Lessons I Learned Today 6/5/09 – Brainstorming in the Clouds

This is a digest and recap of highlights, quotes, and comments from articles and discussions posted on this date on the Applied Entrepreneurship, LinkedIn group site.


*The Failed Promise of Innovation in the U.S. by Michael Mandel

“During the past decade, innovation has stumbled. And that may help explain America’s economic woes.”

“What if outside of a few high-profile areas, the past decade has seen far too few commercial innovations that can transform lives and move the economy forward? What if, rather than being an era of rapid innovation, this has been an era of innovation interrupted? And if that’s true, is there any reason to expect the next decade to be any better?”

“There’s growing evidence that the innovation shortfall of the past decade is not only real but may also have contributed to today’s financial crisis.”

“The reality of innovation was less than the perception, that helps explain why America’s apparent boom was built on borrowing. The information technology revolution is worth cheering about, but it isn’t sufficient by itself to sustain strong growth—especially since much of the actual production of tech gear shifted to Asia.”

“The innovation shortfall helps explain why the collapse has been so broad.”

“There’s no government-constructed “innovation index” that would allow us to conclude unambiguously that we’ve been experiencing an innovation shortfall. Still, plenty of clues point in that direction. Start with the stock market. If an innovation boom were truly happening, it would likely push up stock prices for companies in such leading-edge sectors as pharmaceuticals and information technology.”

Another indicator of commercially important innovation is the trade balance in advanced technology products. “In 1998 the U.S. had a $30 billion trade surplus in these advanced technology products; by 2007 that had flipped to a $53 billion deficit. Surprisingly, the U.S. was running a trade deficit in life sciences, an area where it is supposed to be a leader.”

“Each of these statistics has shortcomings as an innovation indicator. Drawing conclusions about innovation from movements in stock prices is a dicey business at best. But taken together, these statistics tell a story of weaker-than-expected innovation.”

“f the description of the last decade as an innovation shortfall turns out to be accurate, that could make a big difference in how we think about the U.S. economy. For one thing, it helps explain why the trade deficit skyrocketed. A high-wage country such as the U.S. either has to develop innovative products and services to compete with low-cost countries such as China or accept a lower standard of living. “The competitive advantage of the U.S. economy has to be leveraging our science capacity for economic growth,” says Pisano of Harvard. Fewer innovative products mean a weaker trade performance.”


* No Innovation Without Ambition by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble

“The failures of risk management that led to the financial crisis need innovative solutions. For that, we need the full passion and unbridled optimism of our business leaders.”

“Innovation only sometimes ends on an upbeat. Failure is inevitably a part of the innovation game. Post-failure, some companies tear themselves apart looking for someone to blame. Others dig for the right lessons learned and move on to fight another day.”

“We face the same choice now: not as a company, but as an entire economy. We can be weak in defeat, or we can be strengthened by it.”

“Which path will we take? There are reasons to be hopeful. Fears of a complete economic collapse have abated. The worst of the acrimonious finger-pointing has passed. The environment may now be favorable for all of us to be able to take a collective deep breath, figure out what went wrong, and set about fixing it. And if we believe we can fix it, then optimism will stage a comeback.”

“Innovation in risk management supports innovation in all other industries. The activities of every company can be divided into two simple categories: ongoing operations and innovation. There is only so much uncertainty that a business can tolerate in total. When uncertainty in ongoing operations is high, innovation is diminished. But when a company can transfer day-to-day risks elsewhere, it can invest more in innovation, and we all stand to win. For example, when an airline can off-load the risk of rising fuel prices, it can invest more in experimental new services.”

“There is nothing fundamentally wrong with ourselves, our culture, our economy, or capitalism. We had something akin to a technical failure in the central computer system, and it brought us all down. But we built that central computer system, and we can certainly repair it.”

“Despite substantial collateral damage beyond the financial centers, we have plenty to build upon. We have the same factories we had before the crisis. We have the same workforce. We have the same talented scientists, engineers, and creatives, ready to chase dreams, ready to innovate.”

“All we need is the full passion and unbridled optimism of our business leaders. Today, however, too many are hunkered down, waiting for the outlook to brighten.”

“Wake up. If you are a business leader, then your mood is the outlook. We await your call, your fighting spirit, and your belief in progress and possibility. Innovation begins with optimism.”


*How to Build a Hybrid Cloud Computing Strategy by James Staten

“Cloud computing platforms are more than just shared, multi-tenant infrastructures on the public Internet. Three infrastructure-as-a-service cloud deployment options are available to enterprises today, each with unique characteristics and economics that can help optimize application and service deployment objectives:

1.Public clouds.

2.Internal clouds.

3.Hosted clouds.

“Enterprises should build a strategy that leverages all three options via virtual private cloud technologies, which will result in a hybrid cloud strategy that optimizes business service deployment efficiencies.”

“The evolution of cloud computing and virtual private cloud technologies add to the ever widening portfolio of infrastructure deployment options that help enterprises match the infrastructure to the needs of the application more efficiently and cost effectively than has been possible before.”

Here are a few tips to ensure the integration between these deployment infrastructures deliver the greatest value:

  1. View cloud platforms as a portfolio of deployment options.
  2. Partner with enterprise architects to get the deployment model right.
  3. Build a security model and policy with your CISO.
  4. Ask your hosting providers about their cloud plans.


*10 cloud computing companies to watch by Jon Brodkin

“Cloud computing is spreading through the IT world like wildfire, with innovative start-ups and established vendors alike clamoring for customer attention.”

“Generally speaking, cloud providers fall into three categories: software-as-a-service providers; infrastructure-as-a-service vendors that offer Web-based access to storage and computing power; and platform-as-a-service vendors that give developers the tools to build and host Web applications.” This article tells you why Network World thinks these 10 cloud companies are worth watching, how they got into it, what they offer, and other insights.


* The future of cloud computing and what it means for CRM by Denis Pombriant

“About once each decade, the technology paradigm shifts in fundamental ways and forces us to rethink how we support business processes. Many people have commented on the shifts from mainframes and mini-computers to client-server to Software as a Service (SaaS). The new wrinkle is cloud computing, and it is notable for two reasons.”

“First, cloud computing is bringing many new companies into the business application space, and many of these companies are not startups. Second, the old paradigm of differentiation to the point of incompatibility among products is being reversed. In the process, many vendors are working hard to support de facto standards so that all of their products work together. These attributes will help to ensure that the cloud computing era is nothing like those that preceded it.”

“Smart tech companies — like Facebook — have seen the writing on their walls and decided to join the revolution before it bypasses them. So we see Google, the search company, offering a suite of office automation applications using an advertising business model; Amazon offering storage and compute services from the cloud; and companies like Salesforce.com providing complete business application development and deployment from the cloud.”

“The operative word for many of these companies is platform. Led by the uber-platform vendor Salesforce.com, a gaggle of forward-thinking vendors have decided that their futures are in platforms and that the platforms must interconnect. The rush to compatibility has pragmatic roots.”

“Social applications give us tremendous ability to harness the power of large communities organized around common needs. Those needs can be a business process, a vendor, a customer type and a great deal more. I have referred to this style of application as “WebNecessary” because the fact that these applications leverage the cloud — including other cloud applications — is what makes them work. Similar applications behind a firewall would not provide the same level of spontaneity and input that so many vendors need.”

“As I see it, the future of cloud computing is inextricably tied up with the future of social applications. The potential impact of social applications on our business and personal lives is huge. For that reason, application ubiquity is a requirement, and that makes cloud computing both a necessary component and the environment of choice.”


* Women – The Innovative Entrepreneurs by Ellisa Brenneman

“More than one-third of entrepreneurs in the United States are women, and the growth in the number of woman-owned firms is more than double the rate of all U.S. firms. Stay-at-home moms are multi-tasking more than ever. In between childcare, cooking and cleaning, they are cranking out inventions that are making them millions. In America, women start 424 new enterprises every day that’s more than twice as many as men. These mothers of invention have nurtured their creative ideas outside the corporate box. Knowing how to stretch a dollar, these resourceful women started simple, by keeping costs down and production up!”

“Today, over 11-million creative woman entrepreneurs are using their ingenuity to fill niches on their own terms. The reasons women start their own company varies but research shows 46% want more control over their schedules, 23% were frustrated with the corporate environment, while 24% saw a niche and filled it. These successful woman entrepreneurs all share a common characteristic: they think outside the box.”

Here’s some popular networking techniques used by woman entrepreneurs:

  1. Keep It Small
  2. Keep It Selective
  3. Keep It Consistent
  4. Keep It Focused


* Brainstorming for Better Business by Jessie Scanlon

“Brainstorming is a critical part of Kaiser’s innovation process—and one that shows results. For instance, as a result of this session, Kaiser launched a brand-new process for delivering medications that has led to a 50% decrease in nurse interruptions and a 15% increase in efficiency.”

Taking this event as a guide, the article takes a look at how Kaiser runs its idea-generating sessions.

The organizers explain the ground rules of brainstorming laid out by Alex Faickney Osborn in his 1953 book, Applied Imagination. These include the need to focus on the quantity of ideas rather than quality, withhold criticism, welcome unusual ideas, and combine and improve on them.

What can executives learn from Kaiser’s approach to brainstorming?

Focus on quantity of ideas rather than quality, withhold criticism, welcome unusual ideas, and combine and improve on them.

Define the Problem—and Stay on Target. Often the most effective brainstorms look beyond the initial problem to focus on its root causes

Space Matters   A basic room with lots of wall space works just fine. Formal conference rooms can be a bit stuffy, but if that’s the only option, cover the table with objects or materials that will stimulate creative thinking.

• Build Your Team.  Research shows that multidisciplinary teams are better problem-solvers, so invite people—aim for six to eight—who will bring a range of skills and perspectives.

• Learn from the Experts   Jump-start your brainstorming practice by working with an experienced innovation consultancy. Then adapt their methods to work in the context and culture of your company.

Practice  Just as becoming a Six Sigma black belt takes considerable training, you’ll never become a champion brainstormer if you don’t practice regularly.


* How Cloud Computing Will Change Business by Steve Hamm

“IBM, Qualcomm, Nokia, and other majors, along with startups, are preparing to cash in on new technology.”

“Now that more personal PC is here in the form of smartphones and mini-laptops, and broadband wireless networks make it possible for people to be connected almost anytime and anywhere. At the same time, we’re seeing the rise of cloud computing, the vast array of interconnected machines managing the data and software that used to run on PCs. This combination of mobile and cloud technologies is shaping up to be one of most significant advances in the computing universe in decades.”

“Avon is embarking on a massive, multiyear overhaul of the way it manages its nearly 6 million sales representatives around the world. Avon’s strategy shows how the relationship between individuals and their computers is undergoing a radical change. Up till now, people have used a variety of computing devices in their professional lives, including desktops, laptops, handhelds, and smartphones. Each device was essentially an island of capabilities—applications, communications, and content. Cloud computing means that information is not stranded on individual machines; it is combined into one digital “cloud” available at the touch of a finger from many different devices.”

“We’re shifting to more of a people- and information-centric world,” says Paul Maritz, CEO of software maker VMware.”

“For the $3.4 trillion global tech industry, this shift offers a path out of the economic doldrums. In fact, it may be the largest growth opportunity since the Internet boom. While market researcher Gartner (IT) expects the global tech market to shrink by 3.8% this year, forecasters have high hopes for portables, wireless networks, and cloud computing over the next few years. Gartner predicts the market for cloud products and services will vault from $46.4 billion last year to $150.1 billion in 2013.”

“Many businesses are struggling to understand what this shift means for them. They’re feeling their way forward, trying to figure out how best to take advantage of it.”

“There are experiments popping up all over that offer lessons for other businesses.”

“It won’t be easy for companies to make good on the opportunities. There is still a great deal of work to be done to get all these technologies functioning seamlessly and reliably.”

“Companies need increased reassurance that their data and communications will be secure and that the new services will be available whenever they need them. On May 14, an outage at Google left many customers unable to use its online applications. And while the tech industry has made it ever easier for information from different cloud services and devices to be fused together (personal profiles and calendars, for instance), a lot of the actual merging has yet to be done. ”

“The shortcomings spell opportunity for plenty of companies in tech.”

“This is one of those turning points where small companies can explode onto the scene while industry giants miss out. One factor that puts some tech giants at a disadvantage is that the shift to a more personalized approach to computing is being led by companies born and raised in the consumer world. Apple and Google understand in their bones that simplicity and ease of use are essential to broad adoption of products and services. That lesson doesn’t come so naturally to Microsoft and IBM.”


What I Think

I think the articles posted on this date show a possible problem, a methodology and technology which can help resolve it, and, perhaps, a peek at the resulting future of business. Michael Mandel’s article on the failed promise of innovation in the United States, on its face, seems to make a good argument that our technological advances over the last decade or so are actually pretty disappointing. Looking at such a broad brush approach, and particularly taking the tack of looking at what has not been accomplished, may present an opportunity for a strong counter-point argument. If his argument is correct, however, then Houston, we have a problem.

Starting from the perspective of our current financial crisis, the No Innovation Without Ambition gives us a foundation for hope of recovery. The basic premise of this article is that things are really not that bad, other than that we are projecting our fears onto the market place, with perception becoming reality. The article seems to argue that nothing has really changed that deeply, other than in our minds. Sure we had a little hiccup, but we’re not really that sick.

While I certainly hope the authors are correct, they may be understating the long term impact of this economic crisis. We will rebound. We do still have factories and skilled workers. There is still money moving around the economy.

The problem I see, based primarily upon my focus on entrepreneurs in my law practice and consulting firm, is related to the depth of this economic fear, coupled with a breakdown of a large segment of our banking industry, uncompetitive automobile industry, upside down real estate market, new and untested regime in Washington, and government intervention in all of the above. Some entrepreneurs, and potential future entrepreneurs have been so depleted financially and psychologically, that they will not be able to recover.

The new slogan from Washington is “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to fix you.” If you believe that slogan, I’ve got a bridge across the Ohio River that I’d like you to build for me.

I certainly agree that the current crisis presents the savvy entrepreneur with a multitude of opportunities. There is lots of “low hanging fruit,” ready to be picked.  The good and bad news is that many of these opportunities will not be achievable by traditional or conventional means.

Time to think outside the box? According to the inference of Ellisa Brenneman’s article about women entrepreneurs, that apparently means men will go the way of the dinosaur, if we have not already. Could be right. I’m seeing more cave men on TV commercials every day, and then there’s that whole global warming thing.

 The only hope for male entrepreneurs may be to follow Jessie Scanlon’s story about brainstorming. The article presents many helpful tips on how to beat the ladies, or any other competitor.

 If you just want to hide in the clouds, it seems that may be an excellent strategy as well. The various articles on cloud computing indicate a paradigm shift is occurring, based upon this technology. This, in turn, offers a multitude for entrepreneurs who want to capitalize on this and to make sure the playing field is not level for those behind them.


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If you enjoyed my impression of these articles, why don’t you read them for yourself and see what you and I missed or hit? Join the Applied Entrepreneurship group on LinkedIn. Membership is free and I try to post about ten articles a day there. We have some great discussions going and if you are an entrepreneur, we hope you will join us.

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Posted in Applied Entrepreneurship, entrepreneur, Growing a business, Innovation, Intellectual property, Women Business Enterprise

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