TEDxAkl Redux

What. an. event.

There is simply too much to type to do justice to what I got out of last nights event, so I’ll post this entry as it is, unfinished, but linking to some of the cool stuff which was discussed…

Keep up with the tweets surrounding the event here – and I’ll be summarising my notes over the weekend.

For now, check out this vid which was shown as a segway between speakers…


Portable Hacking Device for Soldiers

Now *this* is why it’d be fun to work in/with the Military in an innovation (non-lethal) capacity… loads of funding, loads of scope… okay, perhaps not here in New Zealand, but for economies such as the US, the defense contractors must get to play with some awesome toys, years ahead of the technology hitting the general populous…

Portable Hacking Device

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.
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?

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).

Video: Company Values

This link has been bouncing around the NZ twitter space this morning, it’s very well constructed video of a young company and their employees explaining what it means to be, and work at the company. It reminded me of my early days at an NZ IT start up, and also of the early days at Xtra when it was an ISP… great energy, great people and a desire to do the right thing for the customer – let’s see more NZ companies catch this bug again.

It may be the best 7 minutes you spend all day (values shown in their entirety at the 06:57 mark) – thanks to @benkepes for the heads up on this, I’m enthused once again.

Critical thinking

In a world where information overload is becoming a serious issue in terms of what we believe and how we choose to educate ourselves, one of the most important skills to ensure you are taking a balanced view is that of thinking critically.

In this article by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul, Learning the Art of Critical Thinking, the challenge set is to take an active role in analysing how you are thinking, and then suggests strategies as to how to improve the quality of how you think.

“Critical thinking is the disciplined art of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of in any set of circumstances. The general goal of thinking is to “figure out the lay of the land” in any situation we are in. We all have multiple choices to make. We need the best information to make the best choices.”

I’m planning to expand on that thought a little in another post in which I will discuss the iBrain study as it relates to how we process our way through the information overload we are all exposed to. For now – it’s enough to understand that given so many inputs of information and differing viewpoints, we must be cognisant of how robust our acceptance of ideas is to ensure that we continually challenge our norms and allow ourselves to grow in the understanding we have in the world around us.

The article makes the point that “To make significant gains in the quality of your thinking, you will have to engage in a kind of work that most humans find unpleasant, if not painful – intellectual work”. To this end, we are encouraged to practice special acts of thinking, moves with your mind analogous to what athletes learn to do with their bodies – through practice and feedback.

Clarify your Thinking

  • State one point at a time (“I think.. [state your main point])
  • Elaborate on what you mean (“in other words… [elaborate on the main point])
  • Give examples that connect your thoughts to life experiences (“for example… [give an example])
  • Use analogies and metaphors to help people connect your ideas to things they already understand. (“to give you an analogy… [illustrate your main point])

Of course thinking is a two way street and you will sometimes need to clarify what you are being asked to think about

  • “Can you restate your point in other words… I didn’t understand you…”
  • “Can you give an example?…”
  • “Let me tell you what I understand you are saying, did I understand you correctly?”

Now of course, you probably don’t speak like this, I know I don’t, so change it around without losing the meaning. – The key is not to appear patronising as you step yourself (and your audience) through your thought process, otherwise they will shut down and you will lose the opportunity to make your point or understand theirs.

Stick to the Point

Frequently ask “What is the central question? Is this relevant to it? How”

Now – personally, I don’t believe this is a good process if one is attempting to innovate or brainstorm an issue – but I have used this technique in a couple of problem solving meetings recently when conversation strayed from the point and onto more interesting matters.

Question Questions
The article goes on to ask us to be on the look out for both the questions we ask, and the questions we don’t ask. This allows us to improve our questioning skills, it may challenge accepted reasoning and it may also unearth some simple answers which had never been considered because the question had never been asked.

Be Reasonable

“Notice when you are unwilling to listen to the views of others, when you simply see yourself as right and others as wrong”

I think we’ve all been guilty of this at one stage or another, I also know that some of the best conversations I’ve had were started when I asked someone to convince me to accept their point of view – it opens the door to a huge array of new ways to resolve issues.

  • Are you unwilling to listen to someone’s reasons?
  • Are you irritated by the reasons people give you?
  • Do you become defensive during a discussion?

These are all fairly common, normal responses, but in training ourselves to think more critically, we can analyse why we had these responses. To help with this, the authors propose that we complete the following statements when we find ourselves being closed minded:

“I realise I was being close-minded in this situation because…”
“The thinking I was trying to hold onto is…”
“Thinking that is potentially better is…”
“This thinking is better because…”

Again, the language may not be right for you, but in understanding the intention you can discover what it is which is stopping you from allowing your thinking to open itself up to new ideas. It takes practice to change the way we are wired, but it can be done and all it needs is a little upfront discipline to stick to your ‘thinking training’ until it becomes automatic. When that happens you will find your conversations become more interesting and, if you’re anything like me, your thirst for more knowledge will become almost unquenchable.

I’ll leave this post with one last quote from the article…

“The extent to which any of us develops as a thinker is directly determined by the amount of time we dedicate to our development, the quality of the intellectual practice we engage in, and the depth, or lack thereof, of our commitment to becoming more reasonable, rational, successful persons.”

Speaking at the UCB International ‘Online Media’ Forum

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked to present to a group of broadcasters at the UCB International On-line Media Forum. My topic was Digital Content, Communities and Conversations – specifically, I looked at the strategies and technology choices available to a new entrant into this space.

Some very good discussion came out of the session and, despite a few interruptions due to the arrival and departure of the Prime Minister, we covered off my initial slide pack and then delved deep into what these guys wanted to know about. The session actually went 90 minutes overtime as the attendees started investigating the options now available to them and postulating on what issues they may run into going forward.
This was a pro-bono presentation for me as I believe in the work the group does (and the initial approach was made to me via a family friend). Nonetheless, I got a lot of value out of the session through exposure to thinking that was markedly different to that I’d previously encountered when discussing this subject. Mostly this was because of the completely clean slate approach they were taking to creating and engaging with communities online.
One issue which received a lot of focus was how, given the need to maintain some absolute truths, a community can steer itself while remaining consistent with what was believed to be the ‘right’ message. While on the surface this may go against the freedom of communities, there is a place for such control when discussing some subjects – especially those of a belief-based nature. My feeling is that, while initially a fair amount of control may be exerted on the conversations in the communities these people create, over time this control will be passed to the group who will self moderate, or take more ‘edgy’ discussion to another corner of the web.
This is something which I believe will play out as the group starts experimenting in the space and I trust that the recommendations I was able to make will be considered and acted upon, rather than blindly rushing into the whole Web 2.0 trend without understanding what the issue is they are trying to address. I’ve seen a whole lot of companies that the ‘Ready, Shoot, Aim’ approach to the long term detriment of their ability to integrate with the 2.0 space.

Guys, I wish you all the best as you venture into the new frontier for your business – share the love

TelecomONE – Warkworth, October 3-5, 2008

Telecom One InnovationThe last three days were invigorating, exhausting and challenging all at the same time. After 8 months of organisation, seeking permission (or forgiveness) and juggling schedules, a group of motivated individuals converged on Mahurangi College in Warkworth about an hour out of Auckland, New Zealand.
The attendees were from across the spectrum of Telecoms business units – along with some incredibly smart external folk, all ready to take part in the inaugural, corporate equivalent of the Kiwi Foo camp which has taken place at the same venues for the past two years. TelecomONE is an an ‘unconference’ hosted by Telecom to get people from within (and without) the business into one space and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for the business, and what we could do about them.

After attending the second Auckland Barcamp, and being enthused by the open thinking on display there, I was very much looking forward to seeing how people from inside our business would react in a similar environment. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, the sessions were filled within the first 7 minutes of the board being opened and within 15 minutes the shuffling and merging of similar sessions was complete.

Over the course of the weekend I was fortunate to facilitate three or four sessions (one of which will result in me completing a post that I’ve been sitting on for about 4 months). Largely, these unconferences are bound by a FrieNDA to protect the discussions and create an environment of openness so I’m not planning to go into any details short of commenting that it was a brilliant event, it has restored my faith in the desire of our people to make a difference, and has given some non-Telecom folk a real shock that behind the faceless giant beats the hearts of a number of motivated, smart people who want to get things done.

Edit: A number of other attendees have also written about the event and you can see their impressions here, here, here, here, and here. Follow the Tweets here and checkout the photos here.

Reading List

I need to start reading some more books to get my brain over it’s current hump… (sorry, but  MPLS Fundamentals, while interesting, isn’t exactly sparking my intellect). Anyway, in an effort to kick my brain back into action, I’ve been trolling some of the groups I’m a member of in various online communities for recommendations and listing them here. The plan is to strike them off the list once read and do a quick review for the benefit of others who may be interested in the title.

Innovate Like Edison

The Ten Faces of Innovation


Blue Ocean Strategy

Photoreading, 3rd Edition

Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV

Breadwinner: A Fresh Approach to Business Success

Tom O’Toole’s Breadwinner II

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

“On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee

… and more to come. Drop your recommendations into the comments (and let me know if you can lend me a title 🙂 )

Edit: I’ve just found ‘Shelfari‘ and I may try using that to list my readings to

Shelfari introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari was the first social media site focused on books, and will continue to innovate as it brings together the world’s readers. Our mission is to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word.

Shelfari were recently bought by Amazon which may also help their reach into the community of readers, speaking of which… I’m ‘NZRob‘ if you’re looking for me on there.

Another Edit (27/08/2008): Thanks to NZTebs for suggesting the addition of “BreadWinner” to the list

Update (13/10/2008): Thanks to @Gnat for suggesting “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee