Innovation? No thanks… we’re busy.

Ben Young wrote an article which appeared in today’s Herald entitled “The 12 Hour Startup“. Essentially, it promoted taking time out of working in your business, to spend time working on your business… and it attracted an interestingly one sided range of responses.

I was so disappointed in the views which were pitched in response, that I felt compelled to try and answer some of the commenters and provide a little balance. My response is copied below:

It’s with some hilarity that I am reading the comments on this article – the vitriol is palatable and the underlying understanding is verging on infinitesimal. There was so much negativity that I felt compelled to post something myself in the interests of balance.
@Ben10
1 – No, a decent IT department will appreciate that Facebook and it’s ilk are part of what Gen Y employees expect to be able to do, it’s where they connect with others and how they gain feedback for issues that they may well be trying to solve for their employer. If you truly believe that full control over what employees do on the web is possible while still retaining employee goodwill, then you may need to realign your naivety.
2 – So, if your company cannot sustain 12 hours a month, how about a quarter – I don’t believe the time frames were prescriptive, feel free to adjust to what suits your business. Your risk tolerance may be too low for significant change – that may suit your business if you are not seeking to change anything, but those who DO change and invest in a culture where change is both welcomed and expected will be better suited to adapt to an increasingly agile market. You may find this article helpful.
3 – Another all too common mistake. You confuse management with leadership. They ARE different things and your hierarchical world view is sadly showing.

@internet biz guy
Again I’d challenge your assertion this is ‘bogus’. Great ideas come from such brainstorming and the medici effect of gathering ideas from a wide range of sources (and levels of employees, to reinforce the counter to @ben10 #3) has been around since the 15th century, far be it for someone *young* to dare to reassert such thinking! As for a bio, I used Google and some other online resources to find out about the author.. surely as an internet biz guy you did the same?

@Derek
A 1:10 ratio of ideas to successful launch is actually quite high, if you’re looking for innovations rather than adjacencies and/or improvements that is. Phil McKinney (innovation lead for a fairly large company) discusses these ratios and strategies at length, if you *are* interested, a good place to start is here

@xavier money
“Employees are by definition not great inventors or entrepreneurs” By whose definition, yours? Are you attracting the right people to your company as employees then? There are very few people who know your products and company capabilities better than your employees and your customers. If you are not prepared to leverage these people as a resource then, well – you may well end up working on the same thing for most of your life. Actual real life entrepreneurs will begin, build and sometimes sell off a large number of businesses in their time. Branson would be a good example of this, a wide range of companies under his tutorship. Steve Jobs would be another who as leveraged adjacencies and diversified, rather than sticking to one idea and focusing on it for a lifetime. I guess peoples measures of success vary.

In the interests of disclosure, I am not *that* young, but I am marginally under 40 – please feel free to use the period of my existence to judge the usefulness of my response if that’s what makes you feel comfortable in your world view.

What I have learned from the experience is there is still a marked lack of confidence in ‘young’ people with ideas, and there is still a lot of traditional thinking out there. It will be interesting to see how the adoption curve plays out for these people.

Health Monitoring 2.0?

Sensewear DeviceSorry about the headline, the 2.0 tag is getting waaay too much air time of late – that aside, I was reading an interesting article on some of the technology advances in the realms of health monitoring.

A few years ago I was researching some of the advances within medical monitoring and how the devices could be integrated into a connected home*. At that time we were looking at near field communication devices which would upload via Zigbee or a similar low range, low power technology, as well as a concept toilet in Japan which measures and reports on glucose levels detected in ones urine.
Anyway, with the advent of specifically addressable devices thanks to IPV6, as well as advances in near-field and Personal Area Networking (PAN), the reality may well be closer than we thought.

The self-care market is hotting up, especially in this difficult time where concern about the economy and ones future financial well-being may well be impacting on peoples immediate, and long term health.

Some of the more interesting companies making headway in enabling health monitoring are:

  • Proteus Biomedical who have just released their platform for body monitoring dubbed ‘Rasin’

Proteus ingestible event markers (IEMs) are tiny, digestible sensors…Once activated, the IEM sends an ultra low-power, private, digital signal through the body to a microelectronic receiver that is either a small bandage style skin patch or a tiny device insert under the skin. The receiver date- and time-stamps, decodes, and records information such as the type of drug, the dose, and the place of manufacture, as well as measures and reports physiologic measures such as heart rate, activity, and respiratory rate.

All of the data collected by the Proteus system can be sent wirelessly to the doctor for remote monitoring.  The system is currently in clinical development.

  • Body Media have their Sensewear device which allows “monitoring of calories burned, dietary intake, duration of physical activity and sleep”. It’s USB connected, which is fine, but I’d prefer to see a device that automated the processes for more ‘real-time’ monitoring and feedback possibilities – all in time I guess and the biggest issue will be size and battery life, just like every other mobile device.
  • The Toumaz device recognises the ‘you must remember to upload your data’ issue, and has created their ‘Sensium’ device with the capability to stream the data to a logging device (within ~5m). This is the kind of thing I’d be looking for, but would want to incorporate into a meshed network within the bounds of a home (or health-club) to make truly useful.

Of course, with my day-job hat on as a Security type person, the biggest concern, given the very personal nature of this data, is how security will be treated. Recent reports attribute [a potential link to] cyber terrorism, with the ability to cause widespread blackouts. Whether that threat is credible or a causative action with the cited 2003 US blackouts is debatable. What isn’t up for debate however is the fact that as more systems which control or influence our lives become network aware, the more this risk profile will inflate. How we deal with this is something which needs to be built into the monitoring protocols from the outset – especially with the potential to link into the online health record repositories being toyed with by big players Google and Microsoft.

Comments?… Fear? Uncertainty? Doubt?

*A ‘connected home’ is what marketers refer to as a ‘future home’ – a term which I really hate as I agree with William Gibson “…the future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed…” (time code 11:55).

Trying Twimailer

Edit 08 April 2009 – Twimailer has recently been sold, see here for my impressions as to why this may no longer be a safe service to use.

After a weekend-worth of new followers of my Twitter stream, I’ve decided to try out Twimailer – a service I was made aware of last week by my friend Simon who gave it a fairly good review.

Below is a quick overview (via Vimeo) of what it does, I’ll be trying it out over the next week or so and report back on how useful (or not) it has been.


Twimailer demo from jon on Vimeo.

To date, I’ve been managing my followers by:

  • tagging incoming messages with “is following you on Twitter” in the subject line
  • Intermittently reviewing the folder containing these tagged items, opening each email then opening the followers twitter link in a new tab, and archiving the email so I know it’s been dealt with.
  • I then had to review each twitter page to see if they had a useful and interesting bio, and tweet stream – or if they were a follow-whore who simply sends spammy links.

The problem of late has been that of volume – I’ve had so many new followers that this approach is not scaling – enter Twimailer, which does the review stuff for me and allows a one click follow.


Edit: 25/03/2009 – Sucess! this is one service which has made by Twitter managment one heck of a lot easier. I’d recommend it to all keen Twitter users for managing their follow/follow back notifications.