You Always Have to Sell Innovation

You Always Have to Sell Innovation

As an innovation leader or intrapreneur, you always have something to sell. In the end it is a product or a service, but during the development of a revenue-generator, you have to sell a vision to internal and external stakeholders.

You communicate that vision by:
•   Developing a value proposition that can be adapted for various stakeholders.
•   Capturing the very essence of the value proposition in a short and brief elevator pitch that focuses on the recipients of the message.

In Geoffrey Moore’s classic book, Crossing the Chasm, he provides the term “value proposition” as a way to choose from among what is presented to us for consideration. Options include choosing nothing at all, if there are no choices that improve our current situation.

Here are the six elements Geoffrey Moore describe as needed to communicate an effective value proposition:

• For (target audience)
• Who are/wants/needs (statement of needs or opportunity or compelling reason to buy)
• The (product name) is a (product category)
• That (statement of key benefits)
• Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
• Our product (statement of primary differentiation)

Keep in mind that some adaptation of these elements might be required for communicating value propositions for things other than products or services. However,  this approach allows you to convey all important aspects without providing too much information. It also enables you to explain your product or service in a few sentences, which is short enough for people to remember. This framework can also be used later when creating your “elevator pitch.” Here the idea is that if you can convey your message to others in 60 seconds or less, they will remember the majority of the value proposition. Since word of mouth is one of the biggest forms of communication, this is extremely important.

You will most likely never get to use an elevator pitch in the true sense, as you will almost always have more than a minute to make your case when you interact with others. However, if you think that means  there is no need to do this, you’d be wrong. Preparation is the key point of value propositions and elevator pitches. The learning you gain while defining your value proposition and tuning your pitch will make you understand your product, service, or message so well that it will become much easier for you to achieve success. That creates all the reasons in the world to take this very seriously.

Picture this: you have worked on an idea that can really make a difference at your company. Nevertheless, you have difficulties getting in touch with the key stakeholders, and when you do, you keep hitting the wall of indecisiveness.

Then one day you get a break. After having given yet another so-so presentation to people who seem unable to make a decision, you step into the elevator with the person who can singlehandedly decide whether your idea is boom or bust. You know this is your big–and perhaps only–shot. Your pulse quickens. Your body temperature rises. What do you do?

Too few people are prepared to deal with such a situation. They have not given such a situation much thought, let alone prepared something to say or rehearsed saying it. So instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, they just let it walk out the door or mess it up and end up looking like an incompetent fool. Do not leave this to luck. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.


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Is Your Leadership Innovative?

Is Your Leadership Innovative?

Are your leadership actions impeding innovation?  Are your change initiatives successfully implemented and delivering the benefits you expected?  How is YOUR behavior impacting their ability to delivery results?

Innovative Leadership – Critical to Create a Culture of Successful Innovation

Many traditional leaders spend more time perfecting their golf swings than they do updating their ability to lead in this interconnected and dynamic business environment.  The leaders who consistently implement innovative change continue to improve their leadership skills, including the level of self-knowledge and introspection that provides a feedback loop for ongoing improvement.

Innovative leadership is the type of leadership that allows already successful leaders to raise the bar on their performance and the performance of their organizations.

An innovative leader is defined as someone who consistently delivers results using the following:

  • Strategic leadership that inspires individual goals and organizations vision and cultures;
  • Tactical leadership that influences an individual’s actions and the organizations systems and processes.
  • Holistic Leadership that aligns all key dimensions:  Individual, culture, action and systems.

While others differentiate leadership from management this definition includes both because, to fully implement innovative change, the organizational leaders need to both set the strategy and be sufficiently involved in the tactics to ensure innovation and changes happen.  This does not mean micro managing – it means an awareness and involvement in key elements of the innovation and change process. This includes continually growing and evolving leadership capacity and actions, leading and implementing culture and system changes within the organization.  It also means others seeing key leaders involved consistently in meaningful ways.

Let’s look at an example of a leader who faced a change she had not previously faced in her business.  She runs Working Partners, an organization focusing on creating drug free workplaces.  She built a strong successful business and yet, external pressures changed her market.  The government provided many of these services at a lower cost.  Being a very innovative leader, she worked with her immediate team and sought external input on possible options.

As of this writing, she is launching multiple pilot projects that will enhance and/or change her company and its offerings.  They will take the results of the pilots and determine how to refine the course of the business to ensure long term organizational success and customer service.

It is important to note that some of these pilots reflect small changes based on distribution channel and methods of delivery.  Others seem radical and include significant expansion of the organization’s mission.  Because the founder, Dee Mason, is proactive and open to exploring a broad range of changes, she will find a series of innovations that allow the organization to thrive.  Part of her success in making significant change will include looking at the entire system to make holistic changes including how she herself leads the organization.  This is one of the qualities that is unique to innovative leaders, they are continually looking at who they are in the context of the organization and they continue to change and grow as they change their organizations.

What are specific qualities that differentiate an innovative leader from a traditional leader? In our time of rapid business, social and ecological change, a successful leader is a leader who can continually:

  • Clarify and effectively articulate vision
  • Link that vision to attainable strategic initiatives
  • Develop themselves and influence the development of other leaders
  • Build effective teams by helping colleagues enact their own leadership strengths
  • Cultivate alliances and partnerships
  • Anticipate and respond to both challenges and opportunities aggressively
  • Develop robust and resilient solutions
  • Develop and test hypothesis like a scientist
  • Measure, learn, and refine on an ongoing basis

To further illustrate some of the qualities of innovative leadership, we offer this comparison between traditional leadership and innovative leadership:

We keep hearing that the world is changing and it is.  The question for you is what will you do to lead the thinking and changes in these times rather than talking about how tough it is?  Will you be an innovator or a barrier to innovation?  The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook provides easy to use tools and reflection questions that lead you through a six step process to become a more innovative leader.

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Successful Innovations Meet Social ‘Imaginaries’

Successful Innovations Meet Social "Imaginaries"

Why do innovations become successful? A sparkling idea tranfers in an elegant realization sustained by a powerful marketing: is this enough? My belief is that at some point innovation requires to resonate with society state of mind, encoutering our hopes and latent needs, matching our implicit codes.

Making the implicit explicit, filtering the trends, detecting the weak signals, helping us to understand what are society imaginaries, is the work of Stéphane Hugon a reckognized sociologist, researcher, and teacher at both Descartes-Sorbonne Paris University and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. Linking innovative technology with consumer usages, Stéphane cofounded consulting agency Eranos, specialized in analyzing relationship between innovative technology and consumer imaginaries.

He explains here how successful innovations in various areas (Web, Mobile, human-machine interface for vehicle) tackle with social transformation and personal identity, meeting with “social imaginaries”, and reversely, how imaginaries analysis allows to anticipate social adoption of new technologies.

How can we define social imaginaries?

We are living in a world of change, of mutation, which is a great opportunity, as well as being a challenge. It has been often said that our way of life has changed more in the last decade than since the end of the second world war. It is also said that this change manifests itself in the small things, the details, the small gestures that populate everyday life. Indeed, it is the slight and everyday nature of these gestures and ways of living that increases the depth of these mutations, making them more profound, more radical and more deeply rooted.

The mutation is difficult to understand, because it is not simply an economic metric. One way to understand these changes – technological, sociological, organisational – consists of using the resources of the sociology of imagination (1).  The imaginary is at first sight a paradoxical notion, because it shares the structures, signs and meanings which give coherence and reality to cultural phenomena. Nevertheless, it is this shared bank of meanings that gives it its interprative strength.

If we were to try and give a definition, we could say that the social imaginary is the corpus of images shared by a particular group, and that give to this group the same references, the same vision of reality, and the reflexive understanding of everything that appears in their environment.

Once given imaginary is a “collective treasury of images, myths, narrative structures”, would you connect it as well to the “prisme” metaphor?

The imaginary is the interprative mechanism for selective filtration and understanding through which people communicate, build confidence and construct society.

The imaginary is culture. The imaginary is in a sense the “hidden treasure” of the public, of society; it is the collective unconscious, that enable understanding, and the discovery of cohesion and coherence.

Collective images and shared beliefs facilitate the global understanding of our environment. In a word, social imaginary creates the experience of the same implicit codes, with no explanation being necessary.

What is the link between imaginaries and innovation?

The imaginary is the unspoken which produces shared conviction. And if the imaginary is specific to different groups that means that we can analyse it, we can store it, we can create imaginary history, and study its sociology.

This is a topic of great contemporary interest in the field of technological innovation, because for a long time the supply of technologies followed a pattern of adoption according to the metric of scarcity of availability. Technology was closely linked to a certain idea of skills and learning, and for this reason preserve of a select group – the educated, the mature, the technicians.

But today, context has changed. Since the industrial revolution, the centres of innovation in usage of technology has been based in companies and professional groups, who have had the monopoly on access to technology, and sole posession of the skills to use and produce tools and technology. The directors of IT at the end of the last century noticed that the function of innovation has since left this specific environment: innovation has migrated from its hitherto corporate haven, and has to build its legitimacy in a broader social imaginary.

Considering technological innovation addresses a larger market, does it pave the way for a new world of co-innovation?

With it, also, has gone the skills and skill processes and the innovative dynamics of appropriation and the transformation of usages. This is one of the most interesting lessons we may learn from the Internet: to have demonstrated that public exposure to technology should result in mutual enlargement and transformation.

Now we have an environment wherein the audience enhances and creates new uses for technology, as well as technology changing the audience.

Successful Innovations Meet Social "Imaginaries"

The figure of the adolescent, expansion in distribution, and the idea of  “DIY”, are key elements for innovation in technology and services today. At this moment, an analysis of the key imaginary structures behind this could be helpful.

What are the implications of the era of “intensive innovation” that we are living in?

In the context of a saturated market-place, the main driver of what constitutes a pertinent technological offer are the aspects of it which make it immediately understandable by the public. Time to market.

Because of that, contemporary users are no longer willing to accept conditions whereby they must undergo a long period of learning, adaptation and self-aclimitisation. For example, it used to be the case that if your work involved use of computers, this was a specialised task which required you to undergo special training for this type of complex, delicate and bulky operation. Now, it is an requisite of most  employees to be “computer literate”.

Successful Innovations Meet Social "Imaginaries"

The time of appropriation could be immediate, so we should tend toward a having a very tight learning curve. This is the design concept of “affordance”, which we may understand in this context as the capacity of an object, a service, interface, economic model to be immediately ingrained in a legitimate way in the mind of the users. Plug and play.

As “immediate meaning” seems required for innovation, what role does design play to shape straightforward and intuitive innovations?

The offering by itself – its form, its verbalisation, its design – induces a promise, technical details, and the way to use it; coextensive understanding with the culture of usage.

One quality of the technological aspect is that it does not challenge the fundamental convictions and perceptions of the users, but rather reveals their unconscious hopes.

This is the capacity of innovation to access the unconscious recognition of need, and memory of usage – the term ‘in’ which has been noted by Michel Maffesoli. When contemporary economists have focused their attention on ‘novation’, they have often forgotten the ‘in’. That means whatever the qualities of the new offering, it will only come to life if it can grow roots in the ‘in’ of usage and social representation. In short, the social imagination.

What tools can we leverage on to build innovations encountering imaginaries?

The most important objective for those seeking to produce innovation, is to do nothing! To take the time to listen and to observe the social and symbolic background which is said to recieve and take part in the offering. This is a phase in the cartography of the social imagination, in other words the map of consumer imaginaries.

In that way, innovation is very close to identification. The manner in which people accept the offer is an index of legitimacy.

Indeed, technology could be considered as a living space, which is realized through the people’s belief in and contribution to it. In order to be activated, to actually come into contact with its audience, the offer must give space to its users – even if they are mass audience.

We have the technology we deserve; this is reflected in the social history of technology.

What is the dynamic of social imaginary?

These images are dynamic, they are manifested in the myths and figures – for example, the myth of the hero, or that of the performance. This mythology of imaginary is a living ecosystem – it lives and it dies. It is transfigured, as with the wellspring metaphor which has been thoroughly analysed by Gilbert Durand.

However, such an innovation is not limited to the fuction of a mirror, it is also a fuction of verbalisation – revealing – the innovation should speak to you.  A relevation, in the photographic sense of the term, that produces images which are latent, unconscious; the real architecture of relationships between persons. Sociology of imagination gives us the ability to create maps of how people share images and structures in the social imagination.

Contemporary usages of technology and innovation are not free from these dynamics. They too share issues which lie at the heart of this problematic. We talked about mutation; the sociology of imagination has identified certain passages and inversion.

This means the end of the functionalist promise of technology by example. For example, the success of Apple does not come from its technical power, neither does the sucess of the recent Nintendo wii platform. The individual subject had been by now thoroughly saturated as an actor, prefiguring profiles, avatars, sessions, users and communities.

Hence, we see the return of analogic and corporal: sensitive interfaces, or the disappearance of interfaces altogether, the emergence of gestures and vocals, the legitimacy of playfulness, of gameplay as a social act. This gives rise to the creation of new spaces – the game as a tool for engagement, a social practice. These are the big trends, but it is also possible to identify elements specific to niche and discreet audiences and publics.

What social trends shall we incorporate, what are the weak signals to decode?

The imaginary is coextensive with social life. This allows the mediation between objects, services and the public. The purpose of the situation we find ourselves in is not simply to submit to all of these representations. It is also an opportunity to access closer proximity to the reality which the user projects upon interfaces.

We have to decode weak signals on 3 levels: psychology, anthropology, history:

  • For example, psychological signals of mutation include new models like regressive behavior, connectivity, sociability, addiction.
  • Anthropology observation show merger with nature, symbolism, paganism, rituals.
  • Or history filter leads to concepts of tribes, altruism, mutants, collective creation, opportunistic timing (“hic et nunc”, cairos, interstitial utopia).

More than individual identities and needs, technological innovation have to involve social links.

On the other hand, the way we access and give reality to these phantoms allow us to escape the dynamics of appropriation and usage, and can help us to anticipate and to identify the value given to an offer by the user. In other words, it can allow us to see just beyond the horizon, to the forthcoming offers of technology, and the services of tomorrow.

1 The sociology of imagination is the study of the imaginary structures which run through the entire social body, bearing a huge imfluence on things like trust, meaning and shared understanding.

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The Intersection of Human and Organizational Innovation Capabilities

The Intersection of Human and Organizational Innovation Capabilities

One of my main interests is looking at the intersection of organizational and human capabilities. Business is accomplished through people, thus individual mindset, behavior and capabilities determine organizational performance. When it comes to innovation, a recently published research paper, titled ‘The Bias Against Creativity’ serves as a good example. The findings indicate a paradox that people desire but reject creativity. The authors explain this paradox by proposing that people can hold a bias against creativity that is not necessarily overt, and which is activated when people experience a motivation to reduce uncertainty. They further conclude:

“If people hold an implicit bias against creativity, then we cannot assume that organizations, institutions or even scientific endeavors will desire and recognize creative ideas even when they explicitly state they want them. This is because when journals extol creative research, universities train scientists to promote creative solutions, R&D companies commend the development of new products, pharmaceutical companies praise creative medical breakthroughs, they may do so in ways that promote uncertainty by requiring gate-keepers to identify the single ‘best’ and most ‘accurate’ idea thereby creating an unacknowledged aversion to creativity.”

This suggests two main points:

• People being involved in innovation are required to truly embrace creativity and novelty. They prove it through their ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. Further, they are not inhibited by an unconscious bias against novel ideas, while claiming to drive innovation forward. Biased people, particularly in case of decision makers and executives, may seriously harm innovation activities.
• In order drive innovation, people need to be able to manage tensions. The paradox, that people are often curious about novel ideas and leaving the status quo, while at the same time being pulled back by their fear of uncertainty and risk, reflects tension.

Innovation occurs along a continuum from maintaining and improving the already existing (incremental innovation) to entering novel regime in terms of technology, meaning or business model (radical innovation). Both ends of the continuum require particular capabilities and human characteristics in order to get accomplished properly. As innovation activities are often embedded in a portfolio approach across this continuum, innovation management depends on integrating and balancing opposite requirements.

As Tim Kastelle points out, we need to learn and use integrative thinking to tackle these kinds of tensions. Integrative thinking is about creating new models that contain elements of individual models, but are superior to each. I think this can also be applied to personal orientations and mindsets on the human level. In the following I’d like to share some psychological concepts, describing opposite orientations and being relevant for innovation. Everyone has a natural tendency between these poles – and is therefore predestined for corresponding innovation tasks. By means of integrative thinking, we can learn to consciously move to our weaker pole. This may help us to become more flexible, particularly if we intend to develop entire innovation portfolios.

Cognitive orientation: Analytical thinking vs. Intuitive thinking

According to Roger Martin, analytical thinking is great for exploitation within the existing stage, i.e. improving core business through incremental innovation. Intuitive thinking is indicated for leaving the existing stage by exploring unknown terrains. Analytical thinkers focus almost exclusively on generating reliability – the ability to produce a consistent, replicable outcome. In contrast, intuitive thinkers tend to focus on validity – the production of a desired outcome, whether or not it is consistent or replicable. This makes analytical thinkers more appropriate for incremental innovation, while intuitive thinkers tend to be more suited for radical innovation. In most cases we can’t analyze the way to growth.
Balancing analytical thinking and intuitive thinking enables to both exploit existing business and create new opportunities. That’s what Roger Martin defines as Design Thinking.

Creative orientation: Searching vs. Finding

David Galenson et al. (2003) found that modern artists can be divided into two groups:

Experimental innovators are driven by imprecise goals, so their procedure is tentative and incremental. The imprecision of their goals means that they rarely feel they have succeeded, so their careers are often dominated by the pursuit of a single objective. They paint the same subject many times, gradually changing its treatment by trial and error. They consider procedure as a process of searching, in which they aim to discover in the course of making.

In contrast, conceptual innovators have intended to communicate specific ideas or emotions. Their goals for a particular work can be stated precisely in advance. They often make detailed preparatory plans for their paint, and execute their final works systematically. Conceptual innovations appear suddenly, as a new idea produces a result quite different not only from other artists’ work, but also from the artist’s own previous work. Conceptual innovations are consequently often embodied in individual breakthrough paintings. The conceptual artist’s certainty about his goals, and confidence that he has achieved them, often leaves him free to pursue new and different goals.

These findings widely hold true for business and innovation, too. Peter Sims emphasizes the need for an experimental and emergent approach in order to manage uncertainty and risk for innovation in his great book Little Bets.

On the other hand, small steps are often in danger to range within existing regimes. In order to aim at the next breakthrough innovation, a vision or scenarios of future conditions need to be defined. It’s essential for breakthroughs ‘to skate where the puck is going to be, rather than where it is.’ This vision is to be approached gradually through experimental steps – as small as possible and as big as necessary – in order to remain adaptable. I think, only by integrating searching and finding, the innovation continuum can be properly covered.

Temporal orientation: Monochronic vs. Polychronic

Individuals conceive of time quite differently. The most common understanding of time in the western world is ‘clock time’. Ian Mc Carthy et al. (2010) focus in their research on the differentiation between monochronic and polychronic individuals and how they are suited for particular business tasks (you can even find a link to a self-test at the bottom of the post). They describe monochronics as viewing time as a unified and linear phenomenon. Monochronics prefer to work on individual tasks with given deadlines in a serial fashion. In contrast, polychronics tend to view time as a heterogeneous and malleable phenomenon. They like to work on many things simultaneously, and are much less concerned about missing deadlines. Mc Carthy further suggests that a monochronic orientation suits better to linear innovation frameworks, involving relatively discrete, sequential and determnistic stages. Such frameworks are primarily employed for incremental innovation activities. Whereas a polychronic orientation tends to correspond to highly interconnected environments where more nonlinear and iterative frameworks are required. Those frameworks are suited to deal with unknown outocmes and radical innovation.

A balanced temporal orientation enables people to accomplish tasks from both sides of the innovation spectrum. Moreover, most innovation processes require a higher polychronic orientation in the (messy) ideation stage, while being based on more linear and monochronic execution afterwards.


There is an intersection between individual and organizational innovation capabilities. Human capabilities might not be a sufficient condition for organizational performance, but at least a necessary condition. In order to make innovation activities a success, we have to make sure that novel and creative ideas become truly accepted and acted upon by the people in charge. This requires having the right people in place, being equipped with beneficial capabilities and orientations to tackle the tasks across an innovation portfolio. This suggests hiring and allocating appropriate ‘specialists’ for incremental as well as radical innovation activities, respectively. The overall portfolio, however, needs to get managed by people who are capable of integrating opposing mindsets, orientations and approaches, therefore being able to connect to different individual characters.

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Innovators Look for Problems

Innovators Look For Problems

The fuzzy front end of innovation confronts you with a lot of questions. In my new book ‘Creating innovative Products and Services, I try to solve them with the FORTH innovation method.

When you need to come up with great new products, services or business models, what do you do? I bet you will often start looking for great ideas right away. But in ‘Never start innovation with an idea’, I explained there are three reasons why I advise you not to do this.

  1. An idea makes you blind.
  2. Not invented here: it’s very hard to convince others of your idea.
  3. Only one and a half out of seven new ideas is really introduced.

One of the main reasons innovation is difficult, is that your potential users should change their behaviour. They will have to look for, buy, and use your innovation. And why should they? That’s the question! You will have to give them a strong reason why, and this applies both to consumer as business-to-business markets.

Ask yourself the question: when did I personally change my behaviour recently? We are all stuck into our habits. Doing things in fixed patterns. Even we, innovators do. Reading the same journals for years. Driving the same car brand for years. Being insured by the same company for years. The only reason for us to change is when there is a new simple attractive solution, which is relevant for us. I guess I can make it as simple as that.

Effective innovation is all about matching relevant problems with simple solutions. One can take two routes. The first is to create ideas and solutions and later on try to find target groups with relevant problems that they will solve. Or you can go the other way by identifying relevant problems at target groups first and create ideas and solutions that will solve them later.

But how do you find relevant problems of your target groups in practice? The FORTH innovation method step two ‘Observe and Learn’ is dedicated to find innovation opportunities and concrete customer frictions. You will find them using personal visits, focus groups, web searching social media or crowd sourcing.

I’d like to inspire you with a list of 10 practical problems and innovative new products or services solving them.

Problem Solution
Consultant: I need new assignments. How do I expand my business network in an efficient way? LinkedIn
Music lovers: I love to listen to music (for free) but I hate to be a pirate downloading it illegally. Spotify
Consumer cleaning: I’m sick and tired of a bad performing vacuum cleaner Dyson cyclone vacuum cleaner
Consumer: Is this bed clean and free of bugs I can hardly see? The Bed Bug Detective
Snow boarder: I like to go down hill fast but I am afraid for nasty accidents. The Katal Landing Pad
Consumer painting: If there is one thing that really annoys me, it’s cleaning used brushers and rollers. Dulux PaintPod
Green consumer: I hate spilling water and money flushing a toilet. Brondell Perfect Flush
3rd world: due to flooding we lack clean drinking water. Filtrix Filterpen (changes dirty water into drinking water)
Full time mother: Now the kids are getting bigger, I like to re-enter the workforce, but who is waiting for me out there? Work4Women
Green consumer: I love to celebrate Christmas with a real tree, but don’t like destroying nature. Lease a living Christmas tree

You can download here two free checklists on how to find problems among your target groups. Wishing you lot’s of success looking for problems.

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Five Tech Trends Impacting Business Innovation in 2012

Highlights From Our 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Trend Guide

Judging several categories of the CES Innovation Awards over the last three years has revealed five patterns we, at UPSTREAM, believe will impact the business of innovation for marketers, researchers and technologists in the near term:

Five Tech Trends Impacting Business Innovation in 2012 

Personal biometrics and digital enabled behavior analysis will increasingly let consumers discreetly track and manage their lives more effectively.

Financial professions, digital marketers and healthcare enterprises may have been the first to actively track and analyze behavioral-lifestyle data. However, as self tracking digital products, augmented apparel and online data tools enable advanced user analytics for individuals, personal metrics will become the next big thing.

Novel apps and devices will increasingly let consumers discreetly manage their health more productively. Self analysis tools have just begun to trickle into the market with technology like Fitbit and JawboneUP. Research company Technavio predicts that the global mobile health applications market will reach USD 4.1 billion by 2014, up from USD 1.7 billion in 2010.

You’ll see solutions for diagnosing, monitoring and treating a variety of illnesses – from obesity to asthma, from poor vision or hearing to high blood pressure. Seemingly disparate data points, work activity, commute, financial and calendar data will be compared to health behaviors to achieve new understanding of ones self. This data tracking will create new benefits for the individual. It will also intensify the data concerns and scrutiny if online and cloud services that support the system of personal data storage.

Need further proof? Apple’s App Store currently offers 9,000 mobile health apps (1,500 cardio apps, 1,300 diet apps, 1,000 stress and relaxation apps, and 650 women’s health apps). By mid-2012, this number is expected reach 13,000 (Source: MobiHealthNews, September 2011).

Collecting, sharing, tracking and optimization of oneself is a major trend for 2012. Look for this trend to extend into other sectors throughout the year.


Withings’ Blood Pressure Monitor plugs into an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and takes the user’s blood pressure. Data can be sent directly to a doctor or published (confidentially) on the Web. Also look for their Wi-Fi enabled scales which can measure both weight and fat mass and upload the data to a web portal.

October 2011 saw US automotive company, Ford, demonstrate three apps offering in-car health monitoring. The sample apps use Ford’s SYNC Applink software to enable drivers to access certain mobile health apps while driving to keep track of chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hay fever.

AT&T announced in October that it will begin selling clothes embedded with health monitors, able to track the wearer’s vital signs (including heart rate and body temperature) and upload them to a dedicated website. According to AT&T, apart from its sports based applications, these biomonitoring clothes line will also be uniquely beneficial for a range of uses including fire fighters, policemen and even military personnel. Above all, the health tracking clothes are expected to greatly entice the interest of the senior citizens, where in they will have the freedom of wearing health monitors in a more fashionable way.

The B1 Basis Band is a watch-like wellness aid includes optical blood flow and galvanic skin sensors to track your pulse rate, calorie burnrate and sleep patterns.

Released in November 2011, Jawbone’s Up is a wristband personal tracking device that tracks a user’s moving, eating and sleeping patterns. The device syncs with an iPhone app, and users can set the device to vibrate when they have been inactive for a period, compete against friends and even earn real life rewards for completing activity challenges.

Look for this trend to continue as startup, Misfit Wearables, recently acquired funding to launch a wearable product focused on helping control a chronic condition by the end of 2012. Investors include John Sculley, CEO of Apple.


New natural interfaces based on movement will allow more intuitive control of tech, increasing access to information and digital content.

Augmented reality may have become an attention getter in the marketing world in 2011, but new computer interfaces and augmented screens will reach a tipping point in 2012 as touchscreen and mobile sensing and accelerometer innovations go mainstream. New Natural User-Interfaces (NUI’s) allow more intuitive control of computer applications, manipulation of digital content and information. Bridged to local data and online content, these new interfaces use people’s movements and gestures to create a bridge between the real world and the digital world.

Progressive consumer electronics companies have realized the importance of making the products around us simpler to use, rather than blindly adding more features because they can. This trend is enhanced by the increased capabilities of natural interfaces to combine all theses new environmental elements of gesture, movements, location, voice-command, biometric response and soon, our moods and our thoughts.

In 2012 will see Near Field Communication (NFC mobile-wireless data transfer capability) becoming more prevalent in mobile products and will drive an exponential growth in mobile (hence personal) interactions. Early examples of NFC enabled gesture interactions will be mobile payment and information sharing through natural gestures (like the Bump contact sharing app).

This all leads to a new form of interaction that’s more intuitive, natural and easy for consumers to adopt. It changes the game of marketing content creation, customer interaction and creates opportunities for information providers and product technologists to ultimately make digital more “human”.


Easily maintain your desired comfort level in your home with this learning thermostat from NEST LABS that remembers your temperature adjustments and programs itself to build a personalized schedule based on your preferences. Its passive interface also knows when you are not home (via proximity sensors) and is intelligent enough to make the appropriate adjustments. Additional information is provided while it is being adjusted by their owners so as to give them real-time feedback about the energy usage implications of their selection and provides suggestions on how to save energy.

SoftKinetic develops gesture recognition hardware and software for interaction with digital entertainment, gaming, interactive digital signage, advergaming and physical therapy.

Their software can recognize various scenic elements, track user’s body; and adapt digital content to the user’s movements, and vice versa.

The next-generation of Microsoft’s Kinect is said to be so accurate it can read lips, voice pitch and facial characteristics (and complex finger movements and gestures) to determine what mood the player is in.

The Kinect platform has the potential to create new paradigms in the way that we interact with computers and communicate. Expect the Kinetic sensor technology to be incorporated into displays, TVs, ultrabooks and mobile phones as it becomes miniaturized.

It’s likely to be available in 2013, but look for an announcement at CES.

ExoDesk, a collaboration between ViewSonic and ExoPC, is a desk with an embedded computer and unique user-interface. It reads input from 10 fingers and hand gestures to make moving tools, virtual keypads, objects and images around the desktop easy and intuitive.

Over the next year, look for more gesture recognition and natural user-interface innovations migrate over from the gaming world to be used in the interaction with TVs and computers (such as the next-generation Microsoft Kinect).


Mobile “geoawareness” technology, will create dramatic paradigm shifts to how we shop, socialize and how we are marketed to.

SoLoMo = SOCIAL, LOCAL, MOBILE. Fuelled by multiple “geo-awareness” technology components, location-based marketing will create new types of value exchanges between marketers and consumers. Behavioral data tracking will evolve to real time value creation between marketers, content creators, consumers and social networks. Marketers will be challenged to explore new types of social-interpersonal currency for consumers to feel more connected and valued “in-the-moment” as they go about their daily lives.

The advantages from the consumer’s perspective are that ubiquitous mobile access allows you to be connected at any location whilst connected to your entire social network and their opinions, advice and buying power. Brands will need to find value intersections, based on immediate needs and emotional opportunities as they get further squeezed out as message and information provider.

In 2012 expect products and services to make it more effortless (through the processing of passive-data) to contribute to anything – from connecting likeminded strangers for recommendations, pinpointing roads in need of repairs to finding signs of extraterrestrial life.

Consumers can and will increasingly broadcast data about where and what they are doing (if they consent to do so) to create new social opportunities to connect with their friends, valued products and people with shared interests.

Tech devices create continuous data-exhaust of daily life that provide marketers rich data to mine for insight. 2012 will be the beginning of a long journey of navigating real time, local connectivity and understanding big data.


Euclid is analogous to Google Analytics for the physical world.  The Euclid sensor anonymously detects smart phones as they move around the area of your store, both inside and out, so data is collected without visitors having to “opt-in” – so their privacy is kept intact.

Euclid provides store owners with visitor-based analytics – such as how many people walked by, how many walked through the door, how many were new vs existing customers and how long did they stay.

The eBay Inspiration Shop is a selection of products curated by celebrities, editors & stylists shoppers can purchase instantly by scanning a QR code in a mobile application.

Digby Mobile Commerce from AT&T helps to lift sales by delivering a user friendly interface for consumers to search, browse and buy products on their mobile phones. It allows retailers to provide information, pictures of products, rich media and an enhanced shopping experience when potential customers scan barcodes. Retailers are provided with analytics about customer buying behaviors.

Amazon’s Flow app, enables consumers to research products in-store (through image recognition) and to purchase them.

Looxcie is the creator of the first mobile-connected, hands-free, wearable video cam that frees people to record and share on the go. Looxcie owners can record their lives and share clips instantly to their social network or record and stream live video.

In 2012, marketers will continue to explore ways to utilize mobile SoLoMo data but will need to create clear value for consumers and not overstep their privacy boundaries, acting more transparently.

Social Television

Integration of Social Media and The Cult of Influence into the TV experience will transform it from a media consumption device to a content curating experience.

In years past, CES has been a slightly ridiculous technology race to build the largest or thinnest TV with seemingly little thought to improving their usability. Many will persevere with that race, so expect the proliferation of the 4K resolution standard (4000 pixel columns), high-contrast OLED screens, 3D tech and ultra-thin bezels. However watch for innovations in this space that mark some progress of the shifting role of the TV in our lives and homes.

Television is already has a social aspect to it, whether it’s talking to the person next to you, texting, tweeting or calling friends about what you’re watching. But it’s about to become a much more social experience.

Expect the popularity of Social Media and The Cult of Influence to migrate the TV away from being a pure consumption medium/device to a creation device. The TV will enable us to become connected to others, curators of content right on our couches, and online participants, instead of TV watching zombies.

Expect that a gargantuan “Cloud Fight” for dominance of cloud computing between Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix and cable providers (such as AT&T and Time Warner) to extend into a fight for dominance in control of living room content and access to behavioral insight.

The blurry line separating TV and computer screens will go away as cloud computing allows content to be seamlessly moved between primary screens and second screens. Increasingly within our lives, display devices and projected imagery will become fixtures like picture frames, mirrors and faucets.

Personalized content, social multilayered entertainment will be cost of entry for the marketing-media-tech world as viewing technology becomes commodity.


IntoNow is a TV companion app recently bought by Yahoo. It makes engaging with your friends around your favorite television shows easy and fun.

The app picks up on audio cues made by whatever you’re watching on TV and then displays websites, game scores, even Twitter feeds of musicians and other famous types shown on the big(ger) screen. Just tap the green button when you’re watching, and IntoNow will identify the show, right down to the episode. Once identified, it’s easy to share the content with your friends on Twitter or Facebook.

Flingo is the embedded technology inside many internet-connected TVs that allows media partners like Fox, Showtime and Etsy and others to build apps that integrate both. It enables broadcasters and advertisers to build mobile and web applications that are aware of what television content you are watching.

Broadcasters can provide additional relevant content to on-air shows in those applications, increasing engagement with users on the second screen.

Disney Second Screen is an interactive onscreen film feature accessible via a computer or iPad app that provides additional content to you as you view a movie. The movie links with the viewer’s device through an audio cue, a manual sync, or with a visual sync indicator. As the film plays on your television, interactive elements such as trivia, photo galleries, and animated flipbooks appear on the iPad or computer screen.

Disney Second Screen is currently available to use on an iPad or computer with Flash.
Fanhattan is an entertainment service that lets you discover and watch TV and movies on your iOS device from many popular services including Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Vudu, and ABC.

The application allows you browse related content including recommendations from friends, reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, ratings, trailers, actor and crew bios, soundtracks, fan gear, and more.

In 2012, many expect Apple to make a TV based on the Siri voice-commands. They are expected to make a “media related” announcement in late January 2012. It could be that they make public new deals with cable operators and pay TV operators that extend their reach as a content provider.


The “appification of everything”, open source tech and accessible manufacturing merge the tangible product and digital, online worlds.

Digital and interactive technologies have been bound in the past to browsers, websites and technology devices. Invention and manufacturing of physical product has been constrained by accessibility to closed and complex manufacturing chains. This is changing as open source hardware, software and manufacturing technologies mainstream, and what we deem “product” will change. And it will be more accessible to all.

3D printing, computer-controlled cutting and sintering; originally used for rapidproduct prototyping, have now evolved and proliferated to where they have spawned a whole new distributed manufacturing network. This new network of local, distributed manufacturers has enabled the mass-customization of electronic products, furniture, jewelry, and even aircraft engines.

Open-source electronic prototyping platforms (such as Arduino) have similarly allowed new freedoms in the creation of interactive electronic objects. 3D printers will, in the not too distant future new electronics will also be able to produce electronic circuitry and components. Apple iOS, Android and code libraries and new online creation software allow for virtually anyone to create social mobile and online applications more easily.

Pioneering companies such as Ponoko, Etsy and Shapeways have sprouted communities that allow creators to upload their designs, have them produced and provide a virtual market-place for them to promote and sell their products.

We’re watching this movement carefully – as all brands will have to react to this massive, future upheaval that could effect CPG, computer, gaming and retail worlds.


Ford and Bug Labs, will develop and distribute opensource developer tools to advance in-car connectivity innovation.

Ponoko is one of the first manufacturers to use distributed manufacturing and on-demand manufacturing. They make it possible for designers to meet customers, “where creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers and buyers meet to make (almost) anything.”

Their website can be used by customers as a virtual marketplace to promote and sell their digital designs and products.  It is a green idea- producing only when something is wanted, transporting ideas instead of physical objects.

Berg’s “Little Printer” was created in collaboration with Foursquare, The Guardian, Nike, ARUP, and Google.

It’s a tiny device that sits in your home, bringing you information from the web. You hook it up with a wireless connection, and then use your phone to configure what sources of content you like to receive — news, puzzles, messages from friends, weather updates or reminders.

The Little Printer (available in 2012) is the first in a family of products that will be known as Berg Cloud.

MakerBot Industries is a Brooklyn, New York-based company producing open source hardware, specifically 3D printers. MakerBot builds on the early progress of the RepRap Project with the goal of bringing desktop 3D printing into the home at an affordable price.

Makerbot are one of several sources of 3D printers and laser cutters designed around low-cost parts and freeware in the spirit of opensource. The source files needed to make these devices are freely available, allowing anyone to build their own from scratch.

The Disney Appmate toys have unique footprints that the iPad’s touch screen is able to recognize and read movement from. The app then tailors the game according to the toy’s character.

GreenGoose sensors are wireless stickers and stick on anything that moves – to automatically tell you what’s happening; a frisbee is caught, or the toilet seat goes down.

In 2012 look for more brands to experiment with physical product that has embedded technology to add real time, data driven, trandsmedia film, digital and consumer generated “story”.

Click here to download the complete 2012 CES Trend Guide

Developing a Strategic System

Developing a Strategic System

Think of any given company.  Many companies are successful, consistent and profitable business. Some, born as start-ups venture, rapidly become attractive as an acquisition target.

Mostly due to its start-up origin and to management profile, companies develop intense focus on executing, tactical orientation.

In terms of future developments, those companies get very good at producing incremental innovation, around the main product and from clients’ demands.

Eventually, the company will reach a tipping point. The start-up has grown, is part of a global organization and has an impressive structure, market share and client base. It can no longer function with the mindset of a start-up (small, frenetic, tactical) nor it may accommodate in the market leader position.

Although serving the clients is the final purpose of any business, too high flexibility to accommodate clients’ needs and to follow with the fast-forward market without a clear established and well-communicated strategy behind it is leading to:

  • Constant pressure over the team –“fire drill” environment
  • Accumulation of customizations.

Clearly, there is a strategic view of the market and the business on the top management level. However, this seems to be overwhelming these executives with decisions that cannot be taken by mid/lower management levels due to a lack of senior understanding of the direction of the company. Additionally, this leads to a feeling, amongst the rest of the team, that management decisions seem quite arbitrary.

There are great ideas, but not that much planning to follow with them and to give them space to grow amid the daily routine. Also, management thinks it would be helpful having more numbers/KPIs to guide decisions. Nevertheless, people seem willing to dedicate to the development of the company, now and in the future.

Top management recognizes the need of implementing more strategic oriented mindset and processes as keys to taking the next step into the maturing of the company and its operational model. Also, having more strategic discipline would be crucial to innovation and competing in the future.

The Strategic System

Developing a strategic system goes beyond the development of a strategic plan document.

The starting point is the definition of the mission and vision statements. This is not simply a rhetoric matter; instead, they are a clear and dynamic declaration of what the company does and where it is aiming. They are supposed to provide a common place of understanding for all levels within the organization.

The mission and the vision statements also provide a frame for the two following parts of the strategic system:

  • Market intelligence: establishing an organized process of collecting, analyzing and distributing relevant data and intelligence on the markets that are comprised into the mission and the vision statements. It considers market as being composed by competitors, clients, suppliers, partners and all the forces shaping the business environment (social, demographics, economy, legal, trends etc.).
  • Internal resources, process and projects: providing a clear overview of what the company has and what needs to be developed.
  • The next part of the system is developing the strategic discipline, by including the strategic thinking in the routine of the business. This includes:

    • Producing a strategic plan document for the company (annually updated). The strategic plan is a guide for decision, allowing a better distribution of responsibilities across different levels. It is a powerful communication tool, putting all the team on the same page. It also helps aligning with other parts (Experian Marketing Services, GPTS, Experian corporate).
  • Drilling-down this document into strategic plans for relevant business areas and functions
  • Drilling-down the plans into strategic maps, defining in a more granular form: (i) what value the company is delivering to the stakeholders; (ii) what is the go-to-market strategy; (iii) how does the company want to be perceived in the market; (iv) which processes and projects need to be developed and (v) which resources and assets are supporting all this.
  • Finally, the map is drilled-down into weekly/monthly KPIs.
  • That is the point in which planning meets execution. By the dissemination of the plan to the KPI level, and establishing an agenda of annual/monthly/weekly meetings, involving different levels of the company, the plan is constantly revised and adjusted, in accordance to the reality of the business and the market. Better planning leads to better execution.

    Inserting the Strategic Mindset into a Company’s Culture

    To implement a strategic system, with its proper discipline, usually requires an important cultural change management process. It is not a matter of templates and software; rather, it is an evolution of the way things are made within the organization.

    For in-depth cultural change to happen, one has to understand how organizational culture functions.

    Or, in other words: Culture is what people do when the leader leaves the room!

    So, it is the rooted beliefs and values that lead to attitudes and behaviors. Every company (and every employee) has its own operating values, which may be positive or potentially limiting. In a company in which the “too tactic” way of doing things seems to be reaching a no-productive level, “being more strategic oriented” would be an aspirational value, one that needs to be developed.

    To embed desired values in an organizational culture is a twofold effort:

    • Declaring values: explicitly stating this value (strategic mindset, for instance) is something the company believes in; supported by leadership role model and clear communication.
  • Creating and aligning artifacts to those values by establishing practices that reinforce them and discontinuing practices that go against them. Artifacts are rituals, heroes, symbols that make the value tangible to the team.
  • If only value declaration is developed, it will not echo around the company, because all of the other signs are going to still reinforce the previous values.

    On the other hand, simply delivering artifacts will cause a passing behavioral change, since it is not deeply rooted.

    One last important point about culture: it is not a top-down definition. The best way to operate new values in an organization is to allow intense participation of the team into the choosing process. So, when the artifacts are developed, people will be more inclined to react to them positively.

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