Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Microsoft Research TechFest

Right now, Microsoft is holding TechFest 2009, an annual event aimed at sharing its researchers' work with product teams throughout the rest of the organization. The Imperial Valley News interviews Craig Mundie, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer, about the event.

Mundie talks about some specific innovations - from robotics to health care - and also discusses the importance of continuing to invest in R&D and innovation despite the recession. It's a good interview; do check it out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ph.D. in Innovation

The University of Wales has just launched a new innovation initiative: the Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship program. The idea is to recruit 100 of the world's top students to a Ph.D. program, in which the students will be posted to research positions in Welsh companies. The scholars receive funding, research experience, and a Ph.D., while the partnering companies gain new ideas, processes, and technologies. And as a nation, Wales expects to develop and disseminate a culture of innovation, as well as the economic benefits stemming from the research.

In this turbulent economic climate, companies and countries are always tempted to cut their R&D budgets. It's refreshing to see Wales take a high-profile stance on the importance of innovation.

Innovation in Financial Regulation

Not surprisingly, the financial crisis and global economic turmoil were the main thrust of the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. The New York Times reports that one of the more original ideas to come out of the conference is the possibility of compensating regulators with bonuses, just like the bankers they oversee.

The underlying logic makes sense. Wall Street uses fat paychecks to attract the best and brightest, so the SEC needs to do the same. And compensating regulators with bonuses would give them an incentive to discover the next Enron or Bernie Madoff in advance, preventing the crisis before it spirals out of control.

It's an intriguing idea, and all the more striking because federal regulatory agencies are not widely regarded as a hotbed of innovation. We'll see whether it goes anywhere.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama's Secretary of Innovation

BusinessWeek is calling for President Obama to create a Cabinet-level position for innovation and creativity. The Secretary of Innovation would "lead a systematic national innovation process" aimed at ameliorating the economic crisis. The Secretary's other function would be "to create a national innovation mindset, reinvigorating innovation in the private sector."

We nominate Edward de Bono. After all, he is already the EU Ambassador for Thinking. Why not a US Cabinet position, as well?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Edward de Bono's weekly message

Education is all about knowledge and analysis. There is a complete lack of 'operacy' and design. Operacy covers the skill of doing and making things happen. Design is putting together what you have to deliver the values you want.

Our traditional thinking strongly influenced by Church needs, is concerned with finding the truth. That is ebne (excellent but not enough). We have never emphasised the thinking that is needed to create value.

Education at all levels from primary school to university should have significant elements of operacy and of design. Having a wonderful road map is ebne. You also need to know how to drive and how to choose your destination.

Edward de Bono
10th February 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ASTD Economic Survival Guide

Across the country, companies are tightening their belts, and corporate training is invariably one of the first targets for budget-cutting. The ASTD Economic Survival Guide offers a number of suggestions for adapting to the recession.

Some of the ideas include:
  • Communicating throughout your organization to create a learning culture
  • Reviewing your training budget and decide how to make do with less
  • Using technology to supplement your training
  • Making your trainers more versatile
  • Developing explicit links between your training department and corporate strategic/financial goals

The guide contains specific ways to achieve each of these suggestions. It is well worth reading.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 TED prize

Congratulations to the winners of the 2009 TED Prize: Sylvia Earle (for her underwater research, exploration, and advocacy), Jill Tarter (director of the SETI project and a pioneer of distributive networking), and José Antonio Abreu (founder of El Sistema, a program for using classical music to improve the lives of Venezuelan children).

Their success demonstrates the importance of innovative thinking in all disciplines, from the natural environment to astrophysics to poverty and children's welfare.

Problems with Brainstorming

Two Dutch researchers have published an academic study on the problems with brainstorming (How the Group Affects the Mind: A Cognitive Model of Idea Generation in Groups by Bernard Nijstad and Wolfgang Stroebe). They write, “Most people believe that idea generation is best performed in groups… However, controlled research has consistently shown that people produce fewer ideas and ideas of lower quality when they work in a group as compared with when they work alone. Thus, contrary to popular belief, group interaction inhibits the ideation process.”

The biggest problem is “production blocking” – i.e., the tendency of group members to take turns in sharing new ideas. This causes great ideas to be lost while people wait on a parade of mediocre ideas before it’s their turn again. Production blocking is closely connected to group size; it is a bigger problem for large groups than small ones.

Nijstad and Strobe offer several concrete recommendations for improving brainstorming sessions:
  • Use electronic brainstorming (or brainwriting) instead of verbal brainstorming.
  • If verbal brainstorming is unavoidable, keep the groups small. Break up larger groups.
  • Encourage participants to pay attention to each other’s ideas.
  • Stay on track. Don’t allow side conversations or lengthy exposition of ideas.
  • Take frequent, short breaks.
Finally, note that the Lateral Thinking techniques offer concrete methods for idea generation and are far superior to traditional brainstorming. For example, a Lateral Thinking ideation session begins with independent, individual ideation – exactly the sort of methodology that eliminates production blocking.

New editions of Spanish de Bono books

The Spanish publisher Paidós is launching the Edward de Bono Library, a series of new editions of Dr. de Bono's classic works. Thus far, the collection includes translations of Six Thinking Hats, The Use of Lateral Thinking, and Creativity Workout. The books are available directly from Paidós and also from Amazon.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Edward de Bono's weekly message

There is a real need for new words in language. The word 'Po' signals that a deliberate provocation is to follow and that this provocation needs to be used for its 'movement' value not its 'judgement' value. Such a word could not evolve in language until the logic of provocation in a self-organising system had been pointed out. There is also a need for the new word 'ebne' (excellent but not enough). Without such a word it is difficult to ask for a change without attacking what is. There are some other new words that I have in mind. Adjectives are always easier which is why 'lateral thinking' has easily become part of everyday language. We also need a new word for 'idea creativity' as mentioned in a previous message in order to distinguish this creativity from artistic creativity. The term 'new thinking' can help but is quite weak.

My new code which is being published on the web as provides a needed way of describing complex situations but there is also a need for an ordinary language term.

Edward de Bono
25 January 2009