Weekend Reads week 24


The productivity is yet to come
There has been an explosion of innovation and new technologies in the last few years, with an enormous potential to make us more productive. However, that hasn’t really happened. Yet. In this post, Jeff Bussgang explains why.

“Jobs will be lost and taxpayers money, too!”
Two very familiar excuses from politicians who lack the courage and smarts to back an increase of renewable energy use. Two articles from this week showed that they are simply not true. Or at least: not completely.
Let’s start with jobs. It seems to me that replacing one energy source with another would maybe lead to job losses in the production of the replaced source, but production of the ‘new’ source will see jobs created. According to this article in the Guardian, to the tune of tens of thousands in the UK for wind energy alone. So, yes, jobs will be lost, but others will be created. Would be interesting to learn what the balance is.

Then secondly: renewable energy costs taxpayers money. Well, maybe it does. Producing 1 KW of energy from coal is cheaper than producing it from any of the renewable sources. To make ‘green’ energy more attractive for consumers, there are subsidies. For example Feed in Tariffs. And then comes this report from research done by the university of Stuttgart, commissioned by Greenpeace. In short, you could say that producing energy from coal:
1. kills people (22000 in Europe in 2010, in Poland more than road accidents);
2. costs taxpayers money when people sick due to pollution appear in the healthcare system;
3. costs businesses money in lost production: 5 million workdays lost in 2010.

So, next time someone tries to convince you that renewable energy costs jobs and taxpayers money, think again.

Are you asking the right questions to innovate?
In a new series with The Huffington Post, OpenIDEO co-founder Tom Hulme presents tips for innovation. His first tip: take time to frame the question. In the experience of Tom with OpenIDEO and more, the question is guiding all the efforts that come after that in the innovation process. So, not taking the time to frame the question, could lead to unwanted result.

Another 6 ideas to steal from OpenIDEO

Prototype for international matching of bone marrow donors

Prototype for international matching of bone marrow donors

Last week, UnLtd posted 6 ideas to steal from OpenIDEO. And that’s a wonderful thing to do. As you know, I’m a big OpenIDEO fan, and in the almost three years of its existence, it has grown out to an enormous repository of great ideas to tackle social issues. All these ideas are in the public domain, free for you to implement. And improve your community. So, following the lead of UnLtd, here are my six ideas to steal from OpenIDEO.
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Five questions about OpenIDEO

Recently, I was selected as the End Atrocity Challenge Community Champion on OpenIDEO. Some of you might have read some of my previous posts here about the OpenIDEO platform, and those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen quite some tweets the last weeks referring to the platform. So, I thought it would be a good time to share a bit about my passion for this open innovation platform here, by answering five questions you might have.

1. What is OpenIDEO?
As the tagline says it on the website, OpenIDEO is a place ‘where people design better, together’. This designing is done in challenges, that each follow the Human Centered Design principles of IDEO. Every challenge aims to look at a social issue, formulated in a central question, and find solutions for it. Sometimes, these challenges are quite specific in terms of locality, but even then the users are asked to come up with ideas that can be used anywhere.
Some examples of challenges are:

  • How can we raise kids’ awareness of the benefits of fresh food so they can make better choices?
  • How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies for low-income countries?
  • How might we increase the number of registered bone marrow donors to help save more lives?
  • How might we restore vibrancy in cities and regions facing economic decline?

The current challenge is looking for ways to end and prevent atrocities, by looking at the question: ‘How might we gather information from hard-to-access areas to prevent mass violence against civilians?

2. How does it work?
The nice people at IDEO have made a great video about that, which answers this question better than I ever could.

3. What is your involvement with it?
I am an entusiastic user of the site. I joined during the healthy food challenge in August 2010, and have participated in most challenges. In some more than others, of course, depending on the time I could spend. Currently, as mentioned above, I was selected as the Community Champion. This is a volunteer role, which takes me about 4 hours per week. One of the things I do as the Community Champion, is making video blogs with challenge updates and a bit of ‘how to’ information on use of the platform.

4. Who can join?
OpenIDEO is a true open innovation platform, which means everybody can join in. And that is exactly what happened. I suspect that a large part of the almost 50.000 users are from the US and Western Europe, but there are also users from South America, Asia, Africa and Australia and New Zealand. There are men and women, most age groups are represented (although I think it’s mainly 20 and up, I have seen teenagers join in), and there’s a plethora of occupations. OpenIDEO is currently also used by several schools and universities to teach classes, so many students are also taking part. In short: OpenIDEO is a vibrant, multi-demographical community. And you’ll fit right in!

5. What happens with the concepts and ideas?
In true Open Innovation Style, all contributions to the platform are in the public domain. That includes the Ideas for solutions. Anybody can take one, or more, of these Ideas and Concepts and start implementing them to solve a social issue. One quite fresh example is the Made in Lower East Side, or miLES, project, that was contributed as a concept to the site, and then implemented by the team behind it. Another example is the MyFailTale website, which aims to help (young) entrepreneurs to learn from the mistakes from others. Recently, Tim Brown, the president and CEO of IDEO, shared the story of a Doctor in Colombia, who is taking all winning concepts from a challenge, and implements them to improve healthcare in underserved parts of his country.
By now, after almost three years, OpenIDEO has become a repository of wonderful Ideas, that are waiting for people to take them, implement them and have real impact on the world. You could be one of them.

Three sites to help you avoid eating horsemeat unintentionally

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Let me start by saying that selling food means that you have to be clear on what it contains. If you claim your lasagna or burgers or whatever are made of beef, they should contain beef. And not pork or horsemeat. In light of the scandal recently uncovered in Europe, I think the sellers of ready-made meals are responsible for making sure that what’s in the product, is declared on the packaging. I also think that relabeling one type of (cheaper) meat to another (more expensive one), to make an extra profit, is fraudulent and criminal.

But in this horsemeat story, it’s not just the complex food supply chain, or the actors in it that carry all the blame. Nor are, as one former UK official tried to make us believe, the EU regulations culpable. I think we also have to aks ourselves the question: why do we allow ourselves to know so little of such an important factor in our lives? Now that we’ve climbed Maslow’s pyramid, we seem to pay less attention to the bottom of it. Our basic needs have become less important to too many of us. We think they should be fulfilled by convenient and cheap means, and that opens up opportunities for things like the horsemeat scandal to happen. Another question we could ask ourselves is ‘how did we let it get this far?’

There’s actually an even more important question that should feature in our minds prominently now: how can we take control of what we eat again? Sure, not all of us are top chefs, or even able to cook more than an egg and some water for tea or instant soup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take charge of what we put into our mouths to fulfill that basic need of nutrition. We can care more, and know more, about the food we put on our plates. To help with that, I would like to point out three wonderful places on the internet.

First of all, I’d like you to take a look at the OpenIDEO local food challenge. In 2011, this open innovation platform focused on connecting food consumers to food producers. As is the norm on this platform, many wonderful ideas were generated, that are available for anybody to implement. Now, there are stories available of how people are doing exactly that, and working on enabling food consumers to be more connected to their food. Go check it out and see if you can be inspired.
The OpenIDEO local food challenge: www.openideo.com/open/localfood/

The second thing you should visit is the home of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The celebrity chef is a wonderful champion of using real food. In schools, but also at home. From food knowledge to easy recipes, this place provides you with all you need to start taking control of the food you eat.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: www.jamiesfoodrevolution.com

The last one I’d like to share is nothing more than a collection of 30-minute recipes from a great variety of sources. Preparing food doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. And it’s certainly worth investing your time in. And if you use real ingredients, at least you know that you’re not eating something you don’t want to eat.
30-minute recipes on Yummly: www.yummly.com/recipes?q=30+minutes

Lessons from a recognized enthusiastic user

Recently I referred to myself as a ‘recognized enthusiastic user’, when asked about my involvement with a certain online platform. And from a user, or customer, perspective, I think that’s an accurate description. The platform in question (OpenIDEO, an open innovation community for social good) is something I care deeply about, am an enthusiastic user of and therefore talk about it often in a positive way on several social media channels, all the while trying to convince my friends and followers to participate as well. So enthusiastic user seems accurate. Regularly I get mentioned on the social media channels OpenIDEO uses, and once I even was invited to join a workshop. That’s what I mean when I say recognized.

And it’s not only on OpenIDEO where I see myself as a recognized enthusiastic user, it’s also in the Quality Hunters community initiated last year by Finnair and Helsinki Airport. Again, it was my enthusiastic use that led to me being regularly mentioned and awarded a perk. A big one, in that case, as I traveled to Stuttgart and Hong Kong on their invitation, to blog about ideas for service improvement.

But it doesn’t need to be a matter of perks like that. Because of where I live, I often fly airBaltic, if I fly. If I have a question for them, I often ask it through Twitter, and get a quick reply, or direct assistance. To me, as a regular user of airBaltic services, this is also a form of recognition. Good service, and publicly answering questions and bringing solutions also make me feel like a ‘recognized enthusiastic user’ of a product or service.

Now, how can you turn this into valuable knowledge for your brand or organisation? Well, it’s rather simple. If you want to turn me into a brand advocate, make me a recognized enthusiastic user. Don’t put me in a call-center holding pattern with music of your choice that, even if it by chance is not horrible music, sounds horrible through the phone. Answer my questions on social media channels, and make it easy for me to share. Recognize me as a user.

Of course this starts with having a good product and great service. And if you throw me an occasional bone, or make me a key figure in a user forum, you have turned an user of your product into a brand advocate.

The human side of things, TEDxChange live in Riga

Watching the TEDxChange live stream in Riga

Watching the TEDxChange live stream in Riga

Sometimes you meet people that surprise you. At least, if you’re open to it. Last Thursday, at the livestream viewing event of TEDxChange in Riga, we were forced a bit to be open. The event started with a short session of speed-networking: 2 minutes of chat with a stranger focused on a question, then change and a new question. Although the idea of speed-networking, or speed dating is not really new, it was the first time I was involved in a thing like that. And I liked it. Without this session, I would have not know life-coach Roland, who gets inspired by people, or Atis, who tested the lessons of Derek Sivers and the Dancing Guy on how to start a movement leadership lessons from the dancing guy. And Daniels, who recently spent some days in Istanbul, loved it and realized that one thing he still believed in was himself. Which, mind you, is a powerful notion. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, who else is going to have faith in you?

So, the start of the TEDxChange live viewing event was great. And then, on screen, we saw a familiar face: Chris Anderson of TED, live on a stage in Berlin. A bit of a special moment, considering the fact that the event was watched live in almost 200 places around the world. In settings like the one we were part of.

Listen to the people
I watched three of the talks, and found some common themes. The first one was by Jeff Chapin, who shared his experience of improving sanitation in Cambodia, by using human centered design principles. His talk was eye-opening, and reminded me a lot of the sanitation challenge on OpenIDEO. One of the things he highlighted, was that if you are looking to solve an issue, it is imperative to listen to the people whose issue you want to solve. Listen to their requirements, understand their habits and thoughts, their culture.

The third talk had a similar thought, but presented in a different way. Theo Sowa introduced several wonderful African women to the world, because she had experienced that in many conferences and projects, people were talking about the issues of Africa and African women, without including them into the conversation. There are a few African women that are looked to when it comes to this, but, as Theo Sowa pointed out, it’s hardly fair to put the responsibility for a continent on the shoulders of only six women. Especially when there are so many.

The power of the people
The second talk of the evening might have sounded a bit dissonant in this. Sven Giegold discussed renewable energy and how protest against nuclear power in Germany has turned into a movement that led to regulations like feed-in tariffs for renewables and eventually the closing of all nuclear power stations in Germany. A people’s movement, powered by the demand of citizens. But, there’s still a long way to go to break our need for fossil fuels. Despite great regulations in Germany, and many other countries, which also have led to technological development and innovation, renewable energy is still not cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Two things prevent that, in my opinion. One is that, as Mr Giegold noted, the cost of health and environmental damage linked to the winning and production of fossil fuels is not incorporated in the price of it. The industry is one that has perfected the mechanism of externalising costs. Which, in simple terms, means shifting the cost of health and environmental damage from the producers to the tax payers. Another one, is that the current technology, and paths the innovators are looking at, have limitations in terms of efficiency and environment that create a barrier for bringing down the cost of energy production. Many of the renewable energy technologies look at cost-optimisation from the old mass-production perspective. It’s time to let that go, and come with real break-through innovation by rethinking solutions, using design principles. Or look at technology that is already available.

For me, the biggest take away of TEDxChange this year was the importance of listening to ‘users’ and their thoughts, requirements and culture. If you don’t do that, you will never come up with a sustainable solution that actually works.

A special word of gratitude goes out to Natalie Gorohova, who is the driving force behind the energetic and growing TEDxRiga community.

Creative spaces and inspirational places

As you know, I’ve become a big fan of OpenIDEO. Not only do I like the fact that it gives me the opportunity to contribute to making the world a better place, but the community consists of super creative, energetic and smart people. Earlier this week, one created a Google map with creative spaces. Have a look where you can find inspiration, and let us know where you find yours.

View OpenIDEO Creative Spaces in a larger map

Making Greenbook real: Open Planet Ideas Development Day

Have you ever found yourself with some time to spare and the urge to do something good with it? And did you manage to do that? Micro volunteering is not easy. Sure, there are several websites, like Sparked, but their focus is mainly on online tasks. What about off-line action? Well, that was exactly the thought of Paul Frigout when he came up with his Greenbook concept on Open Planet Ideas. Standing at a bus stop, waiting for the bus to come, he thought how great it would be if right at that moment he would be able to find a spot close by to make a difference in that short time.
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Making volunteering easier with Greenbook on OpenPlanetIdeas Dev-Day

Have you heard of OpenIDEO? If you have, you know it is a great platform for open innovation for social good.If you haven’t, here’s a short explanation: based on a challenge set by a sponsor, the OpenIDEO community is asked for ideas to tackle the challenge. Based on the design method of IDEO, the first stage consists of gathering inspirations. These are basically examples of how the challenge could be tackled. The next phase is about coming up with solution concepts. This is followed by an evaluation phase and the final step is the realisation phase. Currently, OpenIDEO has two active challenges: ‘How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies for low-income counties?’ and ‘How might we increase the number of registered bone marrow donors to help save more lives?’ You should go and check them out.

One recently completed challenge was sponsored by Sony and WWF. It asked the question how today’s technology can address the environmental challenges we’re all facing and had a separate channel called Open Planet Ideas. It is completed in the sense that the inspiration, concepting and evaluation phases are all finished now, and that there is a winning concept that is now in the process of becoming real. The concept, called Greenbook, aims to lower the threshold for volunteering, so that people can more easily contribute to changing communities and the environment for the better. On the Open Planet Ideas website and Facebook page, the conversation continues. Everybody is invited to contribute to making this concept real. On top of that, some participants have been invited to join Development Day. I am one of them, and next Friday I will be in London for some intense brainstorm sessions to see how Greenbook can be further developed and refined. As should be with an open innovation platform, participation is not limited to the people in the room! Through the Open Planet Ideas website, Facebook page, and other social media, you can share your input as well.

As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to the Open Planet Ideas Development Day, and will definitely report back on it. In the mean time, the question is: how do you think Greenbook can convince you to do some volunteering, or raise the number of volunteered hours in your community/organisation? And: what issues in your community should be addressed?