Enabling the Collisions Between The “Slow Hunches” In Your Organization

March 26th, 2012 · 11:22 am  →  Blog Innovation Leadership Technology

Recently I’ve been inspired by some pretty engaging discussions going on on Google+ about the concept of  “the connected enterprise” by some big thinkers like Gideon Rosenblatt Gregory Esau, Braden Kelly and  John Kellden .   An underlying theme of many of these discussions is that technology will enable organizations to evolve in new and exciting ways, specifically unleashing their innovation capability, due to the ability to have everyone in the organization continuously connected.  I believe in the concept, but I have to tell you that  I have struggled somewhat with the practical and tactical  aspects of implementation of such an enterprise wide connection.   A video that I saw last Friday from innovation author Steven Johnson “turned on a lightbulb” for me on several levels.  I encourage you to spend 4 minutes watching it, prior to reading the rest of this post.

Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From


The key breakthrough concept for me in this video is that most innovations arise out of the collision between two slow hunches.   Although I bill myself as an “Innovative Leader”, I’ve always been of the  belief that there is very little truly original thought in this world, and that most innovation comes from the creative combination of existing ideas.  Johnson’s “slow hunch” analogy made this concept gel and click for me somehow.    It made me really start thinking that the breakthrough for organizational innovation is in developing a way to uncover and  intelligently  link all of the “slow hunches” buried in the minds of our associates.   I think the degree of difficulty of  this problem scales exponentially as your organizational size grows, but then again, so does the opportunity.

We have a lot of proven methods for matchmaking in today’s society;  eHarmony.com, AirBnB, Speed Dating, Incubator Demo Days:   They all aim to match unmet needs with underutilized potential.  Heck, my Google Ads sponsored results and my Facebook targeted ads are working 24/7 to help me satisfy needs I don’t even realize that I have yet!!  We have the technology to do this, we just need to apply it.

In an organization, many people (not only sales people) have ideas about unmet customer needs.  Many other people (not only R&D people)  may have ideas about different ways to leverage and apply existing or developing technologies.  Can it really be so hard to intelligently matchmake here?

I could see it working in at least a couple of different ways.  In one such system , Slow Hunches could be explicitly entered into some sort of  a common shared database:

  1. What If . . . ?” hunches could highlight unmet needs that customers might not even realize they have and would generally take the form “What If – A Current Problem – Could be Solved to a Certain Degree?”  i.e. “What if you could clean your hair without using water and without having to enter a shower?”,  or “What if peanut butter was dispensed in a way that you could easily get it all out of the container?”.  The key here is highlighting the problem and inferring the benefit, with no focus on possible solutions, feasibility etc.
  2. I think . .  .” hunches could be ideas about ways to use existing or developing  technologies to solve different problems than they are used for today and would take the general form “I think — Current Technology — could also be useful for — A different problem or application.”  i.e. “I think our high temperature corrosion proof turbine blade alloy could make good cooking utensils” , or “I think the hydrophobic coating we are developing for fabric stain resistance could be useful for waterproofing iPhones”.  Again, there doesn’t need to be validation or verification, remember, it’s just a hunch.

Probably these “What If?” and “I think . . .” hunches should be kept short and sweet and almost tweet length.  We have to make it easy to log brain burps and we have to give people the confidence to know that it’s okay to only have half of an idea.   A central database of needs and potential solutions should be pretty simple to query and bounce off  itself  using key word and concept searches to highlight potential Slow Hunch Collisions.  The corresponding hunch authors could then be connected to flesh out their hunch collision more fully and see if it warranted an ad hoc team to research the potential.

This is just one concept of a method to lure ideas out of hiding and match them together.  I’m sure there are more sophisticated tools which could identify and match interests, beliefs and unsolved problems based on search histories or other internet activity.  The key point is that leadership of the enterprise needs to realize that there is a gold mine of untapped innovation opportunity buried right beneath the noses of their org charts and that they need to establish frameworks to uncover the Slow Hunches in their organizations and to help them to collide.  That’s where innovation happens, at the collision of the Slow Hunches.

What ideas would you have for tools to facilitate the Slow Hunch Collisions?

 by Jeffrey J Davis

Is The US Living In A Ponziconomy?

July 14th, 2011 · 9:26 pm  →  Blog Business Government Innovation Social Media Technology

Charles PonziSeveral days ago on a trans-Pacific flight I read two interesting articles in the same newspaper.  One was an analysis of the most recent jobs and unemployment report from the US, in which most analysts were puzzled by the lack of real job creation and economic growth.  The other article was about yet another IPO filing for a hot up and coming Social Media technology company, this one in the social gaming space.  The company, Zynga, is growing rapidly, is profitable, and generates almost $1B  of annual revenue from the sale of “Virtual Goods” in games embedded in Facebook.  I am an avid user of Facebook, but I must admit I’ve never played Farmville or any of the other Zynga games, I have no idea what virtual goods I would buy, how much they would cost, nor what redeeming benefit they would have for my life.  So I am probably unqualified to comment.  But I just worry that too much of the focus and excitement in the US technology and innovation media is on companies which will not create much lasting economic value.  But let’s face it, a virtual cow in Farmville is even less meaningful than a tulip bulb, and I struggle to come to grips with how a company making virtual goods can support a $20B valuation with any intellectual honesty.

I am a manufacturing guy by background.  I have run factories and now I run a real business, making real products that solve real problems for real people.  Of course I am in it to make money for my company and hopefully money for myself.  But by operating non-virtual assets, I am also able to see the much broader economic benefit that my business provides.  In addition to the personal salaries earned by over one thousand employees at my six manufacturing operations in US and Europe, there are the employees’ incomes, the company incomes, and the reinvestments of my suppliers, my suppliers’ suppliers, my logistics partners, etc.  Manufacturing of “Non-Virtual Products” creates lasting value in our economies.  Additionally, where there is value creation, there is inevitably taxation, which helps to solve  the major budget crises which the US is facing right now.

On the other hand, a technology based social media or smart phone app start-up has a much smaller trickle down impact on the economy.  As Thomas Friedman recently noted, the number of employees is typically much smaller and the resulting supply chain impact is minimal.  Sure, the local Starbuck’s, web hosting company, Pizza takeout joint and foosball table distributor get some lift from a new tech startup, but the overall stimulus to the economy is much smaller.  And while it may be much harder to quantify, I do not dispute that many successful tech companies offer products or services which create value for their users via increased productivity, group buying, etc.  But I really struggle to find much meaningful tangible, lasting economic value creation in a producer of virtual goods.  Many, many hot tech startups have been invested, exited and subsequently evaporated in the prior Web 2.0 and current Social Media technology inflatable balloons.  For many of these companies, the net aggregate cash flows once the music stopped and the dust settled flowed from users and customers into the pockets of founders and VC’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people getting rich from their work, I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do it for almost 30 years.  But it feels a little bit like a Ponzi scheme and I do not think it’s a sufficiently robust way to drive true lasting economic recovery.

The US remains one of the most innovative countries in the world.  We have great research and key technologies which can create real value for society in such industries as alternative energy, green chemistry, advanced materials, high efficiency transportation, smart grid power distribution, pharmaceuticals, water purification, etc.  Each of these industries could be a real starting point for sustained economic vitality and renewed competitiveness for the US.  Regional hubs and corridors for key technologies could fuel synergy and innovation.  Real technologies could evolve into real production plants which employed real employees and supported real supplier ecosystems.  Rest assured, we would still need founders, management teams and VC’s who would earn well-deserved wealth, but in a non-Ponziconomy, they wouldn’t be the only ones.


 by Jeffrey J Davis

Throw Away Conventional Economics: YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill Is Zero.

October 17th, 2009 · 7:47 am  →  Blog Technology


This interesting article from WIRED puts practical context around the arguments made in Chris Anderson’s thought provoking book “Free” and explains how Google is leveraging global server farm consolidation and intelligent purchase and subsequent barter of Dark Fiber to make YouTube’s bandwidth bill negligible. The macroeconomics you learned in college no longer apply.

Posted via web from jeffreyjdavis’s posterous


Visualizing The Globally Exploding Internet

August 21st, 2009 · 7:08 am  →  Technology

There’s a great piece in New Scientist depicting the explosion in the internet and bandwidth deployment.  Update: a new infographic from the perennially GOOD blog,  focuses on the growth in undersea cable and the relative speed and cost.  When you look at the amount of sub-oceanic bandwidth installed and the relative growth rates in content production and consumption by geography, it raises a few interesting questions:

  • Which oceanic links could cause the most damaging globally cascading issues through the global mesh (Think what happened last week in PRC due to earthquake off Taiwan).  Could a massive earthquake or bomb strike shut down the global economy?
  • Which links are nearing capacity today / What about in the future?
  • What will the web traffic look like in 10 years when Mandarin is the number 1 language and Hindi the number 2 language, with English a distant 3rd?  How do Google and other web crawling services need to adapt to that new reality?
  • What rapid shifts in bandwidth demand can be caused when the worlds largest bandwidth consumer can have “Permitted Content” shifts rapidly due to changes in Governmental Censorship, such as the access tightenings in Iran or the  recent Chinese Great Firewall clamp-downs?

GOOD Infographic

GOOD Infographic