Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Evernote and Moleskine Collaborate For A Powerful Solution

October 1, 2012

Mont Blanc and Moleskine image

This is from a great blog fillthefunnel.com and I could not agree more about Moleskine and Mont Blanc – enjoy

If we have ever had the chance to meet in person, the chances are that I had  two of my most endearing companions with me – my Moleskine journal and my Mont  Blanc pen. Those two items have been with me for over 20+ years, seven days a  week.  If you wonder what the attraction is, I will have to use a phrase  from my Harley riding friends  and say

“If you have to ask, then you won’t  understand.”

One of my most frequently used web tools – Evernote –  has collaborated with my lifelong companion – Moleskine – to convert my note-taking and journal entries and provide them to  me in a digital, searchable format.

Moleskine notebooks are everywhere, overpriced, and somewhat of a  cliché in some circles. I don’t care. There is something about writing  ideas, comments, quotes, and referencesI encounter during my daily activities  into my notebook that is very comforting.

Evernote is on every computing device I own from desktop to  laptop to iPad to iPhone. I have written about Evernote many times in the past  to highlight the productivity and value that I gain when using Evernote to  capture the ideas, comments, quotes and references that I encounter during my  daily activities. I never have to worry that I will be able to come back and  find the information and use it when it is needed.

Notice that I described the exact same benefits of both the Moleskine  notebook and Evernote:

“…capture the ideas, comments, quotes and references that I encounter  during my daily activities.”

With the release of the new Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine, both are  now combined into one very helpful solution.

How does this work?

The new Evernote Smart Notebook uses Evernote’s Page Camera feature  to capture the pages of your notebook with your smartphone or  tablet. Evernote Page Camera is the iOS version for iPhone and iPad.  Evernote Ruled Smart Notebook features the unique “Evernote ruled” page style  with dotted lines designed to ensure a clean image when digitally capturing  your  notebook. Smart Stickers introduce Smart Tagging into your workflow. When  you  capture a page with Evernote, the Smart Sticker icons become searchable,  digital  tags that make it easy to keep your ideas organized and to keep your  digital and  analog work-spaces synced.

Hold on – each notebook is priced between $24.95 and $29.95 depending on size  and type and at first blush that seems ridiculously high. What makes this new  product a good value in my eyes is that each Evernote Smart Notebook comes with  3 months of Evernote Premium which I have been paying $5.00 per month for some  time.

Evernote Premium gives you bigger upload capacity, offers  greater sharing options, gives you access to note history, and more. Plus, you  get PDF searching, faster image recognition, and no ads, all of which I  thoroughly enjoy and recommend.

Yes, the notebook itself will set me back $29.95 for my version (Evernote  Large Ruled Smart Notebook – 5 x 8.25) but I save $15.00 every three months,  which strangely enough is about the time that it takes me to fill up my  notebook  anyway. So the total price for the notebook for me ends up being  $14.95. I have  been buying my notebooks through Amazon.com for $12.21 each, so  for the additional $2.74 I can now have all my notes digitized and searchable  for the future.

I still haven’t found a replacement for my favorite Mont Blanc pen, but not  really looking for one.  So when we meet, look for my Evernote Smart  notebook and my pen, it will hopefully be in use capturing your ideas and  thoughts.

Let me know if you are a fan of Moleskine, Evernote, Mont Blanc or all three.  I’m off to Starbucks to write some ideas down for my next post.

Here is the video demonstration from MoleSkine:

from fillthefunnel

Innovation and Growth

August 19, 2012

Innovation and Growth are linked in so many differing ways. For an idea to grow, there must be certain systems or practices in place that feed the process of continuing innovation. What specific things can we learn about innovation and growth from some of the most successful growth companies?

Intense global competition and a sluggish economy have made the realization of growth more challenging than ever. Yet some organizations such as Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks seem to defy the laws of economic gravity.

The most successful growth companies adopt at least 4 best practices:

  • Find the next S-curve
  • Lean on customers
  • Think like a designer
  • Lead the way
1. Find the next S-curve

Nothing grows forever. The best products, markets, and business models go through a predictable cycle of growth and maturity, often depicted as an S-curve.

Diminishing returns set in as the most attractive customers are reached, price competition emerges, the current product loses its luster, customer support challenges emerge, new operating skills are required, and so on.

Unfortunately, growth company leaders are often blinded-sided by this predictable speed bump. Once the reality of the S-curve becomes apparent, it may be too late to design the next growth strategy.

The time to innovate—the innovation window—is when the first growth curve hits an inflection point. How do you know when you’re hitting the inflection point? You never know. So the best companies are forever paranoid and make innovation a continuous process.

Steve Jobs understood this when he returned to Apple. In 2002, he challenged his company to break out of the mature computer industry where Apple had never garnered much more than 10 percent market share. He told Time Magazine in 2002, “I would rather compete with Sony than … Microsoft.”

Eight years later, after introducing the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and a game-changing retail channel, Jobs claimed victory and Apple Computer became Apple Inc. While introducing the iPod, Jobs said, “Apple is the largest mobile devices company in the world. Larger than the mobile devices businesses of Sony, Samsung, and Nokia.”

2. Lean on customers

Successful growth companies have a deep understanding of their customers’ problems. Many are embracing tools such as the customer empathy map to uncover new opportunities to create value. This customer insight is the foundation for their lean approach to product innovation: rapid prototyping, design partnerships with lead users, and pivoting to improve their product and business model.

I’m constantly amazed at how few companies invest the time to get out of the office and interact with customers (outside of sales situations). During the turnaround of IBM, Lou Gerstner launched Operation Bear Hug to get the company back in touch with its customers. IBM’s top 50 executives had to visit five customers per week and deliver a write-up to Gerstner.

3. Think like a designer

Managers are trained to make choices, but they don’t always have good options. Innovation involves creating new options. This is where designers excel. Apple’s exceptional user experiences were largely the creation of Jonathan Ive, a professional designer and Jobs’ righthand man.

Design thinking requires a different set of tools. Growth company strategists have abandoned Porter’s Five Forces Analysis because it assumes that markets have well-defined boundaries and competitors must fight for market share. Instead they search for uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant using Blue Ocean Strategy and the Business Model Canvas.

4. Lead the way

Unless the CEO makes innovation a priority, it won’t happen. Innovation requires a level of risk-taking and failure that’s impossible without executive air cover. The best growth companies create a culture of innovation:

  • Howard Schultz decided Starbucks had lost its way. He flew in every store manager from around the world to help redesign its café experience.
  • Google encourages employees to spend a day per week on new ideas.
  • P&G tracks the percentage of revenues from new products and services.
  • Gray Advertising gives a Heroic Failure Award to the riskiest ideas … that fail!

More important are innovative leaders as role models. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has told both employees and shareholders that he cares less about profitability and more about planting seeds that are likely to pay off in five to seven years. He’s so driven by vision that he’s investing over $40 million of his own money in a product designed to last for 10,000 years.

To launch his successful Think Different campaign, Steve Jobs commissioned The Crazy Ones, a video that featured Einstein, Edison, Gandhi, Muhammad Ali, Hitchcock, Richard Branson, and other “trouble-makers” who changed the world. Every employee understood the CEO’s views on risk-taking and innovation. – from David Power’s Harvard Article

Design a Container Garden For Herbs

May 22, 2012

Innovation is no more evident than in the art of growing things. Container gardening is something anyone can do regardless of space or time.

Container gardening is great if you do not have any land to plant a garden or you just wish to add some texture and beauty to an area.  An easy, healthy, and sustainable set of plants to grow in containers are herbs.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and variety of colors.  Some herbs flower, some do not.  But all can be used for their beauty, their healing ability, and their tastiness.

Herb Container Gardening 101

Before you begin, learn the growing requirements for the herbs you desire to plant.  Herbs that can be relatively close together will produce a beautifully designed container garden.  Consider the geometric space of the container; is the container long and rectangular like a window box or deck container or perhaps the container is a uniquely shaped household item that has been repurposed into a container for the garden.  Good design uses and accentuates the geometric design of the container and the plants should compliment (not overcrowd) the container.

A single container does not need to be used for an herb garden.  Alternatively, a more modern designed container garden can be achieved by placing a single herb plant in identical container pots and then arranging the pots into a geometric design.

Next, consider the layout desired for your herb container garden; herbs that will grow tall can be placed in the back of the container while those that are more colorful (purple basil, for example) can be an eye-catching center piece and used as a balance counterweight.  Think about the texture of herbs as well.  Salad burnet and purple sage, for example, have soft textured leaves while rosemary is pricklier.

Flowering herbs can be especially delightful in a designed container garden.  Chives, chamomile, chicory, echinacea, lavender, thyme, and yarrow all produce colorful flowers.  If the herb garden will be eaten, it is important to consider that most herbs used for culinary purposes will not be allowed to flower early in the season so it is best to focus on texture and leaf color to bring a sense of fullness to your herb garden design.

Regardless of the design of the container garden it is important that creativity and fun are a included in the gardening and designing experience.

The 4 Styles of Innovation

April 30, 2012

Innovation Styles

Innovation Styles provides a great summary of four innovation thought processes for your business:
Visioning: To envision the ideal future Modifying: To refine and optimize what has come before Exploring: To discover new and novel possibilities Experimenting: To combine and test many unique combinations
There are two dimensions that form the four Innovation Styles: What stimulates and inspires this style’s innovativeness? Facts, details and analysis OR Intuition, insights and images
How does this style approach the innovation process? Focused, well-planned and outcome oriented OR Broad, perceptive and learning oriented

People with an Individualist Point of View Create the Best Crowds

March 26, 2012

The blurb below, promoting James Surowiecki’s talk at Tim O’Reilly’s 2005 Emerging Technology Conference, makes a great point. The basic message? A crowd is wisest when each member retains a strong individual point of view.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen a powerful and justifiable groundswell of interest in and adoption of bottom-up and collaborative approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It’s now clear that under the right circumstances, these approaches can be remarkably effective, and can yield solutions that are consistently better than those produced by even the smartest expert. Groups, instead of falling to their lowest common denominator, can often rise to the level of their best member and beyond.”The paradox, though, is that groups are typically smartest when the people in them act as much like individuals as possible–when they rely primarily on their own private information, when their opinions are independent, and when their judgments are not determined by their peers.”

 

Paradoxical, yes, but in your gut you know it’s right. The essence of collaboration is not necessarily “teamwork” in the classic, competitive sense. Rather it depends on every person being passionately and enthusiastically productive, however they happen to “get into it.” In a company context, it’s a team leader’s job to be on the lookout for what each individual needs to stay in their productive passion.

Google coddles its creative teams with every conceivable convenience, but it also draws the line at “techno-arrogance.” A “smarter than them” attitude is simply not collaborative or encouraged. Engineers who think they’re smarter than the folks using their stuff are deadly to a user-centric company like Google.

People can be brilliant individuals and have great ideas without any “smarter than you” pretense being laid on top. Better to be a love cat, as Tim Sanders puts it in his book “Love is the Killer App.”

It’s up to individuals and their mentors, leaders and coaches to make sure each crowdster brings all their “flavor” when he or she shows up. It also helps when each person gets away from “smarter than you” pretenses by finding some brilliance in a few fellow crowdsters – something that’s “smarter than me” – and champions it. Mix equal amounts of brilliance, assertiveness and humility together and you’ll have a pretty wise crowd.

Audio: Surowiecki speaks at SXSW Interactive Conference, 2006

The Sweat that Eureka Demands

February 28, 2012

Serious about doing something innovative?  Be prepared to spend many long, focused hours working on it (and working and working and reworking…)

“We want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance,” Janet Rae-Dupree writes in the New York Times. But, “Innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process. Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time.” 

“‘The most useful way to think of epiphany is as an occasional bonus of working on tough problems,’ explains Scott Berkun in his 2007 book, The Myths of Innovation. ‘The goal isn’t the magic moment: it’s the end result of a useful innovation.'”

The article also quotes Jim Marggraff, creator of an interactive world globe called the Odyssey Atlasphere, and the LeapPad reading platform for children, among others.  “The ‘aha’ moments grow out of hours of thought and study,” he says. “If you look at my innovations, there’s a common theme. I take something familiar, intuitive and ubiquitous, and recast it in a manner that will redefine its use to drive profound change.”

 

Edison, with an early phonograph Of course, which famous inventor explained this to us early in the 20th century?  Who else but Thomas Edison.  A bit of quick research gives us his famous quotein an expanded context:

“None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

(From a 1929 press conference, quoted by James D. Newton in Uncommon Friends; Newton knew Edison personally.)

 

In an interview in Harpers magazine, February 1890 (stay tuned here at Heart Of Innovation as we present the latest, greatest breakthroughs! ; ), Edison explained his method:

“I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. … I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed 3,000 different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory.”

==== “Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work” (NYT, 2/3/08)

Mikey Likes it and You Will Too

January 19, 2012

Like Mikey, I found a new piece of hardware that I can say “I like it”. I  expect it will become a good friend in the months ahead. A new product from Blue Microphones called Mikey Digital  is a high-quality microphone to capture meetings, conference calls, business  meetings or even to make your own voice recordings in high-quality. The genius  of Mikey Digital is that it plugs into your iPhone or iPad and easily replaces  any other recorder and/or microphone that you have been packing.

Many of you that read Fill the Funnel are road warriors, or at least work  outside of an office or cube much of the time. Working out of your briefcase or  laptop bag is a way of life, squeezing everything you might need into that small  space. Combining equipment or replacing existing tools with smaller and/or  lighter alternatives is always a relief. Blue Microphone’s new Mikey Digital  microphone for iPhone/iPad will serve you well.

Mikey Digital directly connects to iPhone or iPad and is instantly recognized  for use with any audio or video application. Whether shooting video,  recording a keynote at a conference or capturing your next team meeting, Mikey  Digital captures truly professional recordings on-the-go with a stereo pair of  Blue’s premium condenser capsules and built-in sensitivity control. For the  non-techies, it simply means that you are using a professional-grade tool that  gives you stunning results.

Blue Microphone's Mikey Digital Microphone

Mikey Digital also features a multi-source input jack that allows for direct  connection of an iPod or a lavaliere micand other sound sources  to record with the highest possible fidelity to get that track into your audio  recording.

If you are experimenting with the use of online meetings, webinars, Skype and  Google+ Hangouts, the investment in a quality microphone should be top of your  list. I not only help clients figure out the best web tools for their needs, but  also the hardware. The number one item on my list for those applications is a  good quality microphone. The last thing you need is to sound like you are  talking through a tin can on a string with your prospects and customers, yet I  hear it every week. Listen to the sound quality of the speakers on your next  webinar. A quality microphone will make all the difference in the world.

Some things to consider before you purchase:

Blue Microphones Logo A little bit about the company. Blue Microphones has been  around for some time, and manufacturers and entire range of microphones from  Desktop USB through Studio Mic’s. Many podcasters online today are using Blue’s Snowball USB microphones. You just have to like a company  that names its products Snowball, Yeti, Tiki or Woodpecker. If you are serious  about sound quality, give these guys a look. By the way, the Tiki listed above is a really  strong product if you are working from your laptop rather than an iPhone or  iPad.

Might be a good time to thin out that laptop bag and lighten your load, while  improving the sound quality in everything you record. If you know someone who  lives this lifestyle, it is never to early to grab one of these for a holiday  gift.-from fill the funnel