Monday, December 17, 2012

The Most Innovative Articles of the Week

Need a does of innovation? Here are the best articles on innovation from December 9 to 16th:

How to Innovate Innovation: Takeaways from the Quick MIX Brainstorm (part 1)

Over the course of a few days, MIXers from around the world submitted over 100 answers to this question, many of them receiving lots of praise and tweets from the MIX community.  There was so much insight packed into the Quick MIX submissions that we decided to provide a summary of the major takeaways from this exercise, grouped into broad themes (you might recognize these from the Innovating Innovation challenge brief).  Below is our first installment, covering eight broad recommendations on how to make organizations more innovation-friendly. 
  1. Develop clear definitions and metrics for innovation
  2. Upgrade the innovation skills of every individual
  3. Deploy innovation tools throughout the organization
  4. Create widespread accountability for innovation
  5. Knock down the bureaucratic hurdles that often frustrate innovation
  6. Make innovation an important component in compensation and reward decisions
  7. Carve out space for innovation in the midst of all the “busyness”
  8. Create “stretch” goals that encourage break-out thinking

Six things that suck the life out of your productivity

A recent article on Mashable suggested that there five things that you should stay away from so that you can get more done (like not sleeping enough), and I’m sharing six more that you should consider kicking out of your regular routine.
  1. Having poor eating habits
  2. Moving at the speed of light
  3. Trying every productivity strategy
  4. Working only on other people’s stuff
  5. Taking on too much
  6. Having no way to keep yourself accountable

Michael McDaniel: My 2013 Prediction, Mother Nature As The Ultimate Innovator

In 2013, I believe Mother Nature will prove to be a major source for disruption across a variety of industries, particularly telecommunication. I do not mean that in an apocalyptic sense at all, but more as a catalyst for innovation.

Over the past few years we have seen social media arise and begin to challenge traditional media. It wasn’t too long ago that most social media channels simply echoed events after they appeared on TV or were reported elsewhere. Over the past year, we have seen those tables turn with TV now echoing events that were first reported via social media. In fact, this change is happening so fast and to such a degree that it has become a common source of comedic fodder for Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. The desperate attempts of 24 hour news outlets to chase the faster, collective voice of social media has provided a wealth of comedy gold. Case studies of this abound from the new events of the Presidential Election to Superstorm Sandy.

Creating a Question-Friendly Environment

·       Questions are the basis of all creativity.
·       Questions are the basis of all connection.
·       Questions are the basis of all understanding.
The challenge is creating a question-friendly environment. Although you have little (or no) control over the people in the environment, you do have (some) control over the environment itself. 

And that’s why you need to let things organically and naturally occur, organically and naturally .

If you create the right kind of environment, the right atmosphere, the right space and the right energy, the people inside of it will take care of themselves.
This doesn’t mean “getting” employees to ask questions. This means creating an environment in which questions can be comfortably asked and answered.

Jack Welch on Inspiring Loyalty:  Paint a Positive Picture of the Future

Jack Welch reminds us once again about one of the most important capabilities any great leader must have, and one that the leaders we’ve studied display again and again:  conveying a sense of hope and optimism:
When you aim to inspire company loyalty, you are essentially courting your employees. You need to paint a picture of how their future will be better if they stay with you. “You want your employees to feel like they are part of the company,” Welch says. “Tell them a story that makes them want to choose you.”
As you tell that story, you’re instilling a sense of common purpose, which gives employees a sense of excitement and opportunity. “Make that purpose come alive for them every day,” he says.  
When you aim to inspire company loyalty, you are essentially courting your employees. You need to paint a picture of how their future will be better if they stay with you. “You want your employees to feel like they are part of the company,” Welch says. “Tell them a story that makes them want to choose you.”As you tell that story, you’re instilling a sense of common purpose, which gives employees a sense of excitement and opportunity. “Make that purpose come alive for them every day,” he says.

Putting a Price on Emotions

Would you pay more cash to experience intense happiness or to avoid intense embarrassment? Your answer may depend on the culture you live in.

A team led by Hi Lau at the University of Hong Kong used this "willingness to pay" approach to find out how students in Britain and Hong Kong value different emotions. For the first study, 97 British students chose how much they'd be willing to spend (from £10 to £150, in £10 increments) to enjoy various positive emotions intensely for an hour, or to to avoid various negative emotions for an hour.

Overall, the students were willing to pay more to experience positive emotions than to avoid negative ones. An hour's worth of love was the most valued, followed by an hour's worth of happiness and then an hour without sadness. Bottom of the list was disgust - the students were only prepared to pay an average of £43 to avoid an hour of disgust (compared with £95 to have an hour of love).

Buggy Software: Achilles Heel of Big-Data-Powered Science?

Software defects are a growing concern in the scientific computing community. A recent workshop focusing on maintainable software practices discussed how software code errors caused retractions in major research papers. Kingston University professor Leslie Hatton addressed the issue in a research paper. "The defects themselves arise from many causes, including: a requirement might not be understood correctly; the physics could be wrong; there could be a simple typographical error in the code, such as a + instead of a - in a formula; the programmer may rely on a subtle feature of a programming language which is not defined properly, such as uninitialized variables; there may be numerical instabilities such as over-flow, under-flow or rounding errors; or basic logic errors in the code," the paper says. Although most of the defects are caused by human error, they are facilitated by the complexity of programing languages and algorithms, and the sheer size of the computations, Hatton adds. Columbia University professor Victoria Stodden recently launched RunMyCode, a Web site that helps scientists discover errors by sharing code and data, and accelerating the replication or experiments.

'For the Win': How Gamification Can Transform Your Business

Can work be fun? Is it possible for customers to have the same deep engagement with an organization’s products or services that they might experience when playing a game? Can things game designers have learned about what makes games effective from the 40-year-old video game industry, which generates $70 billion annually, be applied to meet business objectives? Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach and New York Law School professor Dan Hunter say yes.

Lawyers and World of Warcraft players who created the first course on gamification at the Wharton School, Werbach and Hunter recently authored For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business, which helps business leaders to think like game designers in addressing business challenges and provides a roadmap for integrating gamification into business efforts. Knowledge@Wharton recently spoke with Werbach and Hunter about what gamification really is, how companies like Microsoft and Deloitte are using it, where game thinking works best and pitfalls to avoid when gamifying.

Wake Up Earlier By Competing Against Friends

This "merciless" app makes waking up a fun, social experience. Wake N Shake is an alarm clock app that forces users to play mini games with friends as soon as they wake up. Also known as the “merciless” alarm clock, there is no snooze button to catch a few extra minutes of sleep. The only way to turn it off is by continuously shaking your iPhone or iPod. The app has recently debuted a version 3.0, in which it combines fun social features that will keep users motivated and help them get into the habit of waking up early. With Facebook integration, users can also play against and share their wake-up times instantly. Users earn achievements for being awesome at waking up and they can push themselves to wake up earlier and faster by competing with friends for wake up points.

Storytelling Software Learns How to Tell a Good Tale

Lotzi Bölöni of the University of Central Florida first fed Xapagy stories, which had been manually translated into a language the system can understand. But instead of using these stories to build rigid logic rules for future actions, as most AI systems would, Xapagy keeps them just as they are - a series of interconnected events.

When it comes across words in new stories, it looks for familiar connections in its memory. If it finds any, it uses them to predict what will happen next and then tells the story. The trick is that each word can have many different associations in Xapagy's memory, depending on the stories it has read. When it doesn't find any clear connections, it just substitutes in its own word that makes grammatical sense, like the sneezing wolf, and continues the story in a way that makes narrative sense (

"The idea of an architecture based on narrative is clever," says Stan Franklin of the University of Memphis, who developed the famous AI system LIDA. "It might lead to learning about narrative, an important topic in cognition."

Microsoft scores win with Santa Claus tracking

In the battle for Christmas, Microsoft has scored a win over Google as the official maps partner for Santa and his reindeer.

Microsoft announced this week it had sealed a partnership with the Pentagon's North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which monitors the skies over Canada and the United States, for the holiday season. "For more than 50 years, NORAD has helped children around the world track Santa during his Christmas journey, and this year Microsoft is partnering with NORAD to make following the big red sleigh easier than ever," Microsoft said in a blog.

"The Santa Tracker tool is built on the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud computing platform and Bing Maps, and anxious kids can even track Kris Kringle on Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps." The news marked a coup for Microsoft, whose Bing search engine is struggling to catch the Google juggernaut. Google had been the NORAD tracking partner since 2007.

AI designer learns to build games from scratch

Out today, the festive platform game, called A Puzzling Present, is the latest creation of Angelina, an AI system that designs its own video games. Released with a little help from its creator-cum-collaborator Michael Cook at Imperial College London, Angelina's latest was made by looking at the code of existing games and copying the features it thinks work best.

The ability to pick and choose design ingredients is a big advance, says Cook. Previously, the system came up with game mechanics by putting together rules it was given. "It would slot them together in new ways like a jigsaw, but I was never very happy with it," says Cook. "After all, it needed me to hand it the jigsaw pieces."

But now Angelina finds and test game possibilities - like reversing gravity, high-jumping and teleportation - on its own. It does this using "reflection", a technique that lets software look at and manipulate its own code. Cook starts things off by providing a game level that can't be solved, such as one with a wall between the start and the exit. Angelina then redesigns the level in an iterative process, using ideas it finds in existing games - making changes, testing them, and making further tweaks until the level works. "It's closer to what a human does when they program," says Cook.

Even more cunningly, it has found bugs in Cook's code and taken advantage of them to invent new game levels. In one case, the game code wrongly let a player teleport inside a wall and still allow the character to jump. So Angelina invented a wall-jumping technique, where the player could climb up a vertical wall by repeatedly teleporting and jumping. "This was why I felt it's so important to create a system that was independent of me," says Cook.

12 Enjoyable Names for Relatively Common Things

A delayed tribute to 12-12-12
For 12-12-12, we’ll be posting twenty-four ’12 lists’ throughout the day. Check back 12 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

Unbreaking American Innovation: Three Ways to Reinvent Reinvention

What’s so bad about “innovation”? It doesn’t mean much…and maybe never did. Today, we use it to describe an iPhone newsreader app and the reinvention of space travel by SpaceX.
Here are three ways we can help make brilliant minds deliver bigger results.
  1. Redefine “innovation”
  2. Focus on real problems
  3. Incentivize Econovation


The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they’ll end up saying nothing at all. The appeal of this idea is obvious: it’s always nice to be saturated in positive feedback. Typically, participants leave a brainstorming session proud of their contribution. The whiteboard has been filled with free associations. Brainstorming seems like an ideal technique, a feel-good way to boost productivity. It doesn’t work.

…enough people with different perspectives running into one another in unpredictable ways—the group dynamic will take care of itself. All these errant discussions add up. In fact, they may even be the most essential part of the creative process. Although such conversations will occasionally be unpleasant—not everyone is always in the mood for small talk or criticism—that doesn’t mean that they can be avoided. The most creative spaces are those which hurl us together. It is the human friction that makes the sparks.

Ravi Shankar, Open Mind

Thanks to pioneers like Shankar, our ears are open to a diversity of sounds unimaginable to listeners sixty years ago.