Barry Flaherty – A Trend Spotter’s Perspective

Barry Flaherty has worn many hats on his route to his current incarnation as a digital media expert. These include being an International Business Development Director, and a technology early adopter for over 15 years, driving global innovative solutions in marketing, digital media, and mobile technology. His client experience has covered Vodafone, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Nike, and the Qatar Foundation to name but a few.

An avid blogger and trend spotter, Barry is currently engaged on projects with a variety of clients ranging from start-ups, fast growing organisations, corporates, broadcasters and digital media agencies in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Added to this, he sits on the Advisory Boards of several high profile digital media networks.

Currently working with Mediaventura in London on M&A advisory work and fund raising for fast growing digital businesses, Barry is also crowd sourcing digital case studies for inclusion in a new version of ‘Understanding Digital Marketing’.

This follows hot on the heels of the recently launched, ‘The Best Digital Marketing Campaigns in the World‘ published by Kogan Page.

Barry, you’ve been searching for, and driving forward Innovation for many years. How do you define Innovation?

Innovation to me is like a Rubix Cube. Multi-faceted, full of different colours and almost impossible to crack UNLESS you happen to be very good; be that as an individual or an organisation. I suppose a good place to start is understanding the essence and meaning of Innovation.

A convenient definition, from an organisational perspective, is given by Luecke and Katz (2003):

“Innovation is generally understood as the successful introduction of a better thing or method. [It] is the embodiment, combination, or synthesis of knowledge in original, relevant, valued new products, processes, or services.”

Do you think entrepreneurs are born or ‘made’?

Good question. Depends what life throws at you. There’s probably ten or twenty different ways in which entrepreneurs are created.

There’s a great quote from Twelfth Night:

“some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Many entrepreneurs are born out of many years of relentless effort – pushing themselves, and those around them, to the limit – and of course, having many failed business ventures before they finally become successful.

Right now trying to raise money from the market is like a trip to the dentist for root canal surgery. So if you have got a rich mummy or daddy or family member who can set you up on the path, well…

Many of today’s so called Entrepreneurs have had a helping hand in life. Sometimes this comes from billionaire families or trust funds, which have allowed many to start with the necessary ‘oxygen’ and capital to make turning their ideas into reality that much easier. Stelios Haji-Ioannou from Easyjet is an example of this. Kerry Packer, the  Australian media mogul, created an opening for his son James to flourish and take over the reins of their Empire.

Kerry and James Packer

We need entrepreneurs in society. They provide inspiration. They provide case studies for the plethora of Business Schools and MBA courses, and keep income rolling into the country. Innovation fosters dreams. The end product is a conveyor belt of ‘leaders of tomorrow’ entering the workplace armed with MBA’s and case studies in their heads from some of the world’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs.

Speaking of a helping hand, you are about to become a father for the first time. What do you want to pass on to your child?

Common sense. This is where someone like Paul McCartney is a good example. He’s got hundreds of millions in the bank from years of royalties, and he still sent his kids to a normal school. Its about arming your kids for life.

Do you see a difference between ‘little i’ and ‘Capital I’ Innovation? 

Innovation is an important topic in the study of most things in society, be that economics, business, entrepreneurship, design, technology, sociology or engineering.

Innovation is, unfortunately, one of those words that you hear lots but is rarely practiced. I’ve attended many Conferences at the European Union, and within industry, on the topic of Innovation; and there seems to be a whole industry of people hell-bent on commentating on Innovation and policy making to foster it. But, these are not the true innovators. I hardly think a policy ‘wonk’ in Brussels is going to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

Once innovation occurs, innovations may be spread from the innovator to other individuals and groups. This life cycle of innovations can be described using the ‘s-curve’ or diffusion curve. The s-curve maps growth of revenue or productivity against time.

In the early stage of a particular innovation, growth is relatively slow as the new product establishes itself. At some point customers begin to demand [it] and the product growth increases more rapidly. I think it would be fair to say that lots of little i’s make up one big I.

It could be argued that innovation is one continuous journey rather than the final destination. Innovation is fluid, continuous and ever evolving. It’s a shame the big CAPITAL I seems to be the one that gets most column inches as there are innovative discoveries and successes happening on this planet on an almost daily basis.

Do you think innovation is an overused term?

I think it would be fair to say that it’s a term that is timeless but slightly jaded around the edges. There are a lot of so called ‘ambulance chasers’ who like to pontificate and tell the world they are innovative without really demonstrating or executing this.

We like Innovation. It’s like a warm blanket on a cold night. We are proud of it and we like to tell the world how innovative we are.

So what do we like to do?

That’s right! We create awards. Here is a recent example of one from the www.d-media.co.uk network in the UK. We have become good at giving ourselves a good pat on the back for just about everything. There seem to be more award ceremonies, for just about everything, than there are Companies!

Enter the IET Innovation Awards to raise the profile of your invention amongst those leading the way in science, engineering and technology innovation. Typical Award categories include:

  • Asset Management
  • Built Environment
  • Electronics
  • Embedded and Critical Systems
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Healthcare Technologies
  • Information Technology
  • Measurement in Action
  • Power / Energy
  • Product Design
  • Software in Design
  • Sustainability
  • Team
  • Telecommunications
  • Transport

How essential has innovation been in your career to date; and how important do you envisage it being going forward?

I’ve leant towards creative industries and this has led me to come into contact with many entrepreneurs and creative minds that have built successful businesses from scratch, or created true measurable value for the Organisations they work for.

In the organisational context, innovation may be linked to positive changes in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitive positioning, market share, etc. All of which can be affected positively by innovative forces. All organisations can innovate, including, for example, hospitals, universities and local governments. Some will flourish under its influence. Other will die. It’s survival of the fittest.

In my digital world, the ‘King of the Jungle’ one minute can be obsolete the next. Take MySpace or Friends Re-United for example. They were top for a matter of months, then swept aside by the likes of Facebook and Google. And even they have reached saturation now in many mature markets. They need growth in developing countries to stay on target for their target of 1 billion users and their over justified and bloated valuations.

On a wider level, car companies and manufacturing industries are making way for knowledge economies, knowledge clusters and an increasingly mobile workforce. The travel industry has been taken over by online offerings, disinter-mediation is ripping through more industries and supply chains than ever before.

Going forward, I want to stay involved with working at the sharp end of Innovation, thus working in Mergers and Acquisitions with fast growing organizations. That way, I stay close to the capital markets and also get to court the Innovators and entrepreneurs, feeding my desire for knowledge and having a pulse on the future.

As an extremely avid fan, Barry also stays close to Celtic FC.

You can read Barry’s piece on Celtic and New Media in the August edition of CQ Magazine (pgs 38 & 39) here

What do you think is imperative to allow ‘Capital I’ Innovation to occur?

That is of course the million dollar conundrum. Innovation isn’t always welcome in practice, in my experience. I’ve spent/wasted years of my life delivering solutions that promise change and progress and, let me tell you, they’re not always welcome!

Governments talk about creating innovation, Science & Technology parks and Innovation parks and, to their credit, most governments in the Western world have built these. They’ve created jobs and been responsible for breakthroughs in medicine, technology, life sciences and so on. The UK has clusters of Innovation Centres and Science Parks, and the European Union is one big Innovation hub, mostly because it sits on budgets of billions to throw at ‘so called’ Innovation projects.

Innovation with a CAPITAL I without cash will never materialise – governments realise this. Expensive public sector modernisation projects, transport infrastructure, new schools and educational institutions need private enterprise and money to allow this.

In the digital world, places like Silicon Valley play a crucial role in funding innovation, leading to new frameworks including user centric design, interoperability, co-operation, portfolio management and processes to shorten product development cycles.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Middle East working with the Qatar Foundation and other projects such as  the Qatar Science Technology Park, Internet City in Dubai and AppsArabia in Abu Dhabi. They can attract the world’s brightest minds and talent as they can afford the money to prise the talent out of countries like the UK, Australia, USA and other western economies. Innovation tends to follow the talent and the capital, be that financial or human.

Private and public sector partnerships are crucial as not everybody has 100 years of liquefied natural gas (LNG) or oil sitting under their shores. We need only to look at Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Sudan, and Greece as examples of countries who do not have the manpower, innovation, cash or energy resources of the BRIC economies or a region like the Middle East.

On the upside are the new business models, which predominantly aren’t reliant on huge cost bases – you can set up a business today for ‘$17 online and in only 5 minutes’ – you don’t have to have an office, a factory, or lots of staff.

Does location matters?

Of course it matters. Being born into the right country at the right time is tantamount to winning the lottery.

That said, Innovation is universal. It’s being created, dreamt about and implemented in classrooms in China, the boardrooms of Brazil, universities in India and in R&D labs and Universities the world over. Innovation travels. It has a passport; it speaks many languages and knows no bounds.

Like all journeys in life, it’s not always plain sailing for Innovation. There are barriers, obstacles and challenges, yet with the right network, funding, energy and drive, Innovation does eventually prevail.

The internet has created a level playing field where SME’s and individuals can go toe to toe with large organisations. People have a direct line to brands, governments and people in authority. It’s power to the people, and the people holding the levers of power and control had better start listening.

The recent overthrow of governments in the Middle East and Asia demonstrated this. In this ever connected world, there is no hiding place.

A man not backwards in coming forward with his opinion, there is likely no hiding place from Barry Flaherty either.

The e-Health Perspectives of e-Patient Dave (Part 2)

Capital I Innovation Interview Series – Number 3

The e-Perspectives of e-Patient Dave 

e-Patient Daveis a world renowned keynote speaker, author, government policy advisor, e-patient advocate and champion of participatory medicine.  He, along with his physician, Dr. Danny Sands, has been named one of the “Twenty People Making Healthcare Better.”  An acclaimed speaker, Dave has received a myriad of standing ovations for his penetrative presentations, including his TEDTalk in the Netherlands this year.

As I have made clear in an earlier post, if there is anywhere that Capital I Innovationis essential, I believe it is in the field of eHealth.  This is one of the reasons I was so drawn to e-Patient Dave, an Innovative patient and  leader in what I call meHealth.

meHealth expects that I, you, we, take it upon ourselves to expect (if not demand) that all healthcare stakeholders at all levels work together to ensure that affordable, effective healthcare is available to one and all. There may be no one better known for voicing this expectation that e-Patient Dave deBronkart.

Why did you become a healthcare advocate?

Funny you should ask. During his presidential campaign JFK was asked how he became a war hero, and he answered, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.” Same here.

I was going through life ignoring healthcare, as most of us do – it was always like the fire department: if I ever need it, it’ll be there.  And when my crisis hit, it was there for me – pretty much.

In hindsight there were avoidable errors, but all in all they saved my life, brilliantly, including gluing and screwing my leg back together when the cancer ate such a big hole [in it].

A year later my physician, Dr. Danny Sands, invited me to go on a retreat with the e-patients.net gang, with whom he’d been discussing what we now call e-patients. I read the e-patient white paper, and it blew my mind.  My little hobby blog took a sharp right turn, as if it had bounced off a boulder.  I renamed it from “the New Life of Patient Dave” to “e-Patient Dave,” and started reading books about healthcare.

And here’s the power of social media when combined with conventional print:  A year later, I tried to move my hospital records into Google Health.  What came across was garbage. It wasn’t Google’s fault – the hospital sent garbage.

That knocked me for a loop, and it took me weeks to figure out what to say.  I finally wrote a 3500 word blog post about it.

The next thing I knew, the Boston Globe called because, unbeknownst to me, medical data was a hot topic in Washington.  They wrote about my post on page 1, and we were off to the races:  speaking, policy meetings in Washington, thousands of Twitter followers, and ten months later, the end of my old career and the start of this [advocacy].

Involuntary indeed; but I’m so happy it happened, because heaven knows healthcare needs to let patients help.

What responsibility do you feel in your position as a healthcare advocate?

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the thousands of people who, just that day, got the news they never wanted to hear.  Four thousand people a day in the US discover they have cancer.  That alone is enough.  Heaven knows how many people get other life-altering or –ending news.

Five hundred times a day, in the U.S., medical errors accidentally kill someone over age 65.  For all these people, and their families, I want to improve healthcare.

I also think about the many, many healthcare employees whose lives are sometimes ruined by involvement in a horrible medical error.  In some cases these deaths or ‘harms’ are caused by negligence, but too often they’re the inevitable result of healthcare methods that simply are not as matured, not as reliable, not as bullet-proofed, as the rest of life.  As we are all in denial about it, there’s zero chance we’ll get serious about dealing with it.  So the pain continues.

Last month in Seattle, I believe, a skilled nurse killed herself after her involvement in a tragic pediatric death that became a media circus.  Shame on those media people, for hounding that woman to her death.

The responsibility I feel is to wake people up about the complexity and riskiness of healthcare, to get us out of denial – patients and providers alike – so we can work together to improve processes and, in the interim, manage and minimize risks as best we can.  [It’s about] participatory medicine.

Who is the Healthcare customer – is it only the patient, or do you include healthcare providers and managers?

“I think the answer is that, in all cases, the customer is not well served – with the sole exception of the insurance companies… when I say patient, to me that’s a collective noun. Its everybody who’s on the receiving end of the professional services.”

For more Dave’s answer to this question, click play on the video!

In our lead up to this interview, we joked about wanting to change the world.  If you could change the world, how would you do so, and what tools do you need to make it happen?

Well of course, world peace, a stable population, plenty of food, mutual care, a healthy nourishing upbringing for every child, and all kinds of things. (Caution -I’m trained in how to visualize a future without concern for its current feasibility.)

I wasn’t joking about changing the world. Cynics are wrong; change happens all the time. For heaven’s sake, the Web was only born 17 years ago. (The Mozilla browser arrived in April 1994.) That’s only 6300 days ago.

Cynics should think about this: if everywhere you turn, the world looks like shit, perhaps you have your head up your ass.

So I am changing the world (and so are you), and it’s not a joke. My tools are stories – mine and others’ – because stories well told are potent change agents; [I use] humor, because it’s more engaging than just tragedy; logic, for instance explaining why it’s reasonable for patients to be active participants; evidence; and social media.

How do you define Innovation in Healthcare? [Note: throughout his answer Dave refers to the KimmiC definition of ‘Capital I’ Innovation: Something that was not there before, upon which new economies and cultures can be built.]

Trick question – Having said that …

What’s “not there before” in healthcare is to start with the question, “What would the customer like to see?

I’m increasingly certain that the principal source of dysfunction in healthcare is that it’s the only industry I know where the definition of quality doesn’t start with what the customer wants.  Once we ignore that, then all our best efforts to improve other things will pursue other goals, but not home in on more satisfied customers.

Want evidence of this?  Consider that hardly anyone in healthcare can even imagine what this question means, much less that it might be important. 🙂

And yes, entire new economies can be built on this. Entire new ecosystems, in fact.

The other “what’s not there before” is for all our medical data – all your medical data – to be in your hands, your property, for you to take with you wherever you want.

Aside from putting the power where it belongs – in your hands – it will enable another new ecosystem of personal health data tools.

Combine the two, and we could someday see a health ecosystem that’s built on what people want, not what professionals say they should want.

The third ‘Capital I’ is uncommon today and could be immensely powerful:  a vast and widely-known network of patient communities for every condition under the sun.

Not only is there great practical value in connecting with other patients for disease management and day-to-day tips, communities enable information pathways that bypass the limitations of clinical trials and medical journals.  Those methods are focused on the scientific method, which is great – it saved my life – but by their nature those methods can’t measure anything that cannot be subjected to trials, and can’t identify factors where the scientific method is weak.

Finally, consumer communities know about findings that fail or side effects that arise after the articles are published – and communities spread the word far more rapidly than traditional channels.

What do you think are the main barriers to the success of healthcare innovation?

This too is too big for me to answer.  Having said that, within the narrow scope of my own knowledge, the main barrier I do know of is the lack of that belief that the patient ought to define care’s objectives.  If every clinician and hospital executive truly believed that everything they do is to accomplish whatever we [the patients]  want, much would change.

And [now] consider how unimaginable or senseless that seems to them.

If you could give a ‘Capital I’ Innovation in Healthcare Award to anyone, who would you nominate? 

I don’t know the whole industry.  Having said that, at this moment, within my very limited experience, I see these nominees. (I hesitate to say this because of whom I might leave out.)

    • The current leadership of the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services. They’re implementing truly patient-centered policies for the first time in generations. That is “that which was not, before.”
    • The people in the Obama administration who by some miracle got US health reform passed. Almost every president since Roosevelt had tried. That is “that which was not, before.”
    • Don Berwick, head of Medicare and Medicaid, who is implementing policies and freeing data which will empower real informed choice for consumers.
    • Lucien Engelen at Radboud UMC in the Netherlands, for creating the REshape Academy, which is actively at work on reshaping the care relationship. That is “that which was not, before.”
    • Regina Holliday, Medical Advocacy Muralist. A phenomenal story teller in words and paint, she has been putting a face on the human suffering from our dysfunctional system. That is “that which was not, before.”

Are you a patient patient?

Hell yes, presuming the care team is working competently and I’m not being subjected to waits for no good reason.

Though the last question I ask, it is no doubt the most important.. how is your health now?

My cancer is completely gone; for better and worse, I’m exactly back to where I was before the illness, including being a bit overweight. (When the treatment ended I’d achieved my ideal weight! Unfortunately I’ve gained it all back.)

The only clinical difference is that I have one less kidney and adrenal gland, and a bunch of steel that repaired my femur after it snapped from the cancer.

Personally, I’d say Dave has a lot more steel in him than just which repaired his femur. 

[Note: On July 23 Dave celebrated the fourth anniversary of his last dose of HDIL-2 (high dosage interleukin-2), the treatment that rapidly reversed the course of the cancer that was killing him.  He hasn’t had a drop of treatment – and thus not a single side effect – since then!]

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For more information on e-Patient Dave, check out:

(Kim and Dave Skype’d between from their homes in Sydney and Boston  on July 26, 2011. Part One of this series can be found here.)

(NOTE: Excuse the quality of the filming/lighting/all-other-ing of this interview.  Suffice it to say, Spielberg has no worries I’m going to be sitting in his chair anytime soon!)

Capital I Innovation Series Introduction

It’s meHealth I’m Talking About – The To Do List

The following is a list of meHealth issues, and an overview of some of the steps necessary to solve them: meHealth

  • Convince stake holders of the efficacy of Personal Healthcare Pages and/or (PHP) National Electronic Health Records (EHR)
  • Enable all healthcare stakeholders (consumers, healthcare givers, healthcare managers) to use the Web as a platform to share information, deliver care and build communities
  • Enable patients to make better lifestyle choices

Collaborative Health

  • Convince stake holders that Collaborative Health Care (CHC) is a cheaper, safer, and better system
  • Enable single points of contact, self service and self help
  • Enable Doctors to make better diagnoses and prescribe better treatments through access to more useful and integrated data
  • Enable data aggregation to produce useful data of clinical significance for researchers evaluation, teaching doctors and development of health services

Non Vendor Locked Tools

  • Ensure systems are easy and economical for use by all stakeholders
  • Enable tools that help patients feel more informed, included and valued
  • Enable medical help via Web sites/browsers and smart phone apps
  • Enable easily understandable bundles of products and services that can be compared on quality and price, and used by stake holders with a wide range of capability levels
  • Enable access to and co-ordination of home based medical equipment / tools and assessments along with data-generating Web-enabled devices
  • Enable tools for doctor patient dialogue
  • Enable healthcare givers to electronically interact with patients regardless of where they are located
  • Enable disparate IT systems and processes to connect and co-ordinate with each other
  • Enable secure flexibility within mobile services, using such tools as PDAs and VOIP processes
  • Enable healthcare managers to better respond to emergencies and rapidly assess the national impact of particular treatments

Governmental Issues

  • Enable and enhance uptake by governmental agencies
  • Support government responsibility for public infrastructure and systems
  • Enable support for vast consumer and care provider populations in urban, suburban, rural and remote locations
  • Enable effective co-ordination and oversight of national E-Health activities
  • Enable tools and systems which support informed policy, investment and research decisions

Security and Privacy

  • Ensure security of all data transfers
  • Ensure privacy for patients
  • Enable confidential electronic information to be securely and seamlessly accessed and shared, by the right person at the right place and time, regardless of their location

Standards

  • Either create and enable record system standards and benchmarks, or make standards unnecessary by enabling different systems to talk/work with to one another without vendor lock, using a Web 3.0 / Semantic Solution

Data Management

  • Incentivise enhancement of IT and information management
  • Incentivise investment in infra- and info-structures
  • Ensure easy and economical training and support
  • Ensure implementation is cost effective

Infrastructure

  • Maximize existing information management and technology to improve functionality
  • Upgrade old computers and dial-up Internet access or ensure they can work within the new system
  • Ensure new systems are designed with potential user consultation
  • Support Funding to improve rural ICT infrastructure
  • Ensure broadband / ‘chatty’ high-speed connections are not necessary for most clinical consultation (Systems can be broadband based, but must not be broadband bound)

Costs

  • Reduce/Eliminate errors, inefficiencies and the wastage of time and effort
  • Lower healthcare provisioning costs
  • Ensures cost and service level transparency
  • Lowers costs on families and communities supporting the elderly
  • Cut time needed to review and implement systems and training
  • Modernise the management and transmission of data
  • Consolidate medical records/services and clinically relevant information
  • Remove duplication of healthcare efforts, expenditure and solutions
  • Reduce administration time and costs
  • Combine insurance systems reducing duplications and high overhead costs

Systems and Processes

  • Enable an integrated health care delivery system
  • Link emergency and acute hospitals with tertiary care in the community sector
  • Enable integrated healthcare delivery systems and the consolidation of medical records/services
  • Ensure B2B applications (i.e. reporting, billing and claiming processes) are integrated into general practice software systems
  • Enable the secure viewing and following of healthcare processes
Well, there is.
Bottom line: meHealth makes money, and it makes sense.
If you want to talk about the tech,  get in touch!


The e-Health Perspectives of e-Patient Dave (Part 1)

Capital I Interview Series – Number 3 (Part 1)

The e-Perspectives of e-Patient Dave 

Recently I, along with a myriad of others around the world, was introduced to the passionate, personable and thought provoking e-Patient Dave through his TED Talk ‘Dave deBronkart: Meet e-Patient Dave.

I was so inspired by his presentation, I immediately took to Twitter to send him a message of congratulations – and an invitation to become involved in my Innovation Interview Series – not least because of my long held interest in Innovation in healthcare, and in meHealth in particular.

Unsurprisingly, with  more than 180,000 views so far, and having been subtitled in nine languages, Dave’s TEDTalk has proven to be an international hit.  So much so, that TED invited him back to do a TED Conversation on “Let Patients Help”   scheduled for Wednesday 27 July at 1:00 p.m. (US) EDT.

My interview with Dave, conducted on 26 July, will be posted in a series of ‘chunks’ – some in text, and some in video format.

(NOTE: Excuse the quality of the filming/lighting/all-other-ing of this interview.  Suffice it to say, Spielberg has no worries I’m going to be sitting in his chair anytime soon!)

This first posting, to coincide with the Ted Conversation, will look at two questions in particular: the responsibility of Healthcare users and the demands they are entitled to make.

But first, lets talk about TED:

You’ve recently done a TedTalk and had a great global response to your presentation.  What has been the most surprising outcome from this success.

It’s no surprise that being  a hit on TED.com has been phenomenal at spreading the meme.  What is a pleasant surprise is that it’s clearly gone viral: the idea is currently spreading at over 1500 views a day, and volunteers have added subtitles in eight languages.  WHAT a pleasure for any advocate, to see an idea take off like that, especially across cultures. Farsi!

And what a testament to the power and reach of TED.

And who brought you into TED?

That’s my friend Lucien Engelen, His Twitter name is Zorg – which means ‘Care’ in Dutch – 20, and he is a visionary.  A visionary who has the ability to execute. About two years ago he got […] authorized to run a TEDx, the smaller regional franchise TED events, in Maastricht.  A year before it happened he announced that a patient was going to be the first speaker at this medical conference.”

Lucien Engelen is a Health 2.0 Ambassador, the Director of the Radboud REshape & Innovation Center, and on the Advisory Executive Board at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre

“Clearly this is tapping into something in consumers cross culturally – people want to be involved in their healthcare around the world.”

What responsibility do you think healthcare users need to take in their own health?

The simplest eye-opener view was put forth in December 2008 by endocrinologist Stanley Feld: “Physicians are coaches. Patients are players.”  You don’t get to sit on the couch all day and then demand participatory healthcare. With rights come responsibility.  Get up off your ass; be physically engaged in your life, not just your care decisions.

For those inclined toward a more delicate view, and perhaps a more formal model, Jessie Gruman’s Center for Advancing Health has developed a terrific ten-piece framework for patient engagement:

  • Find Safe, Decent Care
  • Communicate with Health Care Professionals
  • Organize Health Care
  • Pay for Health Care
  • Make Good Treatment Decisions
  • Participate in Treatment
  • Promote Health
  • Get Preventive Health Care
  • Plan for the End of Life
  • Seek Health Knowledge

For details see this post with her speech about it and links to the full framework documents.

Should patients be allowed to read their doctors’ notes, access lab result and see images they aren’t necessarily qualified to assess?

“There’s several levels of thinking about this.. here’s entitled according to the law, and there’s what I think makes sense.”

“How do we improve healthcare?  And I assert that we have to start there, because we are approaching a genuine healthcare famine.”

Lucien Engelen, who hosted TEDx Maastricht… he’s going to be running the REshape academy in September, where I’m going to be doing my ePatient bootcamp.

He said that in the Netherlands, which is not a giant country, by 2025 they’re facing a shortage of 400,000 nurses.”

“Now anybody who plans to be alive in 2025, and there probably will be more humans in the Netherlands than there are today, is going to be facing a care shortage.  So it just seems unavoidable that that we’ve got to hand people a lifeline to try to help themselves.”

My doctor, Dr. Danny Sands, is famous for saying, “How can patients be engaged in their care if they can’t see the information?”

“For the patients to be a second set of eyes, to check the data quality, costs the healthcare system nothing more and will reduce defects.”

What responsibility do you think healthcare users need to take in demanding change in the healthcare system?

Well, that varies a lot.  All my life I’ve felt that demands aren’t necessary until one has asked courteously, offering partnership in creating the change and doing the work.

But there are times when the establishment simply will not listen.

It happened for hundreds of years with women’s suffrage.  It happened with the civil rights movement: folk singer Malvina Reynolds penned a cheerful ditty “It Isn’t Nice” about what you sometimes have to do for justice:

It isn’t nice to block the doorway
It isn’t nice to go to jail
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail

Although I followed folk music in the Sixties, I didn’t hear that song until this year, in the context of yet another movement: gay rights.  It was mentioned in an episode of our great PBS series The American Experience the Stonewall Uprising.

One of the gents who was in that movement recounts what gays eventually had to do to be granted the right to live and let live.  Will we see a day when patients march in the streets?  Gays chanted “Out of the closets and into the streets!”

Will patients march, chanting “Out of the johnnies [US slang for hospital gown] and into the streets – stop the killing now”?

Personally, I’d prefer the chant “Let Patients Help.”  But if healthcare ignores that, who knows.

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End of Part One

In Part Two of my interview with e-Patient Dave, we’ll look at, among other things:  Capital I’ Innovation in healthcare, healthcare heroes, why Dave became a healthcare advocate (and the responsibilities that entails) and changing the world.

[ There’s a lot more to come from e-Patient Dave, so keep your ears tuned, and your eyes peeled – conversely, you could make things easy on yourself and either follow this blog or subscribe to the RSS feed! 🙂 ]

For more information on e-Patient Dave, check out:

(Kim and Dave Skype’d between from their homes in Sydney and Boston  on July 26, 2011. This is Part One of a multi-part series.)

Part Two of this interview can be found here

Capital I Innovation Series Introduction

It’s meHealth I’m Talking About

The move from eHealth to meHealth

eHealth can and should provide options for how stakeholders (consumers, care givers and healthcare managers) manage and interact with the healthcare system across geographic and health sector environs.  That said, if there is anywhere that Capital I Innovation is essential, I believe it is in the field of eHealth.

The term eHealth has become nigh on ubiquitous.  And yet, it is somewhat nebulous, as it can be perceived as being perceptively less than personal.  meHealth, however, is different. It demands that I, you, we, take it upon ourselves to take responsibility.

Responsibility for what?

Responsibility to expect and demand that all healthcare stakeholders at the local, regional and national – and, dare I say, international – level to work together to ensure that affordable, effective healthcare is available to one and all.

e-Health uses the internet and related communication technologies to improve healthcare delivery, collaboration, diagnostics and treatments, while reducing errors and costs.

Thus far most arguments for eHealth take-up have relied upon Web 2.0 solutions such as MedHelp, MyGP, patientslikeme and Hello Health – each excellent initiatives.  Unfortunately, these arguments for adoption, though interesting, have not been compelling enough to engender a rush towards mass adoption, at least not by healthcare service providers.  But, with the advent of Web 3.0 solutions, this situation should soon change.  It must.  However, this will only happen if all stakeholders take on the responsibility of demanding the change; this is the time for the change to meHealth.

In my recent conversation with ‘father of the internet’ Vint Cerf, we discussed eHealth. Vint remarked ,

“From my point of view, there is no doubt that having records which are sharable, at least among physicians, would be a huge help.  When people go in to be examined, they often have to repeat their medical histories.  They don’t get it right every time, they forget stuff.  Yet the doctors are not in a great position to service a patient without having good background information.  I am very much in favour of getting those kinds of records online.

If we were able to harness the electronic healthcare system to provide incentives for people to respond to chronic conditions, which are generally the worst problems we have in healthcare – whether its heart disease, diabetes, cancer, [obesity] – to take better care of themselves, then we would reduce a lot of the system costs, simply because we had a more healthy population.”

Unsurprisingly, I agree with Vint.  However, regardless of how involved individuals are in bettering their meHealth, we cannot ignore the fact that pressure on the healthcare industry is rapidly increasing, as is the cost of provision.  It is in this area where new technologies can be of great import by enabling the healthcare sector to operate as an effectively co-ordinated, interconnected system, which:

  • Lowers costs and eliminate wastage of time and effort
  • Lowers costs on families and communities supporting the elderly
  • Enables integrated healthcare delivery systems
  • Consolidates medical records/services
  • Enables the viewing and following of healthcare processes
  • Enables single points of contact, self service and self help
  • Ensures cost and service level transparency
  • Enables disparate IT systems and processes to connect and co-ordinate with each other
  • Supports vast consumer and care provider populations
  • Removes duplication of healthcare efforts, expenditure and solutions
  • Enables confidential electronic information to be securely and seamlessly accessed and shared, by the right person at the right place and time, regardless of their urban, suburban, rural or remote location
  • Enables effective co-ordination and oversight of national E-Health activities
  • Supports informed policy, investment and research decisions
  • Enables secure flexibility within mobile services, using such tools as PDAs and VOIP processes
  • Reduces errors and inefficiencies

All the above points are important, but the final one may be the most vital of all. Why?

Because in Australia, in 2010, approximately $3 billion was wasted in avoidable annual expenditure.  Australia has a population of over 22.5 million, the US has a population of nearly 311 million and China has a population of over 1.3 billion – you do the math.

Do you need more convincing?  How about this. Annually in the US approximately 225,000 people die as a result of erroneous medical treatments and hundreds of thousands are made worse by being misdiagnosed or given inappropriate treatment.  Added to that, the costs of medical problems caused over 60% of all personal bankruptcies filed in 2007.  These are just a few of the reasons why reducing, if not eliminating, errors and inefficiencies is imperative.

I think most of us are agreed that making these changes would be a good thing. So how do we do it? Its a big ask I know. And yet, it must, and can, be done. What is needed is a plan, and here is my To Do List. I welcome any and all who are interested in moving this debate forward to add to this list.

In next week’s post, we will look at eHealth and meHealth from the perspective of patient advocate ePatient Dave.

Vint Cerf: Father Knows Best! (Part 2)

Capital I Interview Series – Number 2 (Part 2)

KimmiC chats with ‘Father of the Internet’, Vinton ‘Vint’ Cerf

(Along with our particular questions, we invited some of our readers to submit their own queries to Vint, which he was happy to answer. Thanks go out to to ‘ePatient Dave’ Dave deBronkart, Brent Hall, and Roger Kermode for taking part!)

This is the final segment of the KimmiC chat with Google VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Vinton ‘Vint’ Cerf, known around the world as one of ‘fathers of the internet’. [Part 1 available here.]

There has been a great amount of debate about Net Neutrality Vint. Do you think it is important to ongoing Innovation?


Yes, in the sense that it is intended to assure that the limited number of providers of broadband access to the Internet, do not use their control of this pipe to interfere with competing  applications that rely on this transport. It is the anti-competitive aspect that is the most critical problem. A lot of smoke and misleading argument has obscured this basic fact.

The issue here is a business issue more than anything else. It is distorted and twisted around and treated as if its a technical problem or ‘just a bunch of geeks who don’t know what they’re doing’, but this is a real, honest business problem; especially in places where there is not much competition to provide broadband service.

When you don’t have a market that’s disciplined by competition, you have the potential for real monopoly or market power abuse. If you’re the only party supplying broadband access to the internet, and if you supply vertical services like video, then you may be persuaded to interfere with someone else’s service in order to take advantage of your control over the underlying pipe.

The situation in Australia largely eliminates that problem because of the way in which you’re investing in the NBN. Here in the United States we have a serious problem because Broadband is not very competitive. We have Telcos, CableCos and maybe you could consider satellite services to be a third possible competitor, but the synchronous satellite delay makes it a lot less attractive.

Last week a popular Ted Talk by ‘ePatient DaveDave deBronkart was launched. An eHealth advocate, Dave was pleased to have the opportunity to ask you:
 Increasingly, “e-patients” are using the internet to supplement the care they receive from professionals by connecting with information, and with each other, in ways that were never possible before.

ePatient Dave

Some have found life-saving information online, but others warn that there’s garbage amid the gold. And some doctors don’t like it when patients present information they haven’t seen.

Are there lessons from other fields that have similarly faced the democratization of information? 


There are several facets to this question. First of all, there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet about healthcare. There are a lot of quacks and people who tried things and think there are correlations. Things like, “I jumped around on my left foot and sacrificed a chicken over my computer, and I got better.” So they conclude that you have to jump around on your left foot and sacrifice a chicken over your computer to get better.

Of course that’s all nonsense.  Anyone who goes out on the net looking for healthcare information should be very careful to look for bona-fides and some evidence that the information is valid.

On the other hand doctors are saying that they have more informed patients than they have ever had before because information is more readily available. I sense that people are paying more attention to their health conditions and they’ve learned a lot.

Doctors don’t have a great deal of time to tutor their patients about their problems. So one thing the healthcare system would benefit from is a deliberate provision of good quality information about either a condition, or its treatment,  its potential outcomes and possible side effects. Then the population can learn more without chewing up a lot of the doctor’s time.

As far as making a comparison with other vertical segments, none immediately come to mind, except perhaps Climate Change, which as you know is a hugely controversial thing. Perhaps one other would be in the financial services area where people go out on the net looking for advice about investments, specific stocks, or choices about home mortgages and things of that sort. All of that is subject to misinformation and deliberate fraud.

I think the honest answer is, people do get defrauded on the net. People do get involved in things that turn out to be unrealistic – ponzi schemes and whatnot. The only thing I can say is, if you don’t teach people, or at least encourage them to ask questions, or at least do some validation… if they don’t spend some time evaluating the information they’re getting, then they are going to be at risk.

The one thing that I would want to teach kids today about the net is: think critically about what you’re seeing and hearing – don’t accept everything that you see without doing some more homework.

As I’m sure you know, July 1 marked the 45th anniversary of the implementation of Medicare following President Lyndon Johnson signing the healthcare program on July 30, 1965.

How do you envisage eHealth developing with the advancement of the internet and broadband capabilities?


I have to confess that I had not been driven specifically by the eHealth vector in my work on the internet. But as it became increasingly apparent that the healthcare problem was going to get worse and worse here in the US, in terms of dollars spent per patient/capita I got more and more interested – for the same reasons that you mentioned.

As you probably know, Google has announced that its going to terminate its current efforts in the electronic health record effort. I’m disappointed at that. I think that we had hoped that it would have more traction that it did. Part of the problem is getting people to adopt and use those records – and interoperability and so on.

There is however, a small piece of light. The US CTO, Aneesh Chopra, at least succeeded in getting some agreements on a format for data that could be exchanged by email. As you know the concerns about privacy and health information have been quite intense here in the US. There’s a big, complex system here called HIPAA, (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), apparently he was able to cope with that and still get an interoperable agreement done.

US CTO Aneesh Chopra

From my point of view, there is no doubt that having records which are sharable, at least among physicians, would be a huge help. When people go in to be examined, they often have to repeat their medical histories. They don’t get it right every time, they forget stuff.  Yet the doctors are not in a great position to service a patient without having good background information. I am very much in favour of getting those kinds of records online.

The second thing I would say is that for chronic conditions, which are generally the worst problems we have in healthcare – whether its heart disease, diabetes, cancer, [obesity] – those chronic conditions cost us more per capita than anything else in the healthcare system. If we were able to harness the electronic healthcare system to provide incentives for people to respond to those problems, to take better care of themselves, then we would reduce a lot of the system costs, simply because we had a more healthy population.

On this point about a healthy population, if you are not collecting data, you can’t know what the state of health of your population is. We have to get better data.

There is a concern about Telcos on the whole, and in the US in particular, having asked for and received huge subsidies along with the removal of regulations and obligations for common carriage. In return, they have promised to provide improved services for everyone, and yet they have consistently failed to do so.


With that in mind, could you comment on Brent Hall’s question: What is the greatest threat to the future of a free and open  internet?


I worry about the: “Our business models don’t work anymore. We can’t expect the general public to pay for access to this expensive resource, so we have to find other sources of revenue to pay for the build out, which might mean government handouts,” argument. Or the, “Hey, look at those guys over there at Google and Facebook and Amazon. They’re sending streaming video over our pipes, and they’re not paying for it!

Of course we are paying for it! We pay commercial services a lot of money to put our servers up on the net. Now they’re saying, “Customers can’t pay!”
My reaction to that is: technology should be cheap enough that you can make this available to customers at a reasonable price.

Now, what are we going to do about it? Well, Google is doing something about it. We’re going to fibreize Kansas City. It’s not as big as Australia but it’s our attempt to do the work. We will expose what the problems were, what was easy, what was technically hard and what was fiscally expensive.

And by the way, I haven’t said this to [Senator] Stephen Conroy, but I would find it extraordinary if the Australian Government would be willing to share what the costs turned out to be. The reason for that is, it might encourage others, or at least give us a real datapoint so that if we want to do what you’re doing, we will all – the US and elsewhere – know what we’re getting into.

Australian Senator, and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy

This could be a dangerous thing. If it turns out that its all a cock-up of some sort, if it costs more than was expected and it doesn’t get done, then nobody is going to want to talk about it. I understand that. But I am increasingly confident that you’re going to pull this off successfully. I sincerely hope you do.

The world over, citizens in their millions are calling for more openness from their respective governments. As part of the Board of advisors of Scientists and Engineers for America, what is your view of the effectiveness and potential of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and its mandate to create an unprecedented level of openness in Government?

As you probably know, Vivek Kundra who is the CIO at OMB (the Office of Management and Budget) was vigorous in his pursuit of that objective. He got an enormous collection of government databases up and running and made them easily accessible – including budgetary information – which of course is what the OMB is all about.

US CIO Vivek Kundra

What he did was to create a tool online, which enabled you to drill-down into the budget. It allowed you to find the actual person who was responsible for spending that ‘piece’ of money in the US budget, which is unprecedented. Nobody had ever done that before.

Coupling that with tools to visualize some of this ‘dry as dust’ information was really eye opening. You began to see historical trends and things you would never see by just leafing through pages and pages of table and figures.
I’m sorry to say that in the crunch of the national debt limits and concerns over entitlements such as healthcare, social security and so on – non-discretionary expenses… in the course of  trying to negotiate reductions in spending, they reduced the budget Vivek had for some of his projects.

Whether it was causative or not, I don’t know, but recently Vivek announced that he is going to Harvard to the Berkman Centre. I don’t know who his replacement will be, but whoever it is will have less budget than Vivek originally had for the pursuit of this stuff.

President Barack Obama

I don’t think the President or any of his senior people are any less enthusiastic about openness and making information transparently available. I think they’re facing a reality of a budget problem that’s going to be hard to fix.

Looking to your past, who most influenced you in high school? I ask this, as I find it amazing that you, Jon Postel (editor of the RFC document series) and Steve Crocker (co-creator of the ARPANET) all went to the same school – was there a particular teacher, or club who inspired you there?

I actually did not meet Jon until we met at UCLA as graduate students.

Jon Postel

Steve and I were, and are, best friends -we were best men at each other’s weddings and have collaborated in many ways over the course of 5 decades.

Steve Crocker

I think the biggest influence for me in high school was the enrichment program sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation in the wake of Sputnik.
I was a direct beneficiary of the emphasis placed on science, mathematics and technology in American high schools in the 1960s. I had teachers who encouraged me in all academic subjects including history, creative writing and literature, not only math, science, physics, chemistry, etc. Steve and I were members of the math club and he was president. The club won city-wide awards in contests and that was very satisfying.

And today, why is Google a good place for an Internet Evangelist and Futurist?


Google is vibrant and alive with ideas, energy and a youthfulness that leads to innovation and Innovation. The leadership is willing to aim at big targets and is willing to allow for failure as long as the targets are ambitious enough. The company has a highly successful business model and a culture of invention and collaboration.

Vint, thank you so much for your time, which I know you extended for me. If there’s ever anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to let me know!


If you could figure out how to fix the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Australian dollar so I can could buy more Australian wine, I’d really appreciate that!

(Kim and Vint Skype’d between from their homes in Sydney and Washington D.C. Part One of their conversation was published  on July 1, 2011)

[This interview has been translated into the Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich of Webhostinggeeks.com]

Capital I Innovation Series Introduction

Vint Cerf: Father Knows Best!

Capital I Interview Series – Number 2 (Part 1)

KimmiC chats with ‘Father of the Internet’, Vinton ‘Vint’ Cerf

(Along with our particular questions, we invited some of our readers to submit their own queries to Vint, which he was happy to answer. Thanks go out to to “e-Patient Dave” Dave deBronkart, Brent Hall, and Roger Kermode for taking part!)

Imagine having the opportunity to ask Johannes Gutenberg about his thoughts on how his printing press would change the industry – let alone his opinion on how his press would change the world. Well, essentially, that’s the chance that I’ve had this morning, when I was given the opportunity to speak to Google‘s VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Vinton ‘Vint’ Cerf, known around the world as one of ‘fathers of the internet’.

When looking for a ‘poster child’ for Capital I Innovation, Vint is, to many – myself included – at the top of an impressive, international list. His list of awards and medals from around the globe is vast, as is his experience and range of interests. I do believe, in this instance, it is fair to say that when discussing Capital I Innovation – especially as it relates to the internet – ‘Father really does know best’.

As this series is based on Capital I Innovation, Lets start with how you define Innovation?
I think capital “I” innovation happens when something new is invented that has very large potential for cultural and/or economic change. However, it is important to appreciate that some innovations are stillborn if they are not, in fact, taken up widely.

In a recent book entitled Why the West Rules – For Now by Ian Morris (2010, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York), evidence is given that strongly points to the long term evolution and adoption of agriculture ultimately replacing a hunter-gatherer way of life. The process is not instantaneous but it has dramatic effects on culture and economy.

We sometimes think of Innovation as a sudden invention but often it takes decades and even centuries to have an effect. The printing press took centuries to have its primary effect. The telegraph, railroads, highways, radio, television and even the Internet took decades but those are a blink of the eye in terms of human history, which is fairly short itself (a few tens of thousands of year for prehistory, perhaps 8,000 for “history”).

Do you see a difference between ‘little i’ and ‘Capital I’ Innovation?
Yes, I think of the lower case instance as sequential refinement and adaptation while the basic Innovation might be a dramatically different way of doing something.

The Industrial Revolution is capitalized because of that – a shift from manpower or animal power to harnessing non-biological forms of mechanical energy (water power from rivers; steam from coal and wood; hydro-electric, oil, gas, wind or solar generated electricity; internal combustion engine; fractional horsepower motors).

The Transistor (and reed switches or vacuum tubes) ushered in the harnessing the power of “mechanical” thought using computers and programs. The Telegraph ushered in new forms of communication that eventually lead to the telephone, radio, television, optical fiber, coaxial cable, microwave, etc.

Printing Telegraph

The combination of computing and communication, once the economics reached a certain level, created the conditions for the invention of packet switching and, eventually, the Internet and many other kinds of computer-based networks.

With that in mind, do you think that Cloud Computing is big enough – different enough – to be capitalised?
Yes I do, for a couple of reasons. I’ve been jokingly saying that it is like time-sharing on steroids, as, like time-sharing, it does share the same resources. However, the scale of a Cloud system is so dramatically different than any time-sharing system that’s ever existed that it does deserve to be Capital I. There is a common belief that once you scale up by a three or four orders of magnitude you are in a different space than you were before.

Of course, this raises a very interesting question about the internet, because the internet is now 6 orders of magnitude bigger than it was when we first launched it in 1983. You have to ask yourself, is it still the same architecture, the same protocols? What’s different?

Of course one thing that’s different is that there are two billion users. Another thing that’s different is that the world wide web wasn’t there, and now it is – that [came] 10 years after launch. Its also available on mobiles, which didn’t exist. So, there are a whole bunch of things about that scaling up, including data and video, which could allow you to argue that this is a whole different beast now.

The meeting I just came back from in Paris suggests this. If anyone had suggested to me in 1983 that in 2011 there would be a meeting of 50 or so countries in the OECD, for two days talking about the internet economy, concerns about intellectual property, crime on the net and so on… I would have scratched my head and said, this thing is for the military, and the research community.

You’re called by many, one of the ‘fathers of the internet’. What do you think of your baby now?

  • Astonished at its evolution and growth,
  • Hopeful that it will reach well beyond the present 2 billion users,
  • Amazed at the response to the WWW infrastructure,
  • Worried about government intervention that might seriously harm the openness that has driven innovation in and around the Internet,
  • Excited by the possibility of extending its operation across the solar system to support manned and robotic space exploration,
  • Envious of kids who get to use it at age 5 when I had to wait until I was 28… and we had to invent it first!

What is the most important piece of innovation, which has launched in your lifetime?
The obvious answer for me is, of course, the Internet, but in fact it depended on the creation of conditions that allowed this idea to be explored and, ultimately, exploited.

The ARPANET, the successful invention of packet switching, the invention of the Ethernet, the invention of the Unix operating system, the invention of the mini-computer (ie. something that could afford to be replicated and used as packet switches or routers), the invention of high speed, long distance communication technology (wired, wireless, satellite, mobile…). Those, and so many more technologies, all had to be readily available for the Internet to grow.

Business models had to be invented, not only to make and sell the equipment and software needed for the Internet to operate but for the support of the enterprises that grew up around the World Wide Web (WWW). The WWW itself would not likely have amounted to much had it not had an Internet on which to be supported. It was invented or at least became operational in a single node in December 1990, six years after the Internet became available to the academic and military communities and contemporary with the development of a commercial Internet service.

I was born in 1943. I grew up using a three-party, black dial up telephone with long-distance operators. There was no television to speak of. Jet planes were purely military. Early in my life, the atomic bomb was invented, tested and used. Microwave and radar were military systems. Sputnik happened when I was 15 and just entering high school.

We landed on the moon when I was 26. At 18 I worked in a small way on the F-1 booster rocket engines used in the Saturn V rocket that put the astronauts in orbit around the Earth.

The microwave oven became a commodity in my lifetime as did jet travel. The computer was very new during my early lifetime and I was introduced to the tube-based SAGE system (Semi-Automated Ground Environment) when I was 15.

Lasers were invented in my life time and have myriad uses today. Robotic surgical systems such as the Intuitive Surgical Da Vinci system were invented in my lifetime. So was the Pill (by Syntex and others, for birth control). The discovery of the structure of DNA occurs around 1953 when I am ten years old.

While relativity and quantum theory were already a few decades old when I was born, the existence of quarks wasn’t really demonstrated until 1968 at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC), at about the time I am working on the ARPANET at UCLA. The cochlear implant, invented by Graeme Clark beginning in 1973, was a long process, but had utterly spectacular results. My wife, who was profoundly deaf for 50 years, has two implants and is living a second life as a result!

What piece of innovation did you expect to happen/take off, that didn’t?
Two things were really disappointing. When I was working on the Saturn F-1 engines in 1962, I really did think that we would have regular, weekly space launches in 20 years, maybe out of the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles where the famous Lockheed “Skunkworks” is located. I also thought that we would be flying personal helicopters by then, too.

I also thought 20 years was a long time (more than twice my lifetime at that point). I was wrong about all three, but I am not disappointed to have outlived thrice my lifetime at age 19!!

Where does the Interplanetary Internet project stands at the moment – and why do you think it is important?
The standards are firming up well. There are implementations of the Bundle Protocol and the Licklider Transport Protocol that realize the Interplanetary Internet architecture. Instances are on board the International Space Station and the EPOXI spacecraft. Discussions are underway in the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems to standardize these protocols for international use.

If all space-faring nations adopt these protocols, then all espacecraft will be able to communicate with each other. Once they have completed their primary scientific missions, they can be re-purposed to become part of an interplanetary backbone network. One can imagine the aggregation of a solar internet over a period of decades, in support of both manned and robotic exploration.

Here on earth, are entrepreneurs born or made?
I think there has to be a combination of conditions to allow entrepreneurship to happen. A person has to be willing to take risks, and that often has a genetic component. But a person’s experience with risk also has to have had some positive feedback effect. If you are never successful at taking risk, you are likely to learn to be very conservative.

Conditions also have to be right to allow the risk-taking to go on long enough to produce results. This is the so called “runway” needed to go from the idea to a successful, profitable or at least self-sustaining business. It should be noted, however, that not all inventors are entrepreneurs. They may take risks in the technical sense but not necessarily in the personal (livelihood) sense.

Conditions for invention may actually require that the inventor be shielded from economic risk while exploring ideas that may have a high pay off in some sense, but such high risk that no one could afford to take the personal risk needed to explore them.

This is one reason that it is often a government that has to make the investment in research in high-risk area,s since no business or inventor would take the economic risk. It is also why inventors often die in poverty (think of Tesla) [while] others harvest wealth in addition to technical success.

What do you think are the main barriers to the success of innovation?
Sometimes they are technical (can’t process that much information in a timely way, can’t store it, can’t build a big enough data platform, uses too much power) or economic (can’t deploy the necessary infrastructure, devices out of consumer reach) or operational (too bulky, battery life too short, displays don’t work in all lighting conditions). Sometimes the major barrier is that the private sector doesn’t give innovative employees the freedom to fail.

For any particular innovation, the conditions for its sustainable growth and use may simply not yet be ready.

What do you think is imperative to allow ‘Capital I’ Innovation to occur?
Not all Innovations require government support, but often this is the only path to initial success because the risks are too high for the private sector, even venture capital or angel investors to take.

Google was essentially entirely private sector funded and that’s something of an anomaly, given its stunning success. In that case, angel investment was an important component.

Economics is another critical factor. It is possible to have a breakthrough invention that is simply too expensive for widespread adoption.

Mobiles have been stunningly successful but took many years to emerge because the costs and the physical size, battery life, and infrastructure were a long time in development. Tax breaks can be sustaining but generally don’t lead to capital I innovation, to first order.

If you could give a ‘Capital I’ Innovation Award to anyone, who would you nominate? This could be individuals, organizations and/or companies (it could also be yourself!).

Does Innovation have a nation?
I think there is no country that has a lock on innovation but some places, like Silicon Valley, have conditions that support it better than many other places. You have:

  • a continuous stream of trained, high technology graduates,
  • experienced business people,
  • venture capitalists,
  • a liquid stock market,
  • mobility from company to company, and
  • a community of players that know each other.

It is a potent brew. There are more smart people, in absolute numbers, outside of Silicon Valley than inside, but the conditions in SV are remarkable.

Is innovation an overused term?
Yes in some ways. It is too much the focus when one should be asking “under what conditions can innovation take hold and become a real driver of economic growth?”.

It could be said that a huge amount of the core innovations that we use seems to have come out of either government funding and/or telco’s (for instance MCI and AT&T). Do you agree with this? And if so, do you think it was past structural, political and economic situations that made these innovations possible.
I think we should be very careful to distinguish between innovation and participation within the infrastructure. MCI supplied point-to-point high speed pipes to build the NSFNET backbone, to build the vBNS network, and to ultimately build Internet MCI a publicly available internet service.

Where they DID pioneer was in the commercial use of optical fibre. You have to give them credit for that, and for participating in the National Science Foundation Network by contributing underlying transmission resources. The fact that they were willing to get into the game is different than them being the inventors of it.

The real innovators for NSFNET were Merit and IBM. Particularly IBM, which designed and built the original routers; though they didn’t really follow up on that. Ironically IBM built the routers for the NSFNET back bone but Cisco systems, Juniper and others turned out to inherit all the commercial value from it.

AT&T, as a very successful monopoly, had an enormous amount of resources, which they put into AT&T Bell labs. Bell Labs was absolutely one of the most innovative places anywhere in the world. Nobel prizes have come out of there, the transistor came out of there. There’s no doubt in my mind that something was lost when AT&T was broken up.

The one thing about MCI which was interesting was that, instead of doing research, they would dangle a $250m dollar cheque in front of company and say, “If you can do this, I will buy a quarter of a billion dollars worth…” Its amazing how much R&D you get out of people when you do that. So, rather than taking all the risks themselves MCI simply said, we’ll buy a lot of stuff if you make this happen.

And yes, there’s no question in my mind that government sponsorship for this kind of high risk research is important.

Many nations are in the midst of debates about Broadband. You were recently quoted as saying that you believe” internet bandwidth can increase exponentially,” adding that this would, among other applications, “enable greater access to high-def video.” Other than being able to get the latest blockbuster downloaded in no time, where else do you see it being of use?
The term “exponential” is not one I would use (a reporter put that word in my mouth). However, I do believe we are far from fully taking advantage of communication technology to achieve many gigabits per second, end-to-end on the Internet.

These speeds have a transformative potential because they dramatically reduce the cost of moving information in large quantities from one place to another. It allows replication for resilience and safety. Large files like MRI scans will be easily retrievable and processable with higher speed transport.

We can build much larger data processing systems when we can interlink the processors at terabit and higher speeds. In a recent technical session, serious mention was made of 1000Tbs (that’s a petabit per second). Holographic simulations will benefit from speeds of this kind.

By the way, Stephen Conroy was in Paris with me for the OECD Conference, and I have to say that I continue to stand in awe of the Australian Government decision to fund the fibre network.

Stephen Conroy launching the Digital Strategy 2020 (zdnet.com.au)

This is the kind of infrastructure investment that probably would not ever be made by the private sector. There would be parts of the community left out, there would be economic decisions that would reduce capacity….

This is a very big deal and I’m hoping that it all works out. If it does, it would be a bell weather example of why government investment in fundamental infrastructure is so important.

This leads neatly to Roger Kermode‘s question: What advice would you give Australian ISPs, governments and businesses to take best advantage of the NBN?
First of all, because its a Level 2 infrastructure, anybody who wants to is free to put up a level 3 routing system on top of it. That means they can all compete for any business or individual subscribers service. Then on top of that you have the enabling effect of the broadband capability. This means that people can put applications up there that they would never have put up without such a broadband infrastructure.

Next, with the fact that everybody is online, or very nearly everybody, you can begin to say, “We are going to do ‘X‘ for the entire population,” and have a reasonable expectation that you will, in fact, reach the entire population.

For example, when it comes to healthcare, and the possibility of remote diagnosis and things like that, you’d be in a position to actually exercise that idea. Whereas, most other places, including here in the U.S. would not.

I anticipate that if this infrastructure goes into place and it operates reliably that you will be exploring a space of ‘online-ness’ which no other country has ever experienced.

End of Part 1 – Follow our blog and Part 2 will be delivered to your in box next week!

Part 2 – Next week we talk about net neutrality, eHealth, Telcos, Google, the Open Government Initiative and more (including a message to Australian Senator Stephen Conroy)!

(Kim and Vint Skype’d between from their homes in Sydney and Washington D.C.)

[This interview has been translated into the Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich of Webhostinggeeks.com]

Innovation in Marketing…. Cannes Do!

Capital I Interview Series – No. 1:                                                              

KimmiC chats with multi-award winning, ‘Capital I’ Advertising Innovator, Matt Batten

Each day the average person is exposed to hundreds – some say thousands – of advertisements. Generally they range from boring to the utterly banal. In fact, I’d posit that most slide out of our consciousness without us realizing what it is they’re actually advertising.

However, occasionally there are a few fantastic pieces of artful, magical marketing, which embed themselves in the psyche of a nation – sometimes a generation.

Personally, when I think of favourite commercials, and yes, I have a few, each of them tends to reflect the times in which they were created – be it for bologna or beer. I know I’m not alone in thinking that occasionally the commercials are more entertaining than the purported entertainment they are slotted in around.  There are, in fact, a myriad of websites dedicated to these entertaining, award winning ads from around the world.

Without doubt, the preeminent award ceremony for the advertising industry, is the annual, week-long, Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Its a time when global Innovators in advertising and marketing gather together to celebrate excellence in their industry and honour the most creative campaigns from around the world – in 2010 more than 24,000 entries were received.

This year, for the first year, Matt Batten, the Executive Creative Director of Wunderman Sydney, was invited to be a judge on the Cannes Lions Direct jury. On his return from Cannes we grabbed the opportunity to explore his thoughts on ‘Capital I’ Innovation in general, and how it applies to his creative  industry in particular.

Matt’s impressive bio includes:

  • Creative of the Year 2010, APAC – Digital Media Awards, Beijing.
  • Collecting more trophies than any other Australian creative at the 2008 ADMA Awards.
  • Being the only Art Director in the world with two campaigns in the Top 10 of Won Report’s World’s 50 Best DM Campaigns 2005.

A man with a myriad of interests and talents, an intelligent eclectic, Matt is probably never short of a dinner party invitation. His many interests include antique books, all things old (and French) swordplay, archery, photography, screenwriting and winning – yes, definitely winning.

Matt, do you think that having a wide range of interests has helped you as a Capital I Innovator?
I’m a curious mind. I have a head for mathematics and science and often investigate the hidden relationships between numbers or objects. To that end I will always endeavor to find out the answer to something I don’t know.

This job is all about problem solving. Which is why my fellow Direct jurors and I
unanimously selected the ‘Rom‘ campaign for the Grand Prix. As did the separate Promo jury, totally independent of us

When it came down to three contenders (don’t ask who the other two were), one was an example of the technology and future of advertising, one was a perfect embodiment of the brand’s higher positioning, while the third, Rom, saved a business. And that’s what we do as advertisers. Every communication is to solve a business problem and prevent it from losing market share.

How was jury duty – what were the perks and the pesky problems?
This was my first time as a Cannes Lions juror. I found it exhilarating and draining at the same time – a 14 hour day followed by a 12 hour day.

The biggest perk is being in Cannes throughout the whole process in the lead up to the Festival and witnessing this town metamorphosis from sleepy seaside town to the largest and most opulent celebration of creative advertising. Following that is the honor of meeting and working alongside my fellow judges from around the world, all of whom are talented, interesting and funny people. Of all the judging panels I’ve been lucky enough to be part of, I have never laughed so hard than in the past five days with the Cannes Direct Lions jurors.

I like to think that the Cannes Lions crowd will be inundated with Capital I Innovators… am I right?

I hope so. These guys are our peers, and our future replacements who’d better be
twice as innovative as our generation of advertising Creatives has been.

What was your favourite campaign, and your favourite win?
When I first saw Ogilvy Argentina’s ‘Friendship Machine‘ for Coca-Cola, I thought I had found my pick for the Grand Prix. It’s honest, emotional, beautiful and effective.  Then I saw Ferrorama’s campaign and suddenly had two choices for Grand Prix.

But when I thought hard about the campaign for Romanian chocolate bar ‘Rom‘, I knew the issue was solved. Here, an agency solved a true business issue in a creative way.

How do you define Innovation?                                                                Innovation is being the first to do or create something using the tools currently
available. In this way it differs from ‘invention’ which would be to create
something which doesn’t rely on existing technologies or understandings.

Do you see a difference between ‘little i’ and ‘Capital I’ Innovation in your field?                                                                                                                           A little i innovation is a small improvement on an existing technology that could
lead to new and useful ways of doing things. It doesn’t necessarily fundamentally
change the world but it could lead to change.

A Capital I innovation is when someone makes an enormous leap forward from the status quo and manages to change the world in some way.

Do you think innovation is an overused term?
That’s why I prefer ‘world first’.

How essential has innovation been in your career/business to date; and how important do you envisage it being going forward?  Innovation is core to creativity. It’s about understanding the existing thinking and technologies and pushing them further to create originality. A lower case innovation isn’t different enough and is often met with the sentence “that’s just like…”

A Capital Innovation makes the idea transcend everything we have done to date. It is ‘gold’.

While most Creative Directors and their Creatives are always looking for ‘original
ideas’ – the little innovation – I’m constantly on the hunt for ‘world firsts’.
Capital Innovation.

In fact, my own office of Wunderman Sydney has produced several world firsts in the past year alone.

Wunderman prides itself “on being at the forefront of technology and creative thinking.” Why? Can you tell me about your favourite examples of this?
You don’t get to be one of the world’s largest agency networks without applying
innovation.

Coupled with insights and knowledge from our vast array of tech clients, including Microsoft and Nokia – two of the world’s leaders in technological innovation – Wunderman is well placed for applying creative muscle to future technologies in order to truly stay at the forefront.

In terms of Wunderman’s innovation, our work includes burying cash on the Internet in a world first campaign for Microsoft, inventing a media channel and whole new ‘fertilising’ printer’s ink for Earth Hour, and the world’s first audio-based Facebook app for Nokia – a campaign that simultaneously provided the social network with a whole new technology they hadn’t done themselves.

Can you be too innovative in marketing?
Never.

But you can get too complex with the marketing that envelops the innovation. You often see overly complicated campaigns wrapped around some technology, and the innovation gets buried under the complexity. There must always be a simple, relevant idea that requires the innovation – always idea first.

Are there agencies who stand head and shoulders above others with regard to how the incorporate Capital I Innovation?                                     I think there are several agency networks with a proven track record of having a
great sense of applied innovation, including Weiden + Kennedy, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Crispin Porter, and DDB.

How have recent technological innovations changed the way you approach digital strategy?
There is a danger in using someone else’s innovations of simply replicating – the
original innovator and all the OTHER Creatives who also use that technology in their advertising. We must be inspired by innovation rather than re-use it. Inspired to either create our own or push existing technologies even further than anyone else ever has, or could.

Two years ago, when everyone else was using Augmented Reality to create pretty 3D images, we added geo-coding, personalization, live data streaming, and social
sharing to take the technology further than it had ever been, innovate a world
first, and create a totally immersive experience for our client.

The best way to approach a brief is to start the proposed solution with “what
if…”. And then find a way to make that crazy idea a reality. Sometimes that
involves researching for existing technologies and innovations that can achieve it, either in whole or in part and then extending or repurposing the technology to suit the campaign idea. Or create your own innovative solution.

And at the Cannes Lions awards, Ogilvy’s gold-winning ‘Watson’ for IBM campaign is a superb example of utilising existing technology AND creating your own innovation to make a brilliant piece of communication.

Where do you see Social Media being used most effectively?            Social media is a tool through which brands can have a relationship with consumers, and through which consumers can share brand content.

This can bring a greater immediacy to the product being in the consumer’s hand when they want it. And it provides massive potential to spreading communications faster than ever before.

But with it comes a price. The consumer now controls the conversation. And as fast as brands want positive socio-viral spread for their comms, negative socio-viral spread will always be faster.

Brands cannot afford to do any wrong.

What piece of innovation did you expect to happen/take off, that didn’t?                                                                                                                          Tough question.

We live in a world that moves at such a fast pace, and advertising moves
considerably faster, especially in creativity. So what was an Innovation yesterday
is instantly de rigeur today, observed with the all too common “that’s been done
before.” This means that even the best Innovations (after winning an award or two) are no longer useful for original creativity and therefore they never ‘take off’.

However, there will always be capital Innovations that continue to be used as
Creatives attempt to squeeze every bit of life out of then with little innovations.
For example, Augmented Reality was a capital Innovation about 4 years ago and
continues to surface in award shows.

And QR codes will continue to be used by brands to show digital superiority and try to engage consumers, but in most cultures the QR code is ignored by consumers.

In judging the 2011 Cannes Direct Lions, we did discover a truly relevant and
superior use of QR codes in a Korean campaign for Tesco that the jury unanimously agreed was worthy of double gold.

But now that the QR code has been used so extensively by brands (and so successfully by Tesco), they will be the furthest thing from the minds of most Creatives.

If you could give a ‘Capital I’ Innovation Award to anyone, who would you nominate? This could be individuals, organizations and/or companies.                                                                                                                  Many would be quick to name Apple as an Innovator. But I think Microsoft is by far the greater Innovator. You may think I’m doing my duty of defending one of
Wunderman’s primary clients, but as Malcolm Gladwell said in his Cannes Lions
seminar, “Apple win by being late to every innovation. They perfect, not invent.”

Whereas, Microsoft invests serious money into R&D to produce technologies far beyond their competitors. Most consumers just don’t realise it.

I also think HBO is an innovator in terms original, quality and highly-watchable
content.

And there is probably no bigger innovator than Facebook. We’ve seen the movie and we’ve poked our friends and this brand continues to find new ways to engage and connect people and serve as a content and communication provider.

Do you think that location matters? Does Innovation have a home/nation?

Innovation exists in just one place in the world. The human mind. While that means location is irrelevant, there is obviously greater stimuli for the human mind to use for innovation in some cultures more than others. But to counter that, developing nations have a greater need for innovation and therefore potentially have a greater effort to achieve it.

On a personal note, there are two Wunderman campaigns in particular which I’m very fond of, one is the Legacy pitch for the Gruen Transfer – its aim, “to convince the Australian public to allow refugees arriving by boat into the country” –  and one for one of Melbourne’s best kept foodie secrets, the Taco Truck , which turns up on random street corners, and purports to serves up “some of the best tacos this side of East LA” . What I want to know is – and I know its a purely selfish question, but:
Is the Taco Truck coming to Sydney? Please!

I’ll see what I can do.

Sí, sí, sí por favor!!!

For more information about Matt and his adventures, visit his website.

———————————————————————————————————————

If you could ask Vint Cerf ‘father of the internet’ any question, what would it be?

I am very pleased to announce that I will soon be interviewing Vint Cerf, known as ‘one of the fathers of the internet’, for the Capital I Interview series.

In the spirit of collaboration, and net neutrality, which Vint supports, I am offering followers of the KimmiC Blog the opportunity to ask Vint a question of their very own.

All you have to do is sign up to be a blog follower, and then post your question in the comment section below. The three best questions will be included in the interview. (Of course I will credit the person who asked the question!).

I look forward to exploring your ideas!

Capital I Innovation Series Introduction

‘Capital I’ Innovation (Part 2) – An Introduction to the ‘Capital I’ Interview Series

To misquote Elvis Costello, “What’s so funny ‘bout Peace, Love and”  Innovation with a ‘Capital I’?

The reason I ask is, well… it seems to be something of a contentious subject. But hey, for a blog, I reckon that’s a good thing. Its the Lindsay Lohan side of blogging… at least they’re talking about it!

Seriously though, I have been really pleased to see the great number of people who are commenting on and discussing ‘Capital I’ Innovation, since the posting of Part 1 of this series last week. Apparently many readers are pleased that there is finally a ‘banner’ they can carry as they strive to stride forward.

There have also been those who have felt it necessary to remind me that there is nothing wrong with ‘little i’ innovation – though their penchant for ‘kissing frogs’ is beyond me (do see Part 1 of this series for the outing of this particular ‘in’ joke) – I totally agree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the ‘little i’s’, however, they’re not what gets my heart pumping.

‘Capital I’ Innovation is what gets my motor running; this has been the case for many year, irrespective of what genre the innovation comes from. Throughout my years in the media I consistently strove to find people who broke the mold, led the pack, moved their own particular mountains – and find them I did. I also found some common denominators between them.

Though totally diverse, there are things that link these people, for instance, though at times daunting, they are compelled to tell their truths. Whether we want to hear it or not. Though many of them may not see themselves as business people, they are all certainly entrepreneurs – consciously or otherwise – and they steadfastly maintain and protect their ‘brands’.

Some of them boldly go where no one has been before, and most of them are applauded for it.  However, not all are popular for their decision to take ten steps forward, when one would, possibly, have been enough. Certainly a baby step would be easier to sell than the strides they often take. And yet this does not stop them, nor even slow them down. Whether they want the accolades or not, it should be noted that some of them may have even changed the way we see the world, if only in a small way.

I believe that ‘Capital I’ innovators deserve recognition, not just for their innovations, but for the very fact that they have refused to bow down to banality and boredom while they avoid or ignore the labels thrust upon them – even if the label begins with a ‘Capital I’.

In no particular order, I’d like to tell you about some of my past favorite ‘Capital I’ Innovator interviews:
Madelaine Albright – I was extremely fortunate to have been able to spend some time with this most gregarious and engaging, thought provoking and thoughtful woman. It came as no surprise to me that she would be erudite, informed and interesting; what was intriguing was the warmth she exudes and her infectious sense of humour, which was present throughout our interview.

  • Ms. Albright was the first female American Secretary of State – and thus the highest ranking women in American political history during her tenure.
  •  She was certainly not born on an easy path to public service, as her personal life saw more than its share of turbulence. In 1939 she and her family escaped to London after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia; many Jewish members of her family who were not able to escape were killed in the Holocaust.
  •  Following her retirement, Albright did not shy away from forthrightly and frankly commenting on world affairs. In one Newsweek International interview, she noted her fear that, “Iraq is going to turn out to be the greatest disaster in American foreign policy – worse than Vietnam.”
  • Perhaps the quote from that interview, which still resonates most strongly with me is this, “I wish everybody liked me, but that’s not possible; and I think in many ways, one is known by who dislikes you. I would just as soon be disliked by people who think that Milosevic was a good person. So, I accept those who dislike me with some honour.”

Terry Gilliam – I interviewed Terry the day after he had collected a Life Time Achievement Award at Amsterdam’s Fantastic Film Festival. As thought provoking as he is, I do believe I laughed more during this interview than any other, prior or since.

  • The animated, animating genius of the UK’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus,  Gilliam went on to direct some of the most memorable motion pictures of the last thirty years. Think: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Excuses à l’avance pour notre fabuleux amis français!), Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp as the madly brilliant, or brilliantly mad, Hunter S. Thompson.
  •  Most Innovators and entrepreneurs are ‘multi-taskers’, and some would say they have to be. For Gilliam, this just came naturally: “I want to see the other side of something. So many things in my life have happened around me as I’m bumbling around doing what interests me.  I began as a physics major … Then I became an art major for a while… Politics turned out to be the major with the least number of required courses and the maximum number of electives. Under that I could do drama, oriental philosophy and economics; I invented a very liberal education for myself.”

Tom Wolfe – It’s only fitting that I follow Gilliam, who worked with HST (and from what I understand, it really did feel like a whole lotta work!), with Tom Wolfe, ‘The Man in White’. When I met Mr. Wolfe, who did, yes, arrive in his ubiquitous, immaculate white suit, I had to continually remind myself that I was conducting an interview, and not having tea with one of the icons who, as a young woman, made me realize that I wanted to be a writer.

  •  An acclaimed novelist of such works as The Right StuffThe Bonfire of the Vanities,  and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Wolfe is also one of the originators, along with HST of Gonzo Journalism – which can be described as that which puts the cynical-eye in eye-witness.
  • Being constantly labeled a Conservative doesn’t both him either, “Its okay with me, but I always say: What’s my agenda, what’s my program, what am I trying to do, what am I trying to accomplish? Really it just means that I’m not going along with the fashionable line.”

Brian Greene  – Going from fiction to fact in one healthy swoop (unless of course you are a card carrying creationist from back-yeller-holler) this particular thought leader stands out for me in the realm of science.

  •  The renowned physicist and Pulitzer Prize finalist is finally bringing the theories from his book, The Fabric of the Cosmos, to a wider audience with a four-part miniseries for PBS in November.
  •  Perhaps because he truly believes that the majority of laymen share his thirst to understand the great ideas of science, Greene has found a way to explain these things – like using a loaf of sliced bread to explain wave particle duality §- using a language we can understand. Greene is able to impart his enthusiasm for subjects which, for most, may not be particularly palatable. He is able to speak the language that his listeners understand, thus, rather than speaking to me in terms common to Quantum physicists, he explained his ‘winding up’ of string theory in terms of poetry. We came to an agreement that, as in poetry – where often times the space between words is as important as the words themselves – with his theory, the space between the strings, is as important as the strings.

Nitin Sawhney – Speaking of strings, and music in general, London based Nitin Sawney is a standard bearer at the forefront of building bridges between Eastern and Western artistic genres and communities.

  •  Regarded as one of the world’s most influential and creative talents, he is a walking crescendo of crossing cultures. Sawhney is a film producer, songwriter, DJ, acclaimed flamenco guitarist and jazz pianist; he has even created music for a Play Station 3 game. I met the sublime Sawnhey in 2006 in Amsterdam  where he was conducting a symphony orchestra performing his composition for the 1929 silent movie,  A throw of  the Dice, alongside the screening of the film.

Eric Staller – live performances are what the installations of artist/inventor Eric Staller are all about.

  • Light and bikes are two common threads in Eric’s work, and my time with him was during his performance for the city of Amsterdam, with his mobile public artwork the PeaceTank. Seven masked and costumed riders toured the city on one of Staller’s circular ConferenceBikes. The team was led by a  symbolic Barack Obama (prior to his election) steering the PeaceTank, while past and present world leaders helped to power the pedals, contributing to the forward motion and the tour of the city. Staller believes in change.

John Wood –  I cannot have a list such as this, without including a man who is all about change. The author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, which he did, Wood changed his life –and was soon to change the course of a myriad more lives.

  • This change followed a 1998 trekking holiday through Nepal, where he became aware of the absolute lack of educational resources available there. He determined to build an international organization to work with villages in the developing world to meet the educational needs of villages and villagers.
  • With the help of a committed group of global volunteers,  Wood created the award winning charity, Room to Read. The Room to Read business model includes measured, sustainable results, low–overhead and Challenge Grants cultivating community ownership, along with strong local staff and partnerships. Perhaps most importantly, it is inculcated with the GST attitude (Get Sh*t Done).
  •  When I first met Wood, in 2005, in his role as part Dr. Seuss and part Andrew Carnegie – the Scottish philanthropist who built 2,500 libraries throughout the U.S. – Wood explained his long term goals to me. He wanted Room to Read to have opened 5,000 libraries by the end of 2007, and long-term, to have  provide educational access to 10 million children in the developing world by 2020. In later meetings he upped the ante stating that he wanted to have reached his target of 10 million children by 2015.
  •  Room to Read is well on its way to not only meeting, but surpassing those targets. By the end of Q1 2011 Room to Read’s accomplishments included: having built more than 1,400 schools and 11,000 libraries; they have published more than 553 Local Language Books, distributed more than 9 millions books, given more than 10,500 Girls’ scholarships and benefitted the lives of more than 5 million children. Now that’s GingSD on a monumental scale!

Thoughts of all of these inspiring innovative men and women make it particularly pleasant for me to, with today’s post, announce the launch of a new interview series, ‘The Capital I Interviews’.

These interview subjects come from a wide range of industries and crafts. They include technologists, futurists, artists and artisans, business leaders, market changers, venerated vintners, garrulous gastronomes as well as the great unwashed and underutilized. The group includes individuals who work in all types of circumstances, be they lone-wolves, or part of SMEs, large organizations or institutions. They are part of the public sector, the private sector. The only requisite is that ‘Capital I’.

I look forward to introducing you to this new group of ‘Capital I’ Innovators in the coming weeks and months.  The lineup is growing bigger everyday, and we look forward to delving into  a wide range of topics such as:

  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship;
  • The imperatives and barriers to enabling ‘Capital I’ Innovation to occur, let alone flourish;
  • How Innovation has affected particular career paths;
  • ‘Capital I’ Innovation heroes, and,
  • Does Innovation have a nation?

If you think we’ve missed something – don’t hesitate to let us know by posting a comment here.

I hope you join me in celebrating their successes, supporting them in their attempts, and standing together in our determination to move forward – together.

‘Capital I’ Innovation (Part 1)

Recently I read an article on Anthill.com, ‘Innovation: Australia is screwed without it. Really, really screwed. One of the premises the article and its accompanying video put forth was that, while 95% of Australian businesses claim they’re innovative, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics only 40% actually undertake any form of innovation activity. Hmmmmm. Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do.

Unsurprisingly, I was a little confused, and I started to wonder, what’s up with Australia and innovation? Now I don’t mean ‘little i’ innovation… I mean ‘Capital I’, game changing, in your face Innovation. We’re not talking ‘lipstick on the bullfrog’ here people. We’re talking a whole new species. Or at least we should be. And we should be talking about it together.

My questioning led me to explore the GE Global Innovation Barometer for 2011 and, globally at least, the facts are quite heartening. For instance,

  • 95% of respondents believe innovation is the main lever for a more competitive national economy.

As encouraging is that the vast majority of respondents believe innovation can improve the lives of their country’s citizens in the next ten years.

  • 74% believe innovation can improve housing quality;
  • 77% believe innovation can improve the quality of education;
  • 82% believe innovation can improve energy security;
  • 87% believe innovation can improve health (care) quality;
  • 88% believe innovation is the best way to create jobs in their country; and
  • 90% believe innovation can improve communications.

All of these illustrate excellent reasons for individuals to buy-in to the necessity for ‘Capital I’ Innovation.

GE Global Innovation Barometer: Positive Perceptions

But what about business? Well, 75% of the global respondents believe:

  • SMEs and individuals can be as innovative as large companies;
  • The greatest 21st Century innovations will bring value to society as a whole, not only to individual consumers or citizens; and
  • The majority of innovation in the next ten years will be driven by a combination of players partnering together.

So what’s the Aussie problem? In a nutshell, only 2% of respondents saw Australia as a leading innovation champion. This is in contrast to the US (67%), Germany (44%), China (35%), and India (12%). I’m reminded of the quintessential line from the classic film Cool Hand Luke, “What we got here is… failure to communicate.”

GE Global Innovation Barometer: Optimism Index Country Ranking Chart

The bottom line that we need to be talking about is that Impactful Innovation in the 21st Century will require incorporating Partnerships who Integrate Solutions which focus on Individuals. However, this takes vision and an ability to factor in risk. And risk or the unwillingness to take it is, as some would see it, Australia’s problem.

The thing is, Australia is a traditional country. Now first let me hasten to note that there are, of course, exceptions to this rule. But, generally speaking, Australia wants to protect what it has rather than taking a risk by betting on something new, something they don’t know. It can be scary to switch to a knowledge based economy.

GE Global Innovation Barometer: Most Negative Perceptions

Peter Riddles, CEO of ViciBio Pty, has recognized this problem for years. Riddles works with governments and economic regions on innovation and strategies for industry growth, and with new ventures and universities in innovation and commercialization. To his mind, “Australia is a commodity and services based economy and is therefore not necessarily geared to be a knowledge based economy.” Agreed.

However, if Australia – in both the private and public sector – doesn’t support its own entrepreneurs endeavoring to launch ‘Capital I’ Innovation, some other country will, and will profit from it. As noted in last week’s blog, there is a multitude of multinational companies drooling to drink at the well of profit that the NBN scheme is likely to provide them. Regrettably, it is likely that only droplets will be left for any local businesses – unless, of course, they come in under the guise of a foreign flag.

All is not lost though; there is still time, and certainly a degree of opportunity, for Australia to lead the way in some form(s) of ‘Capital I’ Innovation. This is particularly true in the realm of health care. I have long said that I believe it is part of the Australian psyche to provide sustainable health care to its citizens, regardless of how rural and/or remote their location.

True, up to this point there has been a reliance upon ‘little i’ innovation but, to date, this has stood them in good stead. Australians took the international ‘Capital I’ Innovations of radio and airplanes, and created the ‘little i’ innovation that became the world renowned Flying Doctors. Huzzah! However, these are laurels that can no longer be rested upon.

Australia must support and cultivate a culture of ‘Capital I’ Innovation and, balanced with its need for security in a traditional economy, it must become a nation which supports and encourages entrepreneurship and a knowledge based economy.

As Peter Riddles noted in our chat this week, “Innovation is what entrepreneurs do.” And with some of its most innovative and entrepreneurial minds finding it easier to do business off the ‘Big Island’ Australia is not only suffering from a ‘brain drain’, but also from a sizable loss of potential profits. When your entrepreneurs know that it makes more sense for them to sell their wares to an American company, and then have the Americans sell it back to Oz – there is a fundamental problem in the plan.

Australia has the brain power to create ‘Capital I’ Innovation. What it needs is the courage capitalize on this. Australian entrepreneurs must be empowered locally to think and act globally. It is then that they will begin to take the lead in ‘Capital I’ Innovation rather than creating yet another iPad application.