2010 PopTech Social Innovation Fellows

PopTech Social Innovation FellowsAlong with a cadre of stellar design professionals, educators, communication gurus, and experts in social enterprise, Peter Durand of Alphachimp served as faculty and scribe for this amazing weeklong program.

Each year, PopTech selects 10-20 high potential change agents from around the world who are working on highly disruptive innovations in areas.

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Plywood People: Interview with MailChimp CEO, Ben Chestnut

A man after my own heart... Ben had the gonadal circumference to name his service after a simian! We use MailChimp for our sporadic newsletters, too.

Within a year, Ben launched MailChimp, which grew alongside The Rocket Science Group.

MailChimp was a hit, and he started focusing exclusively on it in 2005. Since then, MailChimp has grown from 9,000 users to more than 400,000. 

MailChimp makes it easy to design and send beautiful emails, manage your subscribers and track your campaign’s performance. It takes powerful tools like segmentation, a/b testing and ROI tracking, and turns them into something anyone can use.

Ben’s interests include brand personality, monkeys and cars. His interests do not include golf.


Hybrid Thinking at P&G: Design meets Strategy


Procter and Gamble

When A.G. Lafley was named CEO of Procter & Gamble during the summer of 2000, her job was remarkably ambitious: Make innovation happen at P&G.

To remain the world's preeminent maker of useful stuff for the house, P&G needed to make a lot of changes very quickly and appointed Claudia Kotchka as the company's first-ever VP for design strategy and innovation in 2002.

Her job was remarkably ambitious: Make innovation happen at P&G!

And she did through up-endeding the status quo in P&G's product development process. She made several bold moves that any company may want to consider.

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Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People.

When I was a bachelor living in Chicago, my mom called one evening: "Your brother has a question for you."

She put 8-year-old Josh on the phone, who was curious if I still owned that 200-foot climbing rope. "Why? What's your plan?"

He was trying to solve a unique problem: How to connect a long rope from the 75-ft pine tree in our yard to the roof of the house in order to slide down it as a zip line.

(NOTE: Josh has been to the emergency room more than anyone else in our sprawling, adventurous family!)

Point being:

  1. "Problem-solving kids" are great,
  2. They need some skills and models to help'em,
  3. And society needs lots more of them!


Continue reading "Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People." »

The Product Failure Bin

ABOVE: "Wacky Hybrid Appliances" from This Old House On-Line

My family used to have a gag gift that would show up every Christmas in someone's gift pile. The "Boob Bath Mat" never failed to shock and awe.

Each year, it seemed as if the victim never saw it coming.

Lots of time and energy goes into products that never see the light of a showroom floor. So, how did this monstrous mash-up product ever make it to the marketplace?

Someone--a team of someones, in fact--had to propose the idea, design it, send the specs to a factory in China, produce a catalog layout, write sales copy, coordinate the shipping, etc.

Since innovation is being touted as our only way out of the eco-financial desert of Western Civ, we had better get smart about finding, designing and deploying good ideas.

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Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas

From Allison Arieff's blog By Design at New York Times on-line (thanks to @lumpysnake!):

Every worker would appreciate Steven M. Johnson's Nod Office (1984), an ingenious desk that can be transformed into a hidden sleeping chamber, perfect for late afternoon naps. Owning such a contraption remains for me a significant yet unrealized career goal.

Nod office

Johnson is the author of an illustrated 1984 book: “What the World Needs Now: A Resource Book for Daydreamers, Frustrated Inventors, Cranks, Efficiency Experts, Utopians, Gadgeteers, Tinkerers, and Just About Everybody Else.”

Amen, brother!

See more brilliantly perverse inventions posted in Allison's article: Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas

Innovation Conversations

As designers and facilitators of rich conversations, we serve a valuable role in innovation.

As facilitators, we can create the "safe container" for authentic (and often times emotional or caustic) conversations to occur, and for subtle, deep cultural shifts in thinking to begin.

As designers, we can give shape to the results of those conversations. We produce a thing--sometimes called a "work product" or "knowledge object" or "communication tool" or [insert corporatespeak term here].

These work products can take the form of a static model, a complex information graphic, a magazine article, a schematic diagram, a fully interactive website, a private wiki, an unedited blog post, or an airport lobby-sized installation art piece. The form is chosen for the target audience (and.. ah yes, the budget) in question.

Whatever the output, the real heart and soul of the innovation process seems to remain the conversation.

The network members of Social Media Today are playing in the emerging space of new ways to have those conversations.

Do Conversations Fuel Innovation?

The McKinsey Quarterly recent edition says Innovation has become a primary force in determining company growth, performance, and valuation. Unfortunately, a wide gap exists between executives’ aspirations to innovate and their ability to execute.”

Piers Gibbon writes about “The Innovative Conversation” The title was inspired by the researchers who have shown that “rich conversations”¹ have more value in business than “dehydrated, ritualized”¹ presentations. That “Connections and Conversations … provide the fuel for innovation” ² and companies need “to create a climate … where everyone feels the responsibility and desire to contribute to the organizations innovation performance.”

In economics, business and government policy,- something new - must be substantially different, not an insignificant change. In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value.
The term innovation may refer to both radical and incremental changes to products, processes or services.

Embrace the Edge -- or Perish

The periphery of today's global business environment is where innovation potential is the highest. Ignore it at your peril.

Article by John Hagel and John Seely Brown

Edges are increasingly significant as the global business environment speeds up. In a world of accelerating change, what's born on the edge transforms the core with breathtaking speed. A few short years ago, both India and China were marginal players in the global economy. Now they are central players. Not long ago, the Internet was a specialized communication platform for scientists. Now it's a center for commerce and advertising.

Engage. Too often, executives get intrigued with the edge and arrange field visits to explore this strange terrain. Insight rarely comes from such casual visits. Instead, executives need to identify and focus on challenging business issues to engage edge participants productively and drive real insight.

Sustain relationships on the edge. A lot of the current effort in open innovation focuses on short-term transactions to gain access to existing resources. To get the full value of the learning that's occurring on the edge, executives need to find ways to build long-term, trust-based relationships with edge participants.

Bring the edge to the core. In too many cases, companies set up remote outposts on the edge that become isolated and alienated from the core of the business. Senior executives need to identify challenges confronted by the core where insights from the edge can be helpful and sponsor initiatives to bring participants from both domains together around these issues.

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