline platform.

Wai Hong Fong, Co-Founder of Storehub — a cloud-based retail management system that has revolutionized the retail market in Malaysia and beyond.

Jessica Li, Co-Founder of dahmakan — the fastest growing food tech startup in Southeast Asia.

 

 

brage johansenBrage Johansen

CEO

 Zaptec

Brage Johansen is the CEO of Zaptec, a Norwegian tech company which, in just 3 years, has revolutionized the global electric mobility industry with their patented portfolio of solutions for supercompact power electronics and transformers.

Having the ability to pack so much power in an incredibly tiny package has enabled Zaptec to explore any industry where power plays a significant role. Zaptec is now transforming solar power, electric vehicle-charging, infrastructure, aviation and space exploration across the globe.

In 2016, Zaptec launched three new products — including ZapCharger, the world’s first portable charging station for electric vehicles, and ZapSafety, the world’s first supercompact isolation transformer for the industrial safety market.

They are also collaborating with NASA and ESA to develop their core technology for operations on asteroids and drilling on Mars.

So how does Zaptec, a company with a space program and plans to conquer space drive innovation?

Three major factors drive innovation within Zaptec:

1. A long-term vision and technology plan

This plan shows how we want to improve and change the world’s electric infrastructure, in all industries.

2. Vigorous network expansion

We systematically increase our network, public outreach and number of Zappers (groupies), which again stimulates Zaptec’s innovation process with ideas and support.

3.  A supportive organisational structure

To give room to innovation, we have organised our activities in daughter companies that can evolve separately.

Zaptec Charger (ZC) is responsible for all products on charging electric cars and building massive charging infrastructures. ZC has a strict focus on sales and finishing the engineering around these products. The creative force now lies with Zaptec Power (ZP), which is developing next generation Zaptechnology and exploring many new markets.

We found it very beneficial to divide innovative forces and focus on different daughter companies.

While we do not have any structured methods or meetings to stimulate innovations, we found it important to create an environment where innovation can happen.

We have a culture of open communication, humor and creativity so that ideas within the Zaptec architecture can flourish. We use Slack to share articles, opinions, ideas and customer feedback within our teams.

 

rafiq razaliRafiq Razali

CEO

 Media Prima Digital

Rafiq Razali is the CEO of Media Prima Digital — the digital arm of Media Prima Berhad, Malaysia’s largest fully-integrated media company with equity interests in television stations, newspapers, radio stations and digital media.

It operates Malaysia’s 4 leading free-to-air TV stations, some of the country’s most popular radio stations and also owns Malaysia’s largest publisher with 3 national newspapers.

Media Prima Digital manages the online operations for all the TV and radio networks under Media Prima and is charged with the long-term growth of the group as traditional print media circulation declines.

Innovation wasn’t a key focus for the Media Prima Group as it was the biggest player of its kind in the Malaysian media market and did not have to innovate much to grow.

However, digital disruption and a poor economy the past couple of years has spurred Media Prima Group to really start changing the way they operate.

Aiming for a bigger presence in digital, the Group has launched Media Prima Labs, an in-house incubator for innovation which produces new digital products and services.

Media Prima Labs has launched 8 apps to date and will be launching another 5 in the coming months. The apps have garnered over 1 million downloads to date, which was double what the team had expected.

How does Malaysia’s leading digital media group drive innovation?

The key ingredients to me are the 3 things I live by at work, which are:

  1. Control the controllables
  2. Always start from the customer
  3. Great people make great companies

It’s the same when it comes to driving a high innovation culture.

Right now, what we are focusing on is to:

Over-Communicate

This is so that the team understands what we want to do and what their roles are in this transformation, and to also manage stakeholders not in the team so that we get their support to continue.

Encourage Conversation, Even with Top Management

We encourage people in the team to speak up or provide feedback at all times.

Some of our projects are driven from top down, but we do have a couple that has started from the team. For instance we are now working on an app that’ll help us sell our billboard inventories better. That was the brainchild of someone from our team, and it immediately got the buy-in from everyone.

He was passionate about it and did a mock-up of the product on his own time. One day he just came up to me and presented it. I thought it was great, so I made the necessary arrangements to push it through.

Create a Supportive Environment for Projects to Succeed

We really incubate our projects. We create a support environment so that our projects can flourish (the eco system of marketing, tech, design, data etc), but also allow the project manager enough autonomy to just do what needs to be done to improve the product.

This means that we continue even if the product cannibalizes an existing business, is “off-brand”, or any other form of corporate red tape. To ensure that innovation happens, the initiatives that are run needs to be protected.

Align the Goals of Project Managers with the Support Structures

We assign each project to a project manager, but we ensure that they get all the help they need from a marketing, tech, data etc standpoint. The support structures’ goals are also aligned with the goals of the project manager, so collaboration is a lot smoother. This ensures that the project manager can spend as much time as possible improving & innovating the product.

 

 

greg paullGreg Paull

Co-Founder

R3 Worldwide

Greg Paull is the Co-Founder and Principal of R3 Worldwide — a global consultancy focused on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of marketers and their agencies.

The most experienced consultancy of its kind, R3 has offices across the globe, with over 100 employees in the US, Asia, Europe as well as Latin America.

R3 currently works with some of the world’s top marketers, including Coca-Cola, Unilever, AB InBev, MasterCard, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, and Kimberly Clark.

So how does a company with employees across the globe drive cross-border innovation?

We try to do a couple of things well —

Weekly sharing

Every week our teams share best practices with each other in a formal Tuesday Sharing session locally. Everyone gives feedback and that builds the learning curve. The presentation decks are then shared across our offices. Once a year, the entire global team flies into a city for three days of knowledge sharing.

“Can Do” Award

Once a month we pay a bonus to a team of individuals who go above and beyond — people that have used their own initiatives and broken the rules, gone the extra mile, or done something exceptional.

Global office transfers

For a small company, we work hard on moving talent around. Seven of our US team came from Shanghai. Our best researcher in Singapore came from R3 Vietnam. A new talent in R3 Beijing moved from R3 Shanghai. Our best analyst in London moved from R3 Singapore. We work under a single global profit & loss statement so there are no barriers to driving this movement.

It’s pretty simple — companies won’t hire us unless we can help them lead at innovation. It’s not something we can do “by the way”, it’s something that has to be the core of our DNA to fuel growth. Today, half our revenue is linked to digital — up from 25% three years ago. It’s because we want to make a difference. See how we’ve helped HSBC innovate digitally here.

 

 

 

shakira shanazShakira Shanaz

Head of Operations

 KFit Group

KFit Group is the fastest growing online-to-offline (o2o) local commerce company in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Beginning in 2015 as a fitness sharing platform, it has since expanded its offerings to include restaurants, beauty & wellness, lifestyle and more.

In August this year, KFit Group acquired Groupon Indonesia, and in November, Groupon Malaysia, with a goal to innovate and localize, to succeed where Groupon US failed. Since it was acquired by KFit Group, Groupon Indonesia has achieved a growth of nearly 2x, according to KFit Group CEO Joel Neoh.

Moving so fast and decisively, how does KFit Group drive innovation?

As an organisation, we always work with end-goals in mind, and with everyone 100% focused on achieving them.

If we realize midway that we need to restructure our goals, either because of evolving business needs, or if we find a better way to approach things, we adapt accordingly.

We stop, brainstorm, align on the new way forward, and start executing.

I think in some ways this is how Fave, our O2O local commerce platform came about. Basically, we wanted to offer customers the same value proposition as we did for KFit, but across new verticals including dining, health and beauty, and entertainment.

As a fast-growing, local e-commerce company, we need to make sure we’re nimble but focused on what is is we are trying to achieve.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that change is constant, but it’s up to us to find the most effective solution to each and every challenge.

Employ Great, Diverse People

I always believe that behind every great company, there are great people who are aligned towards organisational goals.

We’re lucky to have a solid team of people who each bring with them a wealth of experience — having previously worked in a variety of roles, industries, and countries.

We feel this diversity is one of the more ‘natural’ ways to foster innovation. We’ve also divided some teams, like our engineering and product team, into smaller, autonomous squads. This allows each team to have total ownership and responsibility over every aspect of the product they’re working on.

Open Up the Floor for Ideas

At the same time, we really encourage independent thinking and problem solving within the team. We open the floor to anyone who wants to contribute their ideas, which is a great way for people to learn.

I remember there was once an intern here, who, on his second day with us, had some great ideas on how our app could be better. We had him discuss it directly with our CTO, and many of his suggestions were worked into our product pipeline. This is the kind of synergy we encourage at KFit group.

 

wai hong fongWai Hong Fong

Co-Founder

StoreHub

Wai Hong Fong is the co-founder of StoreHub, a cloud-based retail management system that replaces bulky and clunky cash registers with an iPad POS. The space-efficient system not only looks sleek and sexy, but comes packed with power and enables store owners manage their inventory, customer relationships and data in real time.

Founded in 2013, StoreHub’s innovative system has revolutionized the retail market in Malaysia and is now currently serves customers in over 12 countries.

How does a hyper-paced startup like StoreHub drive innovation?

Innovation is a result of two mindsets existing together.

The first is the freedom to engage new ideas.

At StoreHub we have a strong culture of giving positive affirmation to people when they try new things and fail, while giving negative affirmation when we see behavior that is ‘permission seeking’.

Our only caveat is that things be given sufficient thought. We also do not give weight to ideas based on who shares it i.e. positional influence but we give weight to ideas based on the merit of their reasoning.

The second mindset is a drive to constantly make things better.

Every new employee at Storehub will be reminded that their responsibility is not to simply work in(side) a process, but to also work on a process.

What this means is that if you’re in marketing, you’re not just following the manual to do your job, but you’re encouraged to find ways to make that ‘manual’ better.

When you combine both the freedom of idea generation and execution with the mindset of ongoing improvement, we find that people naturally find new ways to do old things and new things to embark on. This for us is innovation in action.

When we talk about making the lives of others better, innovation is key. New ideas alone don’t become meaningful until they partner with a real desire to improve things.

The future of StoreHub relies heavily on building teams that carry a healthy amount of both mindsets simply because that is where real value is created. A company that does not constantly seek to create more and more value will eventually fail to exist.

 

jessica liJessica Li

Co-Founder, COO

 dahmakan

In 2014, Jessica Li co-founded Malaysian healthy food delivery service, dahmakan, to address the gap in the industry for healthy and affordable lunch options. Beginning with just 5 orders a day, dahmakan is now the fastest growing food tech startup in SouthEast Asia, backed by angel investors and is in talks with global venture capital firms.

Meaning “have you eaten” in Malay, dahmakan is revolutionizing the health food industry in Malaysia. By developing their own logistics technology, they managed to significant expand their delivery area which now covers 80% of the Klang Valley — opening up a customer base of over 8 million.
Dah Makan aims to democratize high quality food the same way Ikea has democratised designer furniture.

So how does dahmakan, competing in the fast-moving space of F&B, drive innovation?

As a food tech startup, we don’t think about “innovation” as a function or strategy. Instead, dahmakan was born with the intention to create something new and to do things differently. Like a jigsaw puzzle player, we use the best practices and knowledge of different industries and combine them in a new way. Most of the time, the jigsaw pieces don’t fully fit so we have to slightly change their shape or in some cases completely reinvent them.

Keep testing, trying and improving

We try out and implement technology across every function e.g. to build a fully automated delivery system that makes decisions in real time with high efficiencies. Using machine learning and advanced technology, we have built a system that caters to on-demand orders at a third of the cost of traditional food delivery. We place high focus on our R&D team that compromises of ex-developers from Google, Stanford marketing talents and even 5-star chefs that are constantly working towards new innovations.

Create a conducive space

At dahmakan, we encourage ideation and cross-function discussion among teams to come up with new solutions by having an open plan space with mingled seating.

Celebrate both victories and failures

When an amazing idea surfaces, the individual is then given the responsibilities of executing the idea.

Ideas are great, but its all about fast execution and learning along the way. We encourage employees by making sure there isn’t a wrong or right approach until you execute it and we celebrate both victories and failures as a source of ongoing learning.

Share knowledge

Another weekly initiative is our “Knowledge Flower” session where employees share their past experience and knowledge with other employees based on topics relevant to the organisation.

Set Clear Goals

Lastly, we use an Objectives and Key Results (OKR)-based goal setting system. Everyone’s individual OKR hangs on the wall in the office. This includes all founders and top management OKRs in order to enhance transparency and encourage exchange of ideas as well as to stretch everyone’s thinking.
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How does your company drive innovation? Share your insights with us in the comments section below.

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Sometimes it’s hard to communicate your vision for innovation. Visual strategy tools help get your team on the same page when it comes to new ideas and implementation. Check out the Strategy Tools World Tour.

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How Equinor Moved from Idea to Execution in Weeks, Not Months

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6 Growing Trends that’ll Transform Businesses in 2017

It pays to identify the trends of the future. Peeking into tomorrow helps you predict the upcoming challenges and opportunities for your business and enables you to plan accordingly.

As ardent fans of new technology and business trends, we’ve been keeping an ear on the ground for what will make it big next year.

Here’s our take on the 6 major trends that’ll transform 2017 and beyond:

Virtual and Augmented Reality Grows Up

Thanks to Pokemon Go and the plethora of VR headsets on the market, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are now the biggest buzzwords in a space that used to be dominated by hardcore gamers and geeks.

There are already several industries adopting VR technology, including education, sports, tourism and healthcare. Businesses are using AR to simulate how furniture and other interior design products look in your home. Some are using it to help you compare different makeup looks on your face live (L’Oréal’s app). Others include it in the design and development processes (Volkswagen AR).

AR/VR is also opening up new possibilities in healthcare — allowing for more precise and effective training, testing and maintenance of devices, and even the treatment of PTSD and chronic pain.

The AR/VR movement will gain more steam in 2017 as more and more companies discover the power of the technology. The International Data Corporation is already predicting a compound annual growth of 180%.

 

The Internet of Things Accelerates

internet of things

The Internet of Things simply refers to smart devices that can connect to the internet and talk to each other.

You’ve probably heard of self-stocking refrigerators that ensures you never run out of eggs and beer. How about alarm clocks that trigger your coffee pot to start running so you get hot coffee before you rush to work? Or perhaps the set of keys that never gets lost because it’s connected to the cloud via sensors.

Without a doubt, the IoT is definitely exciting for the consumer.

When you bring the IoT into businesses however, it gets a whole lot more interesting. It essentially changes the entire structure of a traditional business.

Let’s take a clothing brand for example.

The clothes are manufactured in a smart factory that runs on a connected, inter-operating system. This system communicates seamlessly, eliminating the need for line workers. The real time insights collected from the system will then be used to keep up with system maintenance, control costs and increase yield.

Smart forklifts in warehouses then move these crates of clothing to the autonomous trucks, which ships it to the stores — human-free.

In the stores, the IoT is used in smart shelves to keep track of stock. Staff will no longer have to manage inventory manually. It will collect insights which gives the retailer an overall view on the business. Through the data, they will see who their customers are, how their products are performing, and how they can formulate new products and optimize store layout.

While the IoT is still in its early days, we foresee it accelerating at breakneck speed in the coming year.

 

Clean Energy Goes Mainstream

tesla solar

Tesla’s new solar roof that actually looks sleek and sexy.

Renewable energy has been on everyone’s agenda for a while now, but it will really take off in 2017 as clean energy gets increasingly competitive in its pricing.

Previously seen as something only the privileged can afford, renewable energy no longer comes with a big price tag. Prices have fallen dramatically in just the last few years and is already on par with fossil fuel prices in many countries.

With all the investments poured into clean energy products and projects, global investments in clean energy reached a record high of $286 billion in 2015, and is set to grow as the industry matures.

You can expect even more advanced tech and lower prices as the renewable energy industry scales up.

 

The World Will Begin Moving Towards Universal Basic Income

Image credit: scottpickard.com

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is basically a concept that every citizen will receive money that covers basic necessities like food, accommodation and clothing, no strings attached.

The idea is that once you no longer have to worry about having food on the table and a roof over your head, you’ll be free to pursue things that really matter to you.

This freedom paves the way to more creativity and innovation, as entrepreneurs will be less afraid of taking bigger risks in their ventures because there is a safety net, and people will be happy to work in industries not incentivized by current markets.

As robots begin replacing more and more jobs in the very near future, one plausible solution would be the UBI. It’ll replace the complex conditional welfare systems to reduce poverty and encourage productivity. It’s garnered support from economists, financial experts, governments and tech billionaires like Elon Musk, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

Some countries are already running pilot UBI projects, from Finland to Canada.

 

Chatbots Will Transform the Way Businesses Interact

We’re already using chatbots today — Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or IBM’s Watson. While they’re fun to have, they aren’t exactly revolutionary.

The next generation of chatbots however, will fundamentally change how we interact with computers. Weaving in sophisticated AI technology like deep learning and neural networks, chatbots will understand us better and produce more sophisticated solutions and responses.

As chatbots get more sophisticated, a whole new realm of possibilities open up for businesses – you can automate several services, run customer service 24/7, understanding what the customer wants is as easy as collecting chat data, and several services can be automated.

Companies are all jumping on the chatbot bandwagon, with Facebook, Microsoft, Hipmunk, Slack and Kik launching their own bot platforms. Research firm Gartner predicts that only 1/3 of customer service interactions will require human interaction by 2017.

Traditional R&D Evolves

X2 Innovation Center is one of the most successful centers of its kind in Norway — accelerating the rate established Norwegian companies are launching new growth ventures.

Big companies pump money into R&D to create new technology and uncover new knowledge, but research has shown that cash spent on R&D alone isn’t enough for big innovation successes.

The traditional R&D model gives a company new technology, but there’s no guarantee that this new technology will translate to market success.

Companies today need to work cohesively with new innovation frameworks and processes. This helps uncover sustainable and commercially viable business models and ultimately bring in the big bucks.

We’re seeing more and more companies that traditionally depend on R&D like Pfizer forming new innovation processes for a more well-rounded approach. And that is only set to grow.

Expect more and more innovation centers and labs to pop up in 2017 and beyond.

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Add your voice to the conversation. What trends do you predict for 2017?

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18 Inspiring Innovations that Transformed 2016

2016 has been a massive year for innovation. We’re seeing bigger shifts towards clean energy, bolder strides in healthcare innovation, plus lots of really cool stuff that is bound to improve lives in one way or another.

Here’re 18 of our favorite innovations of 2016, in no particular order:

1. The World’s First Robot Lawyer

Image credit: Business Insider

Image credit: Business Insider

Created by 19-year old Joshua Browder, DoNotPay is a “robot lawyer” that helps you appeal your parking fines in London and New York. It can also deal with irresponsible landlords (in the UK) and help you get compensated from delayed flights or late trains in the EU. The robot lawyer uses chatbot technology to ask you questions and determine if you have a case, then directs you to the appropriate steps. It can even draft out legal letters for you.

Why it’s awesome: Since its advent, the robot lawyer has overturned more than 175,000 parking tickets ($5 million worth!), which would’ve been unjustly paid for. Plus, it’s been built by a teenager. We love kids daring to explore their capabilities.

Learn more about DoNotPay here.

 

2. Amazon Go – food shopping with no lines

Imagine going to a store, picking up whatever you want and just leaving without having to play the checkout line roulette. That’s basically the concept of Amazon Go, which will launch to the public in early 2017.

You use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take what you want, and walk out. The store uses what Amazon calls the “Just Walk Out” technology. It’s essentially the same type of tech used by self-driving cars — computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. The tech will sense which items you’ve plucked from the shelves, charge your Amazon account accordingly, and then send you a receipt.

Why it’s awesome: Amazon Go gives a glimpse into the future of retail — incredibly convenient and line-free. If we go by Amazon’s track record, Amazon Go’s technology could very well disrupt the existing landscape of food shopping.

Learn more about Amazon Go here.

 

3. The Orange Sweet Potato — One of the Most Innovative Ways to Feed the Planet

Image credit: Harvest Plus

Image credit: Harvest Plus

About 2 billion people in the world don’t get enough essential vitamins and minerals in their diet. And HarvestPlus is on a mission to change that. Using a process called biofortification, they create micronutrient-rich crop produced using conventional plant breeding methods. The results include the vitamin A-fortified sweet potato, iron-fortified beans, beta-carotene fortified cassava and many more.

Why it’s awesome: The Orange Sweet Potato was referred to as “one of the most innovative approaches to feeding the planet” by the US government. It has won the prestigious World Food Prize and is now being planted and consumed by over 126,000 households in Uganda alone.

Read more about HarvestPlus here.

 

4. The plane that flew around the world without a drop of fuel

Source: solarimpulse.com

Image Credit: Solar Impulse

The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi in July this year after flying 40,000km over the course of 15 months, powered solely by the energy of the sun. The adventure began in Switzerland, when Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg decided to explore their vision of clean tech helping to reduce carbon emissions.

Why it’s awesome: Besides breaking several world records, it’s a historic journey that has proven how possible it is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, even for planes.

Read more about Solar Impulse here.

 

5. SpaceX’s Reusable Rockets

Rockets cost a load of money to build (over $60 million) and can be used only once. Imagine building something for $60 million to transport a satellite into space once, and then throwing it away. That’s a massive waste of money, which is why Elon Musk’s SpaceX is developing the reusable rocket.

This year SpaceX made history for reusable rockets, successfully landing its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship to be refurbished and reused. Previous water landing attempts had ended explosively, so this was definitely something to celebrate.

Why it’s awesome: Once fulled developed, reusable rockets will drastically reduce costs of space access — by as much as a factor of a hundred.

Learn more about SpaceX here.

 

6. PlayStation VR

The PlayStation VR is Sony’s contender in the virtual reality headset race. We dare say that it is a winner thanks to its competitive price point. Its compatibility with the PlayStation 4 also essentially opens up the massive existing user base as potential customers.

Why it’s awesome: It basically brings quality VR to the mass market at a very competitive price compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (which requires you to fork out for a powerful, and expensive gaming PC). While its specs are slightly less impressive than its rivals, users report that the comfortable gaming experience and quality is top notch.

Learn more about the PlayStation VR.

 

7. A “Kindle” for the blind

Source: gineersnow.com

Source: gineersnow.com

Refreshable braille displays already exist, but they can usually only manage one line of text. This makes reading a slow and arduous process for the visually impaired, and limits the type of information it can display. A one-liner can’t handle graphs, spreadsheets or music because those are displayed spatially.

To address this problem, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a refreshable braille tablet that can display full pages at once.

Hailed the Holy Braille, the tablet is built upon the pneumatic system. It uses either air or fluid to push up small plastic pins that form braille letters. The Holy Braille is one of ten Popular Science 2016 Invention Awards winners.

Why it’s awesome: One word — price. While the technology for full-page braille displays exist, the cost to produce them would be prohibitive, potentially costing upwards of $55,000 per device. The team at the University of Michigan hopes to lower the cost of through the use of microfluidics which is much cheaper to produce, and predicts a price between $1,000 – $2,000.

Learn more about the Holy Braille here.

 

8. Pokemon Go

Image credit: mobipicker.com

Image credit: mobipicker.com

In less than a month from its launch in July this year, Pokemon Go had already amassed 75 million downloads (it’s now standing at 500 million downloads). It took the app only 13 hours to reach the top of the highest grossing app chart in the US. And right now it’s the biggest US mobile game of all time, with 23 million daily users. [Sources 1, 2]

Why it’s awesome: Pokemon Go basically brought Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to the masses, concepts previously only geeks and industry insiders were privy to. It’s built upon an existing game by Niantic called Ingress, which was popular among some but never truly caught on worldwide. Pokemon Go is an amazing example of the kind of magic that can happen when you fuse together a large company (Nintendo) and a startup (Niantic).

Download Pokemon Go here.

 

9. A digital tablet that feels and works exactly like paper — only better

reMarkable takes e-reader technology up a notch — delivering a realistic paper-like experience for people who love to see their thoughts visualized. Using what they call the CANVAS technology, the reMarkable tablet can be used exactly like how you would a notebook, a sketchbook, a printed document or just scraps of paper. You can take notes, scribble and doodle to your heart’s delight without generating disorganized piles of physical documents. All your scribblings are synced to the cloud in real time, making it a great tool for collaboration with no worries of lost notes. You can load e-books, PowerPoint presentations and documents onto it, organize your notes and sketches into different note- and sketchbooks,

Why it’s awesome: Everything else in the market that has attempted to replicate real paper has either flopped or are ridden with kinks. We’re super excited to seeing what its Norwegian creators tout as the world’s fastest digital paper.

Learn more about reMarkable here.

 

10. The factory that’ll dramatically lower the cost of solar energy

Image credit: MIT Technology Review

Image credit: MIT Technology Review

Tesla’s sister company SolarCity opened the GigaFactory this year. It spans 27 acres, making it the biggest of its kind in North America.

Once complete, the GigaFactory will produce 10,000 solar panels daily, equivalent to one gigawatt of solar power annually. These panels are highly efficient and are made using a simplified, low-cost manufacturing process.

Why it’s awesome: Solar energy used to come at a much higher cost. The Gigafactory, when complete and producing at maximum capacity, will be able to lower costs to the point where solar plus batteries is cheaper than fossil fuels.

Learn more about SolarCity here.

 

11. The Brain Implant that Communicates Wirelessly

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that destroys the nerve cells which controls your muscles. This eventually leads to a loss of mobility, speech, and even the ability to breathe without aid. ALS patients often use an eye-tracking device to communicate, unfortunately 1 in 3 loses the ability to move their eyes.

While brain-computer interfaces exist, they need re-calibrating by a team of engineers on a daily basis. Many are so complex they cannot work wirelessly.

As a result, the team at the Brain Center of University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands has developed a simple, inexpensive device that can be used at home, without the need for constant recalibration.

Why it’s awesome: HB, a woman with ALS, was the first to test out this device and have the system implanted. While it works slower than her eye tracker, the device can be used outdoors unlike the eye tracker which is sensitive to light. This has given her confidence to go outside and travel.

Learn more about the brain implant here.

 

12. Chevrolet Bolt – The First Mass Market Electric Car

chevrolet-bolt

Electric cars have been around for decades, but buyers have always had to worry about the range they can go before running out of juice. That was until the Tesla hit the market with a range of 208 miles. However, Teslas also come at a pretty hefty price tag, which limits its mass market appeal.

The Chevrolet Bolt offers an EPA of 238 miles (383km) per charge, surpassing the Tesla Model 3 by 23 miles. It doesn’t hurt that it comes at a very attractive price of $37,500 ($30,000 post federal tax incentives).

The Chevy Bolt comes equipped with all the tech you’d expect from an electric car — a 10.2-inch touchscreen, an electronic precision shift, as well as a super spacious, functional interior.

Why it’s awesome: Being the industry’s first affordable, long-range electric vehicle, the Chevy Bolt is General Motor’s big bet on its future in a world rapidly heading towards renewable, clean energy. Besides its price and battery range, the Chevy Bolt also has an innovative braking system which extends the car’s battery life by another 5%. It has been named the 2017 Car of the Year by Motor Trend as well as Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal.

Learn more about the Chevrolet Bolt here.

 

13. The bin that works 24/7 to clean the ocean

seabin

About 7 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, making up 75% of all marine debris. Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide and is set to get worse.

The plastic pollution is so overwhelming that a report published earlier this year estimates the amount of plastic will outweigh the fish by 2050.

To tackle the problem, two Australians have cooked up a first-of-its-kind bin that floats about, sucking up rubbish and debris. Designed to be used around marinas, ports, harbors, and yacht clubs, the Seabin will attack the trash brought in by the wind and currents.

Why it’s awesome: The current solution to trash around the marinas is expensive and labour-intensive. The Seabin does a better job at a much lower price point, does not take much to maintain and works 24/7. While it currently runs on electricity, the Seabin team is in the process of developing solar-powered Seabins, so they’re already innovating their innovation!

Learn more about the Seabin project here.

 

14. Uber’s self-driving delivery truck

uber-self-driving-truck

70% of the US’s freight is dealt with by the trucking industry, and they’re desperate for more drivers. According to the American Trucking Association, the current shortage of truck drivers stands at 48,000, with the figure possibly leaping to 175,000 by 2024.

In other words, there’s no better time for Uber-acquired Otto to launch its self-driving trucks. On October 20, Otto’s self-driving 18-wheeler tractor trailer drove 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer over 100 miles (160km) without human intervention.

Why it’s awesome: While the technology is still in its early days and cannot deal with tricky city environments, its hardware is tuned for the consistent patterns of highway driving. In a country where 430,000 truck crashes occurred just last year, self-driving trucks can definitely play a role in making highways safer.

Learn more about Otto here.

15. A farm powered by seawater and sunlight

In South Australia where the desert climate disagrees with conventional agriculture, farmers needed to think different. Sundrop Farms is the first in the world to utilize solar energy and desalinated seawater to grow their 180,000 tomato plants.

Why it’s awesome: By skipping soil, pesticides, fossil fuels and groundwater, the farm demonstrates how it is entirely possible to grow food in an eco-friendly, sustainable manner.

Learn more about Sundrop Farms here.

 

16. The world’s first touch-free smartphone

Image credit: wired.com

Image credit: wired.com

Israel’s Sesame Phone is controlled purely by head movements and gestures — making it possible for disabled people to call someone, send a text, surf the web and even play apps without the need for help.

The Sesame Phone tracks the user’s head movements through the built-in, front-facing camera on the phone. It then combines them with computer vision algorithms to create a cursor that appears on the screen of the phone. This enables users to do anything one might do with one finger on the screen. Integrated voice control wakes the phone up to start tracking you, so it’s truly touch-less.

Why it’s awesome: Sesame Enable’s technology gives an entire segment of society in Israel the ability to do what we take for granted everyday — go digital. It also grants them the freedom of independence and privacy, something very few disabled people enjoy.

Learn more about Sesame Enable here.

 

17. A stethoscope you ingest

rd100_enterophone

The Enterophone is a pill that can monitor your vital signs once you have ingested it. It uses special microphones to pick up sounds of your heart and lungs while a tiny thermometer measures your core body temperature.

It’s the only ingestible pill that tracks all three vital signs at once, all from within the gastrointestinal tract. Developed by a biomedical engineer at Harvard Medical School and a biomaterials scientist at MIT, the Enterophone has been successfully tested on pigs, and is in plans to be tested on humans next.

Why it’s awesome: If trials go well, this pill could make monitoring your vitals a breeze. It’ll make it easier to assess trauma patients, monitor soldiers in the field, perform long-term evaluation of patients with chronic illnesses, or improve training for professional and amateur athletes, according to the researchers.

Learn more about the Enterophone here.

 

18. The font that people with dyslexia can read without struggling

dyslexie-font-728x592

One in five people have difficulty reading, not because they don’t know how to, but because they suffer from dyslexia. People with dyslexia find it difficult to process graphic symbols, which makes reading and deciphering words a huge chore.

The Dyslexie font was created so that each letter is distinct and easier to recognize for those with dyslexia. It has recently raised a round of money via Kickstarter for a PDF converter that changes any typeface into the Dyslexie font.

Why it’s awesome: It’s hard imagining how something as small as a font can change the world for the better. But it can. Schools are using the Dyslexie font to help children with dyslexia learn better with minimal frustrations. Businesses are using the font to increase productivity and decrease errors in the workplace. There are even some publishers using the font to increase accessibility and encourage reading among those with dyslexia.

Learn more about the Dyslexie font here.

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How Solid is Your 2017 Innovation Strategy? 3 Qs to Answer

When we talk to our clients and workshop participants, most of them have some form of innovation initiative in place. Some have already begun pouring funding into R&D, while others have trained teams and set up new innovation processes.

However, achieving your innovation objectives is more than just putting together ideas and running with them. You first need a key element in place to see it to success — a clearly defined innovation strategy.

Unfortunately, this is something most firms overlook, according to innovation and competitive strategy expert Gary Pisano.

Fortify your innovation strategy by answering these 3 questions:

1. Are our objectives aligned?

The best strategies are usually based upon a clear objective, where vague statements like “we need to innovate now because everyone else is innovating,” or “we need to innovate so we can grow” have no place.

First, it’s important to be aligned on which type of innovation you are looking at.

There are 3 types of innovation:

  1. Efficiency-based innovation — where you focus on cutting costs, to do more with the same capital, usually a LEAN process, where you are fine-tuning and downsizing.
  2. Performance improving innovation — where you upgrade your existing products and services.
  3. Market-creating innovations — creating entire new business models, serving entirely new customers, puts your capital to use and creates the most value from a shareholder perspective.

Ask your team: what does “market-creating innovations” mean to our company?

2. Do we have the Money, Structure and Mandate in place?

There are 3,000 ideas for every one that makes it to market. The problem isn’t the idea. The problem is the system, processes, methods, tools, and resource allocation. If any of these are not in place, you are effectively killing off the ideas as they move down the pipeline.

In our research over the past 5 years, we realized that most innovation strategies that succeed are built upon the holy trinity of Money, Structure and Mandate.

Even if your ideas are brilliant, you will need the money (funding), structure (trained teams and a conducive corporate structure), and the mandate (support from the higher ups) to secure a successful transformation.

Here’s a quick score sheet from the Transformation Architecture strategy tool to help identify where you stand before you hit go. The higher your score, the better your chances at success.

Transformation Architecture

 

3. What are my next steps if some/none of them are in place?

Now comes the real work. It’s easy if you’ve got the entire package, from funding for new ideas and ventures, trained departments to be responsible for these new ventures, to the thumbs-up from the Board of Directors and top management.

It’s just a tad more challenging if you’re lacking an ingredient or two.

So where should you start? By asking the right questions.

Asking questions will help uncover a framework to start working with, so you can get the Money, Structure and Mandate set up for maximum transformation success.

What are the right questions to ask? Easy. They’re all in the free Transformation Architecture strategy tool that you can download by clicking the button below.

To get a more in-depth understanding of how the tool came about, you might want to take a peek at our lead facilitator Christian Rangen explaining the Transformation Architecture to workshop participants:

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