General Electric and Open Innovation

I recently did some research into how General Electric has been using contests (they call them challenges and quests) as part of their Open Innovation portfolio.  I came away impressed with their use of ‘challenges’ and ‘quests’ in order to crowdsource ideas and technology solution for real business problems.

The way I define  Open Innovation is that you are open if you incorporate both internal and external input into your idea/brainstorming processes.   But there is another part of open that is important and that is you share your innovations back to the community in order to 1) get feedback and 2) help others innovate.

GE caught my eye as it recent launched two 3d Printing/Additive Manufacturing ‘quests’.  See the summary of that quest below.  Additive manufacturing is a key part of the advanced manufacturing revolution and is an area I have done a bunch of research on this year, so my radar was up. 

But my post here is not about 3D Printing but in summarizing for you examples of how G.E. has used open innovation over the years.  The list below is not meant to be an exhaustive list.  I am sure there are others not on the list here.  However, you get a feel for the type of focus G.E. has on open innovation, which is impressive.  

Example Projects in 2013

Project:  GE Opens Thousands of Patents to Garage Inventors from the Quirky Community
About:  A new partnership between GE and Quirky that will allow everyone to participate in the development of new products.  The partnership will consist of two parts: a new platform where GE will open thousands of its most promising patents and new technologies to the Quirky community for the development of new consumer products; and a co-branded product development initiative to build a full line of app-enabled connected devices for the home in areas such as health, security, water, or air that will be developed using advanced manufacturing tools and technologies. This new line of products will be co-branded Wink: Instantly Connected.
Press Release:   http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-AND-QUIRKY-PARTNER-TO-INSPIRE-INVENTION-3f10.aspx
GE’s page on Quirky:  http://www.quirky.com/ge
See more at http://www.gereports.com/designed-for-speed/

Innovation Challenge:  Head Health Challenge
URL:  http://www.ninesights.com/community/nfl-ge-grand-challenge   More info at http://www.ninesights.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadBody/3779-102-5-6917/Head_Health_Challenge_I.pdf
About:  GE and the National Football League’s Head Health Challenge I aims to develop new solutions to help diagnose mild traumatic brain injury and invites proposals for scanning technologies and biomarkers that can accelerate growth.  Proposals are currently being accepted for Challenge I: Methods for Diagnosis and Prognosis of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries.  Multiple awards are available for winning proposals (See http://www.ninesights.com/community/nfl-ge-grand-challenge/process#/award  )
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-NFL-LEADING-HEALTHCARE-EXPERTS-TEAM-UP-TO-ACCELERATE-CONCUSSION-RESEARCH-DIAGNOSIS-TREATMEN-3e67.aspx
G.E. Partners:  NFL, Under Armour, NineSigma/NineSights
Dates: Challenge 1 Dates:  March – July 15, 2013  /  Challenge 2 Dates: Oct 2013 – Feb 2014
Stats as of July 15, 2013:  Forums:  42 Discussions.    http://www.ninesights.com/community/nfl-ge-grand-challenge/community/forum

Open Engineering Quest:   Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing
URL:   http://www.ge.com/about-us/openinnovation  and fact sheet at http://www.ge.com/sites/default/files/Parts%20Challenges_Fact%20Sheet_FINAL.pdf
About:  Two additive manufacturing quests that invite entrepreneurs, companies and institutions to offer their solutions to two additive manufacturing challenges: 3D Printing Design Quest and 3D Printing Production Quest: High Precision and Advanced Materials.
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-Launches-Open-Engineering-Quests-Asks-Maker-Community-to-Push-the-Boundaries-of-What-is-3D-Print-4092.aspx
G.E. Partners:  GrabCAD and NineSigma
Challenge 1:   3D Printing Design Quest – Redesign the Aircraft Engine Bracket
Challenge 1 Dates:   Phase 1 – June,11, 2013 – July 26, 2013  /  Phase 2 – August 15 – November 15
Challenge 2:   High Precision and Advanced Materials – Prove Your Production Capabilities
Challenge 2 Dates:  Phase 1 – June,11, 2013 – July 26, 2013  /  Phase 2 – Oct 1, 2013 – January 8, 2014

Challenge:   Hospital Quest
URL:   https://www.gequest.com/c/hospital/
Challenge Dates:  November 29, 2012 – December 21, 2012.  Winners announced March 2013
About:  Challenge explored ideas for how to create a better experience for both hospital patients and their caregivers, identifying opportunities that could be addressed by apps. Entries encouraged in any and every part of the hospital experience, including pre-admission, interaction with hospital on scheduling, lab work, in-patient experience and discharge practice.  For the Hospital Quest, the winners will receive a total prize pool of $100,000 from GE.
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-ANNOUNCES-INDUSTRIAL-INTERNET-QUESTS-CHALLENGING-DEVELOPERS-FROM-DESIGNERS-TO-DATA-SCIENTISTS-3cae.aspx
G.E. Partners:  Kaggle
Phase 1 Winners: https://www.gequest.com/c/hospital/details/winners
Stats as of July 2013:    Ideas:  222   Forum Discussions:  39 Topics/125 Posts/40,000+ Views

Challenge:   Flight Quest
URL:   https://www.gequest.com/c/flight/
Challenge Dates:  November 29, 2012 – March 11, 2013. 
About:  Challenge explored ideas for how to develop a usable and scalable algorithm that delivers a real-time flight profile to the pilot, helping them make flights more efficient and reliably on time.  Submitters were given to large data sets (provided entrants with a set of two months of flight data, such as arrivals, departures, weather, and latitudes and longitudes along the way) and had to predict both the runway arrival time and the gate arrival time for each airplane.  The combined winners from two phases of Flight Quest will receive a total prize pool of $500,000 from GE.
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-AND-PARTNERS-ALASKA-AIRLINES-AND-OCHSNER-HEALTH-SYSTEM-ANNOUNCE-WINNERS-OF-INDUSTRIAL-INTERNET-F-3eed.aspx
G.E. Partners:  Alaska Airlines, Kaggle, FlightStats, Inc.
Phase 1 Winners:  https://www.gequest.com/c/flight/details/winners   Also see Technology Review article:  http://www.technologyreview.com/news/513141/a-data-crunching-prize-to-cut-flight-delays/
Stats as of July 2013:  Teams:  179  /  Ideas:  3,073  /   Forum Discussions:  155 Topics/684 Posts/60,000+ Views

 

Example Projects in 2012

ecomagination Challenge:   GE Australia & New Zealand Low Carbon Solutions and Technologies
URL:   http://challenge.ecomagination.com/anz
Challenge Dates:  August 21 – 2012 – November 30, 2012
About:  An innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students share their best ideas on how to reduce carbon emissions.
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-announces-10-million-in-funding-for-clean-technology-innovation-in-Australia-and-New-Zealand-3a91.aspx
G.E. Partners:  Cleantech Ventures, CVC Limited, Greenhouse Cleantech, MH Carnegie & Co and Southern Cross Venture Partners
Phase 1 Winners:  35 finalists announced at http://challenge.ecomagination.com/ct/k.bix?c=anz
Challenge Stats as of July 2013:   Ideas:  183  /  Comments:  713  /  Users:   85,431

ecomagination Challenge:  China
URL:   http://www.ecochallenge.cn/
Challenge Dates:  Sept 2011 – April 2012
About:  The aim was to search for and bring to market gas-powered energy innovations to meet the country’s growing energy and environmental needs. The open innovation competition was the largest of its kind in China, garnering more than 200 submissions targeting participants from the public, private and national sectors.
Press Release:  http://www.ge.com.cn/enewsletter/geinchina72.htm#business1
G.E. Partners:  Baird Capital Partners Asia, CITIC Capital, Genertec Investment, Milestone Capital, Northern Light Venture Capital, Sequoia Capital and Shanghai Science and Technology Investment Corporation.
Phase 1 Winners:  The companies and individuals behind the first four winning ideas received $50,000 each in prize money. The fifth winner, who entered a non-gas power-related idea, received the ecomagination Challenge Campus Star Award, which included $2,000 in prize money along with an apprenticeship at the GE China Technology Center in Shanghai.

Example Projects in 2011

Challenge:   $100 million healthymagination challenge – Assembling Tools to Fight Cancer
URL:  http://challenge.healthymagination.com/health
Challenge Dates:  Sept 2011 – Nov 2011
About:  In September 2011, GE and partners launched a $100 million open innovation Challenge, which sought to identify and accelerate ideas that advance breast cancer early detection and diagnostics. Through a series of challenges, GE welcomed researchers, businesses, students and other innovators to submit breakthrough ideas for funding consideration. During phase one of the Challenge, which closed on November 20, 2011, nearly 4,000 people engaged on the Challenge portal, submitting over 500 ideas and leaving 170 comments.
Press Release:   http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-Partners-Announce-Winners-of-the-First-Stage-of-100-Million-healthymagination-Cancer-Ch-3737.aspx
G.E. Partners:  Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, Venrock Capital, Mohr Davidow, and MPM Capital
Phase 1 Winners:  From the Phase 1 submissions, five seed winners were selected by an independent judging panel and were awarded $100,000 each from GE to develop ideas relating to the diagnosis, treatment, and awareness of breast cancer
Stats as of July 2013:  Ideas:  514  / Comments:  15,165  /  Users: 7,352

Challenge:   GE’s ecomagination Challenge: Powering Your Home
URL:   http://challenge.ecomagination.com/home
Challenge Dates:  Entries Closed on March 15, 2011
About:  Powering Your Home was Phase II of the GE ecomagination Challenge, a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students shared their best ideas on how to improve our energy future. Phase II of the ecomagination Challenge focused on home energy with an open invitation for innovative ideas about capturing, managing, and using energy in the home.
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/GE-and-Venture-Capital-Partners-to-Invest-63-Million-in-10-Home-Energy-Technology-Companies-as-part-of-ecomagination-Challenge-Powering-Your-Home-31b4.aspx
G.E. Partners:  Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital
Phase 1 Winners:  http://challenge.ecomagination.com/ct/j.bix?c=home
Challenge Stats as of July 2013:   Ideas:  931  /  Comments:  10,000+  /  Users: 70,000

 

Example Projects in 2010

Challenge:  GE’s Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid
URL:   http://challenge.ecomagination.com/ideas
Challenge Dates:  July 13, 2010 and September 30, 2010.
About:  GE’s Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid is an open call to action for businesses,
entrepreneurs, innovators and students seeking breakthrough ideas to create a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid, and accelerate the adoption of smart grid technologies.  The Challenge invites people to come together to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges – building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Press Release:  http://www.genewscenter.com/content/detail.aspx?ReleaseID=10580&NewsAreaID=2
G.E. Partners:  RockPort Capital, KPCB , Foundation Capital, and Emerald Technology Ventures and with Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wiredmagazine
Phase 1 Winners: http://challenge.ecomagination.com/ct/e.bix?c=ideas
Challenge Stats as of July 2013:  Ideas:  3908  /  Comments:  80,421 /  Users:  85,431

World Usability Day – Usability Challenges of Building Smarter Cities

Designing for SustainabilityWorld Usability Day 2009 is being held on Thursday, November 12.  The theme for the 5th year anniversary of this event, organized by the Usability Professionals Association, is Designing for a Sustainable World.  

IBM is celebrating the event by holding a public webcast "Smarter Design for a Smarter Planet" and are excited to have guest speaker John Thomas from IBM Research, who will talk specifically about the usability challenges of building smarter cities.   Here is a quick abstract of what John will be talking about.

The vast majority of scientists agree that significant changes will be necessary in this century to avoid ecological disasters. IBM believes we must focus on building "Smarter Cities" where human activities will be more effective and efficient. Designing for Smarter Cities requires a balance between learning what works and creating solutions based on the specifics of a city's history, culture, language, and geography. The need to design new systems with complex yet subtle social effects, and compelling social benefits, makes this an exciting and challenging new area for usability.

IBM will be using a LotusLive web conference for the event, which will  be held November 12, 2009 from 12:00 pm – 1:30 EST.  All the details of the event, including webcast URLs are on IBM’s Design Facebook page.  So link to the Design@IBM Facebook page, and check it out.

For more information on World Usability Day, check out  http://www.worldusabilityday.org.

IBM: CIO Study Identifies Top 8 Emerging IT Project Areas

If you did not catch the news last week that IBM announced findings from its latest research into what’s on CIO’s minds these days.  The study, The Global CIO Study 2009, is titled “The New Voice of the CIO”.   This post contains a quick summary of the findings.

The big news is that 83% of the survey respondents identified business intelligence and analytics – the ability to see patterns in vast amounts of data and extract actionable insights– as the way they will enhance their organizations competitiveness.   With an increased focus on data analytics, the survey also revealed that data reliability and security have emerged as increasingly urgent concerns, with 71 percent of CIOs planning to make additional investments in risk management and compliance.

As the role of the CIO itself transforms so do the types of projects they lead across their enterprises, which will allow CIOs to focus less time and resources on running internal infrastructure, and more time on transformation to help their companies grow revenue. CIOs are transforming their infrastructure to focus more on innovation and business value, rather than simply running IT.

Findings include:

  • 76% of CIOs are undergoing or planning virtualization projects, mostly in an attempt to lower energy costs.
  • 76% of CIOs anticipate a movement towards centralized infrastructures in the next five years.
  • Slightly more than half are expecting to implement completely standardized, low-cost business processes.
  • CIOs focus 55% of their time on activities that drive innovation and growth, whereas traditional IT tasks like infrastructure and operations management now make up only 45 percent.

CIOs also identified the top eight emerging IT project areas, including

  1. Business intelligence and analytics
  2. Virtualization and green IT
  3. Service oriented architectures (SOA)
  4. Service management
  5. Cloud computing
  6. Mobility solutions
  7. Unified communications
  8. Collaboration, social networking tools, and Web 2.0 projects

About the Study:  The Global CIO Study 2009 is perhaps the largest face-to-face survey of CIOs ever conducted.  2500 CIOs from 78 countries, 19 industries, and organizations of every size were interviewed.  The research was conducted over a four month period from January to April 2009.  The full 2009 CIO Study, podcasts and video interviews about the study are available at www.ibm.com/ciostudy.

Friday Gadget: High Speed Robot Hand

In the future, robots will be not only more dexterous, but they will react dynamically at lightening speed based on all their embedded sensors.  In effect, they will become more human-like by understanding and processing their external environment by using many kinds of sensory information.

Future robot systems will be able to integrate all the sensory information into its decision making process, much like humans do today.

The Ishikawa Komuro Lab at the University of Tokyo has been doing research into both robot sensors and the parallel processing of the collected sensory information.  The purpose of the Lab’s Sensor Fusion Project is to develop innovative new architectures for sensory processing by integrating information from multiple sensors.

The Lab has recently been posting videos of some of the capabilities they have demonstrated in their lab.  Here is Ishikawa Komuro Lab's high-speed robot hand performing impressive acts of dexterity and skillful manipulation.

The robot hand

  • Dribbles a ball
  • Picks up a grain of rice with a tweezer
  • Spins a pen from one set of fingers to another
  • Knots a rope
  • Throws a ball into a net
  • Tosses a cell phone into the air and catches it.

For this technology to advance, we’ll need to see more work in areas like

  • Nanoscience
  • Sensors
  • Actuators
  • Parallel Processing
  • Dynamic Image Processing

For more information, see the Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory site.

One Million Times Smaller Than A Grain Of Sand

Get a picture in your mind of how big a grain of sand is.  Okay…got it?  Now…think of a really small object one million times smaller than that.  Okay…got that?  Now think of the significance of taking a picture of that small object.

Last week, IBM scientists announced they have successfully used an atomic force microscope (AFM) to reveal the chemical bonds within a molecule.  This is a significant announcement as this is the first time that all the atoms in a imagemolecule have been imaged. 

The image that was taken was of a rectangular-shaped organic molecule is made up of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms.  The image looks similar to the shape of molecules we all learned in chemistry classes in high school and college.  The image (a bit blurry) shows hexagonal shapes of the five carbon rings are clear and even the positions of the hydrogen atoms around the carbon rings can be seen.

To understand the significance of the first ever image, you have to understand how small the molecule was that was imaged.  The space between the carbon rings is only 0.14 nanometers across, which is roughly one million times smaller than the diameter of a grain of sand.  Now that is small!

So what does this announcement have to do with you?  Perhaps not much, but it means a big deal to future generations that will be in a world made up of very small (nano) things.  The IBM scientists say that this research could have a huge impact of the field of nanotechnology, which seeks to understand and control some of the smallest objects known to mankind.  

"Scanning probe techniques offer amazing potential for prototyping complex functional structures and for tailoring and studying their electronic and chemical properties on the atomic scale.”  – IBM Researcher Gerhard Meyer

More pictures are here on Flickr.  A video is on YouTube here.  And check out IBM’s announcement “IBM Scientists First to Image the Anatomy of a Molecule”

Social Networking Usage Is Growing

According to a recent report issued by the Conference Board, almost half Internet users in the U.S. now take part in online social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.  This is almost twice the rate measured just one year ago via the Conference Board’s quarterly Consumer Internet Barometer.  The survey tracks about 10,000 Internet-equipped households nationwide.

Some highlights from the survey. 

  • 43 percent use a social networking Web site, up from 27 percent last year
  • Seniors age 55 and older are quickly increasing their use of social networks, up from 6 percent last year to 19 percent this year.
  • Women are more likely than men to use social-network sites (48 percent versus 38 percent).
  • The majority of users log on at home.   However, 25% log in at work and 10 percent are now connecting to networks via a mobile phone.
  • More than half say they log on at least once a day.
  • The most popular site is Facebook, used by 78 percent of social network participants, followed by MySpace (42 percent), LinkedIn (17 percent) and Twitter (10 percent).
  • Facebook is equally popular among men and women, while women are more likely than men (47 percent versus 35 percent) to use MySpace and more men than women (21 percent versus 15 percent) use LinkedIn.
  • Users of Twitter said their top reasons for "tweeting" are to connect with friends (42 percent), update their status (29 percent), look for news (26 percent) and for work-related reasons (22 percent)

The results from this survey confirm the trends I am observing in the social networks and on Twitter.  These tools are moving into the mainstream.  As the mainstream adoption picks up, businesses will also be adopting these tools as a way to become more productive, find new sources of revenue, and reduce costs.  My advice to businesses is to understand how these new tools can be used to improve your processes and workflows, including CRM/Customer Service, Product Development, and Marketing.

For more information on the latest Consumer Internet Barometer report, check out the press release here

Pew Internet: The Social Life of Health Information

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a report, “The Social Life of Health Information”, that contains results from a survey on the way people are seeking out health information.   The survey was focused on U.S. respondents only. 

As can be expected, Americans are now turning more and more to online sources for information.   In the past, patients typically called a health professional, their Mom, or a good friend.  Today they are also searching online, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, updating their social network profile, and posting comments.   And many people, once they find health information online, talk with someone offline about that information they have found online.

Some interesting findings from this survey:

  • 57% of respondents use the Internet when locating health information
  • Two-thirds of people that find information online then discuss with someone else their findings
  • 60% of respondents have said that information they have found online has impacted the way they have then pursued treatment.
  • 41% of e-patients have read another person’s commentary or experience about health or medical issue

Also interesting was the finding that "e-patients" – what the authors called people who look online for health info – are more likely to engage in social media in general, compared with other Internet users.  For instance, e-patients are more likely than non-health seekers to have created or worked on their own blog, read someone else's blog, used a social networking site, used a micro-blogging site, and other activities.  Small numbers of people are using social software like Twitter and Facebook.  Mostly these services are used to follow another person’s health issue and then perhaps include their own commentary on the health issue. 

As use of the Internet and social media increases, it's not surprising that more people are searching for health information and participating and engaging in health-related communities.   As these people search for and create their own content, this will put added pressure on providers to embrace social media in order to participate in the discussion.

Read the entire report here: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/8-The-Social-Life-of-Health-Information.aspx.

A Primer on Futurists

As organizations increasingly try to grapple with the seemingly endless scorching rate of technological innovation and change, more are engaging the services of self-described futurists for advice on how to adapt.

What Is A Futurist?

Basically, futurists are those who look to and provide analysis and insights on potential futures.  They help others anticipate and prepare for potential changes and disruptions in order to make better decisions today.   Think of futurists as in the same league as historians.  Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past.   Historians are  concerned with origins, roots, stories/points of view of where we have been in the past and how we got to where we are today.   Futurists are interested in emerging trends, technologies, goals, purposes.  In short, futurists are interested in where we might be going in the future and how we can get there.   It’s interesting to note that in many cases good futurists have a little bit of a historian inside of them (e.g. studying the past can help predict potential futures.)

 

What Do Futurists Do?

Futurists research and explore the full range of potential / plausible futures.  A futures consultant or facilitator helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities.  They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality.
The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready whatever does happen.  The objective is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong–that is, not to be surprised.  Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic.  Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of futures studies.

Futurists take an inter-disciplinary approach and employ a wide range of methods, from trend analysis to scenario planning, to simulations, to strategic planning and visioning.  Since the future does not exist, we must study ideas about the future. Futurists use data from the past and present, and our concepts and methods to understand how the present will evolve into possible alternative futures. We also borrow liberally from other fields, such as creativity, complexity science, organization development, systems analysis, and philosophy.

What Type Of BackGround Do Futurists Have?

Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds. What they have in common is big picture thinking, strong pattern recognition, and innate curiosity.
Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds and walks of life, be it liberal arts, psychology, engineering, the sciences. A growing number are coming from the dozen or so futures degree programs worldwide.
Other characteristics typical of futurists include openness to new experiences, comfort with ambiguity, thinking systematically, seeing options and alternatives, questioning and challenging assumptions, a global outlook, a long-term time horizon, optimistic, and having a sense of purpose.

How Can I Train To Become A Futurist?

The formal study of the future goes by a number of names, including “Strategic Foresight”, “Futures Studies”, and “Prospective Studies”. 

Formal futurist higher education options are somewhat limited.  There are about a dozen degree programs worldwide.   Within the United States there are two main academic programs created that focus on training futurists 1) the University of Houston (M.S.) and  2) University of Hawaii (M.A. and Ph.D.).  Both programs have been around for over 30 years.

Futurists without the formal education learn on the job through professional development.  Many professionals become futurists by acquainting themselves with futures concepts, tools and methods, familiarizing themselves with the literature, and participating in futures conferences and organizations.

What Professional Networks Are There?

Here are some places to go to find more information….

  • World Future Society  20-25,000 members who subscribe to The Futurist magazine and attend annual meetings; mostly centered in the U.S.  www.wfs.org
  • World Futures Studies Federation   Several hundred members spread across the globe with a rotating secretariat, includes many academics  www.wfsf.org
  • Millennium Project  Volunteer group around the globe that produces the annual State of the Future report and other futures studies, as well as the Futures Research Methodology.  www.millennium-project.org 
  • Association of Professional Futurists  200+ professional futurists and students in futures degree programs.  http://www.profuturists.org/
  • The World Future Council.  http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org. The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making.  The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

Being a futurist sure sounds like fun….and there might just be a future for futurists.  🙂

Yankee: Workforce of Tomorrow Webinar

I recently attended a Yankee Group webinar titled "The Workforce of Tomorrow".  

The webinar focused in on how work employee work activities and habits today are rapidly moving away from historical patterns.  Remote, work-at-home, and mobile work is becoming a prerequisite for workers.  Yankee says unfortunately that many companies have been slow to react to these changes, resulting in lower productivity and employees feeling isolated.  As companies have increasingly been reducing business travel I suspect this is adding fuel to the growing fire.

According to a Yankee Group survey, nearly three-quarters of workers believe allowing employees to work from home benefits the company.  In addition, the majority of workers indicate that the ability to work from home is the single most important thing their company could do to increase their productivity.   Employees are demanding flexibility, and the companies that fail to react to this trend will be at a severe competitive disadvantage in the war for talent.

The webinar focused in on these trends that will impact the workforce of tomorrow.  The speakers discussed employees’ technological, social and professional needs and how to keep them connected.    The webinar runs about an hour.  You can access the audio here (mp3) and a pdf version of the slides here  or you can check out the embedded slideshare version below.

I have been working out of my house for IBM in a suburb outside Chicago for about 16 years.  During that time my management has always been in New York.  There is no question in my mind that IBM has been the major benefactor over the last 16 years.  They’ve saved thousands of dollars on real-estate costs and I have been much more productive than I would have been in a normal office setting.  And I know I have given IBM many more hours of work here at home than I would have given in an IBM office.   But IBM is to be applauded in this case as I have always been given access to productivity software and collaboration tools.  I have in turn exploited those tools and therefore have been able to feel connected to my New York colleagues.

At the same time, I can also say that I have benefited from the flexibility of being a work at home dad.  I have been able to participate in many of my kid’s school and after school activities that I would never have been able to do in a normal office. 

I was a little disappointed in the webinar as I really thought Yankee might touch on how social networking and social computing was going to impact remote and mobile workers.  I think that would be an improvement for their next webinar.

A couple additional related resources from Yankee on this topic includes…

  • Silent Killer: How Mobile Workers Sabotage Profitability,” by Josh Holbrook
  • The Future of Work,” by Josh Holbrook

  • Netpop: Consumer Use of Social Networks Exploding

    Are you finding you are spending more time after work hours on the Internet instead of seeking other forms of entertainment?   More time on the Internet instead of watching TV or renting a DVD? 

    In my household, we are all spending more time online and less time watching TV shows and DVDs.  Less time playing board games and more time playing online games.  My two teenage daughters are texting, ‘Facebooking’ (is facebooking a verb?), and visiting all other sorts of social sites.  I have dramtically increased my time with Linked In, Facebook ,and Twitter more the last 6 months.  My wife has not made the transition to social media yet, but I do see her on her laptop using email to communicate, instead of watching her favorite TV shows.  As our family spends more and more time on the computer, I am thinking more and more about stripping the digital TV cable services down to bare minimum.  We can always access TV shows from sites like NBC direct, Hulu, and YouTube.

    Curious, I did some research to find if there were any research studies on this. 

    Netpop Research recently released a study, "Netpop | Connect: Media Shifts to Social", that shows that the amount of time U.S. broadband users spend online has risen significantly in the last couple of years.   Netpop's study found that time spent social networking has grown 93% since 2006.  This rise means that around a third (32%) of U.S. Internet users' online time is spent communicating. 

    So what are consumers spending less time doing if they're tied up in virtual conversation?  According to the study, communication has increased at the cost of time spent on traditional forms of online entertainment, which has fallen 29% over the last two years to just 19% of total online time.  

    In an another report “Connect:  Social Networkers 2008” from Netpop published in late 2008, findings indicated that 76% of all U.S. broadband users actively contribute to social media sites in one form or another, and 29% contribute regularly to social

    It seems the definition of entertainment online is changing from an "entertain me" standpoint to include hanging out with friends online and sharing opinions and information – socializing.    You could surmise that the boundaries between entertainment and communication are blurring.

    This is a disruptive force to those companies that relied totally on traditional broadcast advertising.  Companies must now rethink how they reach consumers.   They must commit more of their online "space" to user-generated content and social media that enables direct communication with consumers.   If companies don't provide these spaces, they will find it harder to track and engage consumers because, suggests Netpop, they will simply go off and create their own elsewhere.  

    So companies must figure out how to engage with users on social media sites, give consumers/customers a voice, spend time learning how to listen and learn on these sites, and figure out how to enable their 'fans' to influence others.  With over 40 million Americans now contributing to social networking sites in one form or another, this is clearly a lucrative market for advertisers, but also one that is very different from more traditional online and offline media sources. 

    The other question in all of this is how is this transition of family time to social sites impacting the family structure?  How will the families of the future bond if they are all off on their computers socializing with others, instead socializing with family members (playing board games, watching TV shows, etc.).  The burden will be on parents to force family time into everyone’s schedule….and it will be a tough task at that!!

    For more information…

    IBM’s Next 5 in 5

    Last week, IBM published the third annual "IBM Next Five in Five" list.  This is becoming an annual list (check out the 2007 list here) that describes innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years.  The Next Five in Five list is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible.  

    Here is IBM's 2008 list

    1. Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows.  The enabling technology for this will be “thin-film” solar cells, a new type of cost-efficient solar cell that can be 100 times thinner than silicon-wafer cells and produced at a lower cost. 
    2. You will have a crystal ball for your health.  In the next five years, your doctor will be able to provide you with a genetic map that tells you what health risks you are likely to face in your lifetime and the specific things you can do to prevent them, based on your specific DNA – all for less than $200
    3. You will have your own digital shopping assistants.  In the next five years, shoppers will increasingly rely on themselves – and the opinions of each other – to make purchasing decisions rather than wait for help from in-store sales associates.
    4. Forgetting will become a distant memory.  In the next five years, it will become much easier to remember what to buy at the grocery store, which errands need to be run, who you spoke with at a conference, where and when you agreed to meet a friend, or what product you saw advertised at the airport. That's because such details of everyday life will be recorded, stored, analyzed, and provided at the appropriate time and place by both portable and stationary smart appliances.
    5. You will talk to the Web…and the Web will talk back.  In the future, you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice – therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads. New technology will change how people create, build and interact with information and e-commerce websites – using speech instead of text

    As I have been researching and analyzing the cloud computing topic this year, I believe all five of these opportunities above will be enabled by the cloud.  All the data required by these services will be stored in the cloud and the services themselves will be cloud services. 

    For more information, check out the IBM press kit Next 5 in 5 online press kit – 2008 where you can also download pdfs on each of the 'Five'.  You can also watch a Next 5 in 5 video on YouTube.

    IBM’s 5 in 5

    IBM has a list it calls the Next 5 in 5.  This is a list coming out of IBM research that provides a list of five innovations that are going to change the way we live in the next five years.  The next 5 in 5 according to IBM are

    1. We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world
    2. Real-time speech translation—once a vision only in science fiction—will become the norm
    3. There will be a 3-D Internet
    4. Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance
    5. Our mobile phones will start to read our minds

    For more information, access the IBM 5 in 5 website where you can read up on each of the five and download a PDF.