Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection


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Connecting – the colony of humans

All over the world things are changing with a speed that is terrifying and exhilarating – a better synergy between design and business – design and social change – design and entrepreneurship – they can help us come up with more creative solutions.

The next big, exciting, fun thing – to have a huge positive impact on peoples lives.

All this intensive connectivity – there is a super organism building up – in which humans are no longer top of the food chain

This idea that we would all actually be connected? Well its actually happening – and its more fair to say it has already happened – and we are still acting in some ways like everyone is not connected.

A world where that human layer is so critical. The new layer where there is a powerful secondary effect – an emergent power – that is purely delivered through good interactions

There is something bigger – which is the the colony of humans connected in this way – it is a ‘thing’ and it has behaviours and it has responses and reactions. What is different is those reactions responses and collective actions… they happen fast and they happen in visible ways.

You can see it …now. People waking up to this idea that they are powerful and can connect with one another.

The behaviour can become more and more collective as the signals become more and more explicit. We are part of something bigger – many of us are not yet aware of how we are part of something bigger and we are not entirely just our own ‘selves’ anymore.

Connecting.

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Influencing the UK’s Innovation – Collaboration with the TSB

The are many factors that compel companies to work together on their innovation programmes – learning and exploration of new markets and technologies, or tapping into each others resources and capabilities. But in the UK – when asking SME business leaders what gives them the push to collaborate – the UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and its grant funded innovation schemes is a major driver for being part of the UK innovation ecosystem.

While ‘Open Innovation’ is often cited in academic literature as being tough for SME’s  – they have a “liability of smallness” and don’t have power and influence in their industry or the resources and maturity of multi-nationals – none of that is a barrier for agile and adventurous UK SME companies – and the path to collaboration is made all the easier due to the policy choices of this UK government body.

When performing the literature review for my own research, the world of innovation and collaboration throws up lots of lessons – but when trying to pin down the academic understanding of “What drives successful inter-firm collaboration?” – government intervention was not what I was looking for.

But during 12 semi-structured interviews ‘The TSB” kept emerging. I’m all for the force of innovation and collaboration – but I found that effective macro-economic policy also plays a part in supporting the UK as a place to be ‘open’ in innovation.

Out of twelve C-level interviews, eleven of the candidate use TSB funding.

This is what they said:

“I mean the Technology, Strategy board, actually is probably a fantastic example of enabling Open Innovation in UK because of all the TSB funded projects. We’ve done one –  we’ve been involved in three big ones and we’ve got a fourth one where we are putting the final application in now.  And they’re obviously, you know, you have a collaboration agreement, you have a number of companies involved and they’re very good at getting people working together.  Maybe companies are not being as open as they could be, they don’t have to be totally open, but they do get people sitting around together and talking which is very good.”

“The TSB is picking up a large chunk of the role of the US VC fund because we don’t quite have the same investment culture here. A lot of the early-stage investors have gone away. We don’t quite have the investment culture here in the UK.”

“I must keep highlighting that the Technology Strategy Board has a key role to play – they are pretty good – they could probably do even more if they have more money – but they are a big help – the key mechanism for driving businesses to work with other businesses.”

The TSB and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and the “_connect” infrastructure also uncover potential new markets

“We are member of a couple of the knowledge transfer networks. We are just in receipt of a confirmation letter from the TSB for a collaborative activity around an innovative use of our equipment.”

While the TSB has formal programmes these can be used to support growth in venturing too

“We have used our IP to form a new company that was done with a TSB grant. We licensed some of our IP into that new company. That company was established and we together assigned a value to the IP that we took as a stake in the company as part of the funding round.”

Working under TSB requirements also give a structure to a partnership and can set out key terms, boundaries and expectations:

“You have to start to be very careful about co-creating explicit IP and if you actually expect to create protected IP. We will do that but we have to go through more detailed negotiations. It tends to be more of the TSB funded grant where you have to make sure that everything is notified in advance. This is inconvenient but we have done it and it’s fairly surmountable and were also on an EU grant at the moment where these things have to be codified in advance.”

The TSB funding is UK-centric – the world may becoming ‘flat’ – but the stimulus is local. Yet opportunity is frames by such boundaries

“Up comes this call for TSB funding and we looked at them and thought this is just perfect for the first time ever I am looking at TSB opportunity that fits exactly what we need and we’ve managed to find UK manufacturing partners and fabricators who are willing to partner in that.”

“I think what the TSB do is fine, within the terms of their remit. The problem is they are not on a firm footing – they are bounded to support UK-only partnerships – and the industrial base of this country has been so badly damaged. If you look at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany there are so many of them – such a fertile ground because there are just so many small family run manufacturing businesses within with an interest in innovation within Germany.”

Often Universities can be good partners – but more than that the TSB encourages this connection:

“There’s this one particular project I’m working on well with thinking of setting up a knowledge transfer partnership which would involve the University so we’re looking at a particular case because the university have access to a particular expertise that we want to benefit from.”

“You sometimes need a university when you go after aspects of different funding, you need a university partners sometimes to access the funding. If they see ‘multinational company’, ‘service company’ and ‘university’ together then they will fund it if you bring in all three parties.”

“We have had two TSB grants to work with Universities on for Cambridge and one for UCL and we have an ongoing relationship there.”

Buts its not just TSB funding –  early stage and highly innovative companies in the bio-tech, chemical, medical device and  software also tap into Research Council grants such as EPSRC ,and EU sources of funding permit partnerships beyond the UK.

In the future we see us doing more of our own in-house product development its just and we have programmes in place to do that but again these are grant funded through EU  funding that we have been able to secure –   we just cant justify the cost of doing that on from investor capitol.

Under the auspices of framework 6 and 7 programs of European Union funded activities we have developed new techniques  new service and products.

The choice and approach to funding was strategic and not just a form filling exercise – there are many stakeholders that can help drive your choices  and for those that scan the globe in search of knowledge you may build partnerships that allow you to tap into schemes such as DARPA – a practice that has been very successful for some UK businesses as these guys show here.

Understanding funding and its role in innovation is clearly a strategic capability in the UK and Europe.

While innovation partnerships are talked of as burdens on the SME (transactional costs) – leveraging the TSB with the right partners is a rite of passage for the UK innovators I interviewed – connecting knowledge, businesses and facilitating conversation and structured outcomes.

Having a government intervention is not the ideal of free-market efficiencies – but it does seem to making up for market failings – it gives the collaboration conversation some real teeth.

Business was always about scarce resources – with this funding strategy it seems the open innovators are finding what they need.

Well done TSB.

 


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Cracking the Pigeon Code

There was an article on the BBC web site a few weeks back – a pigeon had been found in a chimney – a dead pigeon from WWII – with a secret code tied to its legs.

GCHQ has looked at it but it was too hard. They talked about cypher technology – if the key was lost the message might never be found. ANd so they posted the message up on line. What wuld the whole world make of it – not even GCHQ has all teh brains in the planets.

And today it looks like its cracked… by a guy in Canada that has an old codes book and he has pieced it together and also offered to context to the message.

Its a great story – Im a sucker for intrigue – and I’m thinking three things.

1) Sometimes complex things are sometimes lot simpler than you fear – you just need the right people to help.

2) Even in the most closed and controlled environments knowledge management is a challenge – heaven help us in the diffused SocialEra world

3) Just how well the planet is connected when it huddles around a trusted influencer like the BBC

Now of course this could all be a ruse to obscure a deep dark secret – “Spin them the pigeon” could be a secret service tactic – but as it stand lets just enjoy a happy ending

The story is here.


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Tim Cook’s liberal use of the C-Word #collaboration

Tim Cook’s Apple is unquestionably the dominant technology firm on the planet today and whilst they hold a position of considerable power in the consumer market place, Apple couldn’t do it without a collaborative culture internally and without calling upon the expertise of other firms in their supply chain and ecosystem.

Apple is a formidable force but its success has always been built in collaboration with others – the iTunes world is a mesh of partnerships and the products themselves draw on a selection of select external partnerships. When people muse over the details of Samsung being a supplier to Apple as well as a competitor they miss the point – Apple can’t have all the smart people and smart technology in-house – they have always work pragmatically in partnership.

This belief in collaboration was communicated clearly as the world gained an insight into Tim Cooks view of the company and how it was shaping up one year on without Steve, and this “collaborative DNA” came through in his Bloomberg interview last week.

There have been some heads rolling at Apple lately. How did he see the shake down and personal changes?

“The key in the change that you’re referencing is my deep belief that collaboration is essential for innovation—and I didn’t just start believing that. I’ve always believed that. It’s always been a core belief at Apple. Steve very deeply believed this.”

Despite being very much part of the IPhone promo-video Steve Forstall took a bullet last month and the stars of Apple had to realign. As people speculated if the change was down to the muted response to the iPhone5’s non-too-radical feature set or the crashing disappointment of the maps fiasco – Tim is now framing the change in terms of a culture of collaboration.

“You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration. We’ve got services all in one place, and the guy that’s running that has incredible skills in services, has an incredible track record, and I’m confident will do fantastic things.”

Collaboration is a mindset and a competence – but you also need to be values aligned with the guys you are working with. Like rowers in a boat – there needs to be unity, and clearly Tim has found that affinity with Brit, Jony Ive.

“I love Jony. He’s an incredible guy, and I have a massive amount of respect for him. What bonds us? We both love Apple. We both want Apple to do great things. We both subscribe to the same principles. We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe in collaboration. We both view Apple as here to make the best products in the world. So our values are the same.”

The Jobs era was legendary –part inspired genius, part tyrant – very much in control and having the last word. But you do get a sense of changes under Tim Cook – acting as a connector of the talent rather than the master.

“Whether there’s something that I think I know really well or I don’t know at all…I always enlist other people, because the people around the table are phenomenal people. And I’ve always found even when I thought I knew the most that there was something more that could be added and make it even better.”

But what is it in the water in Cupertino… or have these guys mastered some kind of process?

“Creativity is not a process, right? It’s people who care enough to keep thinking about something until they find the simplest way to do it. They keep thinking about something until they find the best way to do it. It’s caring enough to call the person who works over in this other area, because you think the two of you can do something fantastic that hasn’t been thought of before. It’s providing an environment where that feeds off each other and grows.

“Creativity and innovation are something you can’t flowchart out. Some things you can, and we do, and we’re very disciplined in those areas. But creativity isn’t one of those. A lot of companies have innovation departments, and this is always a sign that something is wrong when you have a VP of innovation or something.”

The full transcript of Tim Cooks excellent Bloomberg interview can be found here.


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Its about the context as much as the content

I was lucky to come across this video today from John Seely Brown. It sang to me on a number of levels – how ideas and play amplify through collective action and how people respond to safety and permission to exchange.

There is a lot of information moving around but its the conversations around that information that give it meaning – the human connection that creates the context as much as the content itself. Its not the attachment on the email that answers the question but the shared and incremental significance that we build when we discuss it.

This is what the guys Im working with in Passle are trying to support – helping people participate in the flows. Im very happy with this idea – imagine the value that is unlocked when you facilitate meaningful connection.

If you have 11 mins to spare and want to feel warm about our collective future, watch this and let me know what you think:

Your faithfully and playfully – “a node amongst other nodes”

James