Tuesday, December 22, 2009

FP's Top 100 Global Thinkers

Ben Bernanke is no. 1. Check out the other 99.

10 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2010

By TrendWatching.

6 Ways to be a Human Lightning Rod of Creativity

1. Make room. Often times the problem of a creative mind is not the lack of ideas, but an over abundance, says Don. “There are so many ideas swimming around in your noggin that you don't know which one to act upon first. It can get congested up there, and if you don't find a release valve your brain can get more clogged than a summer sinus infection.”

Your challenge is simple: Make sure everything you know is written down somewhere. You memory is a moron. Don’t depend on it. Get every idea down as soon as it comes to you. Don’t judge whether or not it’s good. Just get it down. Because if you don’t write it down, it never happened. And you can’t use what you can’t find.

2. Position yourself to be struck. The U.S. National Weather Service also reported that out of the thousand people that are injured by lightning each year (oddly enough, most of whom live in Florida, aka, “The Lightning Capital of the World”), one third of all injuries occur during work, another third of injuries occur during recreational or sports activities, and the last third occurs in diverse situations, including injuries to those inside buildings.

Therefore: The secret is putting yourself in the best possible position for lightning to strike. After all, you can’t expect to be zapped while sitting on your couch every day. Now, I’m not suggesting you relocate to Florida. But getting out of the house and into the world is crucial component to supporting, enriching, inspiring and informing your work.

You GET ideas, as the raw materials for your work are everywhere. You SHARE ideas, as you bounce them off other for feedback. You ROUND OUT ideas, as new experiences add new dimensions to existing thoughts. Remember: Real art can’t be created in a vacuum.

3. Become idea safe. www.StruckByLightning.org is a Massachusetts-based non-profit corporation that promotes lightning safety. Their mascot, Leo the Lightning Lion, says that prevention is key. “No place outside is safe in a thunderstorm,” he said. Now, he reminds kids and adults alike of this truth with a variety of memorable slogans. So, what I’ve done is flipped each one with a challenge question as it pertains to becoming more strikeable:

• “When thunder roars, go indoors!” What are the signs of a brewing creative storm, and how do you respond to them?

• “Don’t be lame, end the game!” Are you quitting too early during your creative sessions, thus preventing the best ideas from surfacing?

• “Don’t be a fool, get out of the pool!” How often are you swimming in your pool of ideas?

• “Use your brain, don’t wait for the rain!” Are you waiting on inspiration or depending on discipline?

4. Creativity is a function of awareness. In the Wikipedia entry about lightning
,, I also discovered this piece of trivia: “Pine trees usually stand taller than other species, which also makes them a likely target for lightning strikes. Additionally, factors that lead to its being targeted include: High resin content, loftiness, and its needles that lend themselves to a high electrical discharge during a thunderstorm.”

Pine trees know what they’re doing. They have all the characteristics of a strikeable plant. The question is: What attributes do YOU embody that make you a likely target? Don suggests awareness as the essential element:

“I used to believe my primary source for attracting creative ideas was curiosity. It turns out that attribute most of my idea generation to awareness – simply being attuned to what's happening around me and absorbing these influences and seeds of ideas into my mind.”

Therefore: Think of your brain as a magnet. Invite innovative influences as metal shavings, collect enough metal and you can create a helluva lightning rod.

5. Discard evaluative tendencies. Treat every idea, every experience and every thought with deep democracy. I learned this practice from one of the coolest books ever written on creativity, Unintentional Music. Author Layne Arye suggests we value everything whether it was intended or not. “Let all the different parts of the idea express themselves and influence your creative decisions. Be deeply democratic by listening to – and valuing – all parts.”

Therefore: Stop telling yourself, “Well, if I don’t remember it when I get home, it couldn’t have been that important.” That, right there, is the fatal flaw. That, right there, is where most people go wrong. If you make an appraisal of your idea before it’s even written down, you’re assuming and operating on the assumption that how good or bad an idea is, (especially in the early stages of that idea’s development), actually matters.

It doesn’t. Good or bad means NOTHING. Assigning value to your ideas before they’ve been brainstormed, explored and expanded is a creative block. This causes you to fall victim to premature cognitive commitment, which prevents your idea from blossoming into its truest and strongest potential.

The idea isn’t “good.” The idea isn’t “bad.” The idea simply IS. That’s it. No adjectives allowed. Stop judging. Stop evaluating. Stop appraising. Write everything down, as soon as it enters into your brain. Don’t worry how amazing, how ridiculous or how insane the idea sounds, just get it down.

6. Learn to strike out. In my research on lightning, the most fascinating story was that of Roy Cleveland Sullivan (February 7, 1912 – September 28, 1983). He was a U.S. Park Ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Between 1942 and 1977, Sullivan was hit by lightning on SEVEN different occasions – and survived all of them.

Naturally, he earned the nickname “Human Lightning Conductor” and “Human Lightning Rod.” Sullivan is recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the person being struck by lightning more recorded times than any other human being. Interestingly, each of Sullivan’s lightning strikes is documented.

Why Don't We Value Teachers?

From GOOD Blog:

A new piece by Arne Duncan, the United States Education Secretary, starts out fairly predictably: He praises the fine, difficult work teachers do, repeats the sentiment that they "deserve" better pay, top-notch training and more respect, and so on. Then he asks the predictable follow-up question: Why don't teachers get the respect, admiration, and compensation they are owed? Then the piece gets interesting.

He proposes that part of the problem is that the whole system is stuck in the "factory model of the industrial age. Students, in classrooms that look uncannily like the classrooms a century ago, move through 13 years of schooling beginning at age five, attending school 180 days a year, and taking five subjects a day in timed periods similar to what the Carnegie Foundation recommended in 1910."

He also says that a big part of the problem is the way we churn out teachers the way McDonald's churns out burgers. Instead of encouraging excellence and creativity and innovation, teachers are run through a factory-like training, then spit out the other side without the professional development, mentoring, a sense of preparedness, fair and honest evaluations of their work, and so on.

Finally, he also kind of sort of (but never explicitly) seems to think unions are also to blame. He stops short of saying unions are to blame for bad teachers keeping their jobs (thus lowering the status of the profession as a whole), but there are undertones there, at least in my reading.

What do you think?

Kawasaki's 6 Twitter Types

Which category do you fall under? (See full post here)

  1. The Newbie. “What am I doing?” The Newbie signed up for Twitter less than three months ago and thinks it’s all about lifestreaming: “Watching my cat roll over.” These people quickly progress to a different type of use or abandon Twitter when no one pays attention to them. Motivation: curiosity about Twitter. Recommended approach: understand.
  2. The Brand. “What can I get away with?” The Brand balances the tension between using Twitter as a marketing tool and socially engaging people so as not to appear to be using Twitter as a marketing tool. Motivation: greater brand awareness. Recommended approach: observe.
  3. The Smore. “What’s in it for me?” The Smore (social media whore) sees Twitter primarily as a self-promotion tool to get something from people although a transparent Smore (“Bubbles”) is often a delightful person. The delusional ones are the pains. Motivations: making a buck off and gaining followers. Recommended approach: tolerate.
  4. The Bitch. “What can I complain about?” Despite deriving this name from female dogs, this is usually an angry man who envies people who generate content. They can be briefly amusing in a “shock jock” kind of way, but their bark is greater than their bite, and their bite is greater than their insight. Motivation: generating angry reactions. Recommended approach: block.
  5. The Maven. “What’s interesting in my niche?” The Maven is an expert in a field such as recruiting, marketing, or web design. If you’re interested in their field, following them is a rich, rewarding, and time-saving experience. Motivation: getting retweeted and recognized as an expert. Recommended approach: follow.
  6. The Mensch. “How can I help?” Mensches are few and far between. They lurk in the background until people need help and then they either know, or know how to find, the answer. They are seldom well-known or highly followed, but they save you tons of time and effort when you want to know something like the ideal dimensions of a profile background. Motivation: helping others. Recommended approach: adore.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cooperative Learning

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Why do an M.Ed?

Elona Hartjes shares why she decided to do an M.Ed - what about you?

As long as I can remember I have had a passion for learning. My Mom tells me as soon as I could speak, I drove everyone crazy with questions about everything. I needed to know why and why not. Fortunately all my years of formal education have not changed that. Living is still learning; learning is still living.

For quite some time now, the Internet has fueled my passion for learning. If I have a question, all I have to do is Google to find some of the answers I seek. Of course, that need to know extends to my teaching practice. I am always asking how can I better meet the needs of my students. Why are things the way they are? What can I do to change them? While I have found the internet useful for keeping up to date on current issues in education and for finding strategies and resources to improve my teaching practice, I have come to realize self directed study may not be the most efficient way to do this. That’s why I have decided to pursue a Master of Education, and that is why I am taking the course I am right now.

I have not been disappointed. The course I’m taking not only provides me with direction I seek, but perhaps even more importantly facilitates my learning by providing me the opportunity to be part of a learning community that reads, discuss, writes and reflects on a wide variety of topics related to education. I intend to share here some of my reflections that come from the readings and discussions we have had over the duration of the course.

I’m just finishing my final paper for this my first course. I’ll be honest and say I’m ready for a break.I’ll have some time so I’ll be able to blog more often. I’m not happy about cutting back on my writing here, but I can only do so much. The next course I’m takng starts in January. I’m looking forward to it even though it means I’m super busy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thinking Hats for Doctoral Studies

Dear Participants of the UUM-CAS Workshop,

Thank you for the lively participation yesterday. Do not hesitate to ask questions or share your comments regarding the session, the hats, application and so on.

Feel free also to browse around for topics related to thinking (you may start here if you wish but the Search field is yours to fully exploit).

We certainly look forward to hearing from you.


View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When Teaching Becomes Socialisation

Kester Brewin has a good take on education:

"If children are fat then we need to teach them healthy eating. If there are too many teenage pregnancies, teachers need to improve sex education. If children are depressed, or taking drugs, we need to now teach happiness. And if children do not agree with the policies of this government, we need to timetable Citizenship lessons. He then quotes Rafael Behr:
By extension, teachers have become mediators in a process of socialisation – policing “values” rather than directing thoughts; a secular political clergy with the education secretary as pope. Pedagogy, meanwhile, has come to look more like therapy, with motivational and psychological techniques coming to the fore, along with a fashionable horror of allowing children to get bored. Everything must be “relevant”.

Read more

3 Kinds of Librarians

Drape's Takes outlines the three kinds:

1. Those that read and participate in the online think-tank we call social media.

2. Those content to lurk but still hesitant (or unable, for whatever reason) to contribute.


3. Those still stuck in the analog paradigm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Libraries giving way to Kindle

"...(In) the past few years, the old library in Cushing Academy was in danger of becoming a relic. Its 20,000-book collection was barely used, administrators say. Spot checks last year found that, on some days, fewer than 30 books, or about .15%, circulated. And it was becoming rather lonely down there."

What do you think? Do you feel that e-readers will soon libraries obsolete?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Negotiation Kinder-Style

Negotiation comes naturally to a kid. If you're a parent, I need say no more. For all the non-parents, newsflash: Bargaining with that cuddly loving 'slice of heaven' child is torture because the last thing you'd expect is to have to deal with a pro.

Here are some - inborn? - tactics that my son has been using for the past two or three years (professionals, heads up!):

  1. Appeal to a separate authority - often granddad, grandmum or the other parent (sometimes Nicky ropes in his 3-month old sister as a last resort; obviously he understands the thing about "balance of power" even if he can't quite define it yet)
  2. Say No from the start - forcing you to backtrack, throwing you off balance; notice how it's EASIER to keep saying No as opposed to finding new ways of encouraging a Yes?
  3. Persevere, persevere, persevere - when he wants a Yes, he too knows about switching personalities and approaches, repeating the same request a dozen times in as many seconds, wearing the other party down (with shades of Luke 18:1-8?)

  4. Set the terms and conditions - see no.2, Nicky also doesn't often let me get away with making him submit free-of-charge; he usually demands a 'fee' as part of the deal. Makes you wish there were more chapters on Bartering in child-raising books, eh?

  5. Go CUTE mode - turn up that pout, speak softly and gently to get more people (incl. the separate authorities) to go awwwwwwww... seek pity points and leech on the sheer sentimentality of others!
  6. Go BERSERK mode - they somehow came across the parents' manual and memorised that part about parents getting tensed up when their kids go nuts, not to mention the Conclusion : When parents are tense, consent follows easy.

Keep the list going if you can. I'm making notes to secure that next million-dollar project...

UNN Research Workshop (Pt.4)

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Emerging City Innovation

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Learning With The Saujana

TLC had lots of fun with the team that came from The Saujana. On the agenda were topics like Conflict Resolution, Time Management, Communication Skills and Email Etiquette. The Saujana participants also sat for the TOEIC exam. Overall it was a fun time of learning, conversation, friendship, creative art (see below) and Danish pastries!

Monday, October 12, 2009

UNN Research Workshop (Pt.1)

Dear UNN students,

Please remember that the point of the Literature Review is also to help you formulate an adequate research question. You must always bear in mind what research you plan to do and how you intend to obtain the data as you perform the literature review.

E.g. there's no point doing a review on "Financial banking in Iceland" if you have no way of doing research on Iceland!
View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The ads and CVs' and cover-letters all have that word: dynamic. Everyone claims to be that. It's so trite and worn-out you wonder if it continues to make any sense using that word. Especially when you consider how many people fail to cash the cheques their profiles write.

So here's putting some meat on that word 'dynamic':
  • Do you work fast and well? Can you superiors expect a high-quality event/deliverable way before they start to wonder what happened to it?
  • Are you enthusiastic and do you contagiously spread excitement and adrenaline in whatever team you're on?
  • Do you ensure that you never shy away from projects (especially if you're fresh out of school)? Are you always volunteering to do the hard stuff?
  • Do you have many ideas and are you always trying new things or offering new angles to old problems? Do you make it a point to keep sharing your thoughts and proposals?

The answer to the above is almost always yes or no. Even allowing for the natural downtime in mood, there should be no great ambiguity, not in the context of the workplace. Most importantly, 7 (or more) out of 10 of your colleagues should agree.

It's virtually impossible for someone to be constantly 'exploding' on scene and not be noticed - or, eventually, rewarded.

Value-Adding Lectures

Lecturers contribute a bare minimum if all they do is repeat what's in the text or the slides. The situation is worse if you have a group of students (as I believe I do) who are independent learners and can absorb all the basic references without much help.

What, then, ought lecturers do to add value? Here are some ideas, by no means exhaustive:
  • Give a fresh slant to what's in the textbooks - either give a new perspective or just challenge everything the writer says
  • Lecture on a related sub-topic (one not in the generic handouts)
  • Facilitate a discussion or a case-study (thus taking the class away from recall-mode to application-mode)
  • Get the students to present
  • Show a video
  • Facilitate a project which takes them out of the classroom (kinda like a case-study on steroids)
  • What else?

Adding value nowadays usually involves creating new value. Whatever this is, it's probably not repeating what's already available.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lesson Planning

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Learning Theories

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

All At Once

Today a colleague lecturing in law shared with me a great class activity. This would work for subjects like Law (obviously), Literature and Philosophy where a compelling case needs to be presented.

Select about half a dozen students, get them to prepare their case/speech/argument/whatever, group them in a circle, and make them talk simultaneously.

The rest of the students (who could be standing anywhere or even allowed to move from speaker to speaker) would be instructed to listen carefully and select the speaker they find most interesting. The speaker with the highest number of votes 'win'. Then we change speakers and go again.

All the ingredients for charged-up learner-centered learning are here:
  • multi-directional communication (instead of I-talk-you-all-listen-ism)
  • a competitive element with the class as a whole judging the winners (and not the facilitator)
  • initiative and creativity i.e. the students shape the learning (as opposed to the facilitator deciding exactly how and what will happen)
  • real-world simulation where we really do have to match our voices/performances against that of others (compared to totally abstracted superficial scenarios)

That's what it's all about.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Power-Hunger, Power-Shyness & Power-Joy

In Malaysia, it's a rare sight to see people volunteering for leadership positions. We need to be asked. We need to say we have to think about it. We need to mention if other people were more suitable. We're generally passive and even when we end up saying yes (and eventually take up the post), there's an inevitable air of not totally wanting to lead simply but doing it "because there's a need" and so on.

It's like we're shy to say we want to lead. That if, of course, unless we're politicians (all of whom can't quite seem to shake off that element of greed and power-hunger).

This has to stop. We needn't make the choice between power-hunger and power-shyness. What about power-joy? Delight in exercising power for the good of people; fulfilment and belief in one's leadership; gladness and all-out excellence in being a good leader?

Students should be taught to seek out leadership positions. Find a problem, issue, department, area, event one's passionate about and just go for it. March up to "whom it may concern" and say I'm the one to handle this. I'll need a team, some time, resources and most importantly a happy green light.

I'm not shy and I'm not the next Genghis Khan. I only want to do something great for the community. Wouldn't that be a sight?

Friday, September 4, 2009


Read the full piece by Ben McConnell:

Hype is:Excitement is:
An impossible promiseA realistic promise
Exclamation pointsPassion
Cause for mistrustCause for belief
Overuse of adverbsAdverb-free
SegwayBike Friday
UnsustainableFuel for the future
From COTC readers:
Bound to burn out quicklyBound to improve ROI (Zoltan Devai)
OverpromisingOverdelivering (Dan Limbach)
"Some restrictions apply"Free (Bob Poole)
Mob mentalityIndividual thrill (Jeannie Walters)
Artificially colored cornstarchTop sirloin steak, medium-well (Jon Nichols)
Showing offShowing up (Maria Reyes-McDavis)
Focused on yourselfFocused on your customer (Bruce Kaechele)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The One-Post-Per-Day Challenge

Assume your pay cheque and sanity depend on you uploading one blog-post a day. Assume you're given the task of averting cosmic disaster befalling you and the universe by writing a (reasonably intelligent sounding) blog piece every 24 hours. What would happen?

Quite a bit.

You'd have to observe and make mental notes of virtually each and every moment of the day - every conversation, every gesture, every poster, every sound, every face. You'd have to keep your writing short, to the point, relevant and helpful.

You'll also have to apply everything you've ever learnt to every occasion you encounter in the on-going process of generating more and newer ideas. Your note-taking and idea-storage methods would be on overdrive. You may even read more because how else would you sustain your learning rate? (And you know you don't want to be writing gibberish)

Also, you'd have to re-prioritize the way you use the Web, thereby cutting out (often) hours of wasted time online. If this isn't good enough news, you'll also learn about focusing and channeling your attention/energy outwards, on something creative which engages other people, as opposed to brooding on what you don't have or failed to accomplish.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

6 Ways to Breathe Possibility into People

1. Accelerate the actionability of your message. “I believe this! I can do this! I want to try this!” That’s what your readers, listeners, viewers, subscribers and audience members need to think after they’ve been exposed to your ideas. That they can take action. So, in order to move from “How I did” to “How you can,” consider compounding your message with action items like:

o An exercise to do that bridges what you said into their unique situation.
o A checklist could to keep people accountable and consistent in the future.
o An assignment that, when they’ve completed it, people will be ready to move forward.
o An equation (algorithm, formula, system, etc.) people can easily plug themselves, their situation or their company into.

BREATHE IN: You words become persuasive the moment someone is compelled to take action as a result of being exposed to them. How actionable are you?

2. Challenge people. Let’s say you’re telling a story about an obstacle you overcame. Either in a conversation, during a presentation or in a piece of writing. Here’s what you do: First, once the story is over, allow it to land. Embrace the pause. This increases the probability that your words profoundly penetrate people.

Then, call to the hearts and minds of your audience by using phrases like, “I invite you to reflect with me,” “Consider this question,” “Plug yourself into the following equation” and “Ask yourself how good you are at these things.”

BREATHE IN: Language like this immediately 180’s the message and moves the story from Me Land to You Land. How challenging are you?

3. Help people. In a few different ways. First, help people absorb and understand what you said. But allow things to unfold at their speed. Do this by becoming a master at letting the pearl sink. Second, help people see their field of possibilities. Ask them how they would coach themselves through this situation.

Do this by asking people Back to the Future Questions. Lastly, help people build long-term, self-generative capabilities. Feed the development of self-reliance. Do this by becoming a listening midwife, that is, helping others give birth to their own understanding.

BREATHE IN: Let people lead themselves. What are you helping people do?

4. Throw people lifelines. If you’re a leader, odds are, you’re not normal. And don’t worry – this isn’t a bad thing. The only challenge is making sure your message stays relevant and relatable. Otherwise “How you did” is perceived as “How the hell am I supposed to?”

For example, I’m a writer. That’s what I do. That’s my occupation. And, sure: I’m also a speaker, coach, consultant and entrepreneur. But writing is my occupation inasmuch as it occupies most of my workday. As such, I spend four to seven hours writing, every day.

Four to seven hours.

Now, upon hearing such a number, most think, “Good god. Four to seven hours? But I don’t have that kind of time to write!” And naturally, I respect that. Because it would be ridiculous to expect my clients, workshop attendees and readers to invest that kind of time each day.

So, I challenge people to start with fifteen minutes a day. That’s it. If you do the math, that comes out to 1/100th of your daily allotted time. (I don’t think that’s asking too much!) In fact, when I started my career as a writer in 2002, fifteen minutes was the unit of writing time I started out with. And if I can do it, so can you.

That’s a perfect example of a lifeline. You inspire others to function at a higher level by telling them to take action things in the context of their unique situation. You breathe life into people’s hopes and dreams by meeting them where they are.

BREATHE IN:Don't run the risk of people thinking, “Oh, but I could never do that…” What lifeline could you throw them?

5. Democratize your experiences. Open the curtain. Simplify and demystify your message. First, ask yourself questions like, “What is the universal human emotion here?” “How could what I endured relate TO (and offer help FOR) people who aren’t like me?” and “What lessons are inherent within my experience that anybody could apply to their own life?

This line of thinking builds a generic equation your followers can plug themselves into. Second, answer those questions with nuggets, keepers, pebbles, one-liners and other digestible forms of wisdom. Third, you physically write those answers down. And fourth, you articulate those chunks of wisdom to stick the landing of the message you’re delivering.

BREATHE IN: Move people’s hearts and engage their capacity to dream. How democratic is your message?

6. Inspire others with a vision of what they can contribute. Reflect their reality. Show them what they know. Make them aware of their abundant, inherent treasures. One way to do this is to offer your attention and acknowledgment of another person’s contributions to your worldview.

For example, after having a conversation with someone, type out your notes into a bullet-point list. Then email your keepers to that person later that day. Not only does it prove you were listening, not only does it honor the other person, but it helps people see the brilliance they didn’t realize they possessed.

BREATHE IN: Inspire people to continue contributing in their own unique way. How do you reflect genius back to others?

- - -

REMEMBER: The secret to inspiring people isn’t sharing what you’ve learned, but rather, what you’ve done.

AND, the practical application of what you’ve done to their unique situation.

Otherwise “How I did” morphs into “How the hell am I supposed to?”

How actionable, relatable and translatable is your message?

Catching Up is the New Looking Ahead

Foreverism. Generation G. Eco-Bounty. Innovation Jubiltation. Sell-Sumers. Check it out.

Procrastination and Self-Control

What Font Are You?

Take the quiz.

How to Restart your Intellectual Property (IP) Program

Advise from Guy Kawasaki:
Isolate your patent business model. The big question here is how will patents pay for themselves? By protecting markets from competitors? By being licensed? By reducing the rate of patent litigation? The best place to start an IP program is with a solid foundation on profitability. Then, once you’ve decided what the IP business model is, measure it. Gilb’s Law of Quantification is that there is always a way to measure that is better to not measuring at all. Supertrue for the area of IP. Measure and ye shall receive.

Tell inventors the “what.” If you write down the seven areas where you want inventions, and make these areas into a cover sheet on your invention disclosure, you will increase the rate of strategic inventing. Increase from whatever it is now, to over 90%. Until inventors get calibrated, filling out invention disclosure forms is an uncertain, risky, stab in the dark. Tell inventors what you need, and you drain the uncertainty, risk, and much of the career threat from sharing ideas.

Tell inventors the “why.” If you can proactively communicate the criteria by which invention disclosures are evaluated, you will increase your rate and quality of inventing dramatically. I think the best way to do this is to pick four scales that range from 1 (low) to 10 (high), have a legal person rate each disclosure on these scales, and have a technical person do the same. You’ll learn a lot as the two raters talk about the differences in their scores and begin to converge. Information is contained in contrasts such as these:

Scale 1: Bringing in new business

Scale 2: Required investment

Scale 3: Competitive pain caused

Scale 4: Current business protected

This process forces your legal and business people to operationalize their currently implicit theories—for example, “Above 30 is a default file patent decision”. Then you can objectively communicate these scores with inventors to calibrate them to the company’s standards. Numerical clarity simultaneously increases the rate and quality of inventing. Quality comes up rapidly, so rapidly that the IP department budgets become immediately overtaxed with potential patent ideas that attorneys canʼt bear not to file on.

Make a contract between IP and Senior Management. The biggest sin of omission in starting an IP program is not having an activity-based budget contract between management and the legal department. It can seem like an approach of “Break it. We’ll fix it as we go” is a good enough start—especially before you have shown that you can improve either quality or quantity of IP.

It’s not true.

Break-fix does not work for legal departments. Legal is not a BUSINESS function. Legal is a dignified profession. When corporate lawyers need more money, they won’t demand it. Every legal department I’ve worked with has been a wall flower about money—denial ain’t just a River in Egypt. Lawyers won’t pound the table (like psychotic marketing VPs) and demand funding. So without a contract you are likely to end up killing your IP program with success as the legal department chokes on increased activity and improved quality.

If you have a contract between the IP people and Senior Management, the IP people wonʼt drown in the great disclosures theyʼve always wished to see. And management, for the first time, will have to specify (cap) the appropriate activity level for IP in the company.

Establish a translation layer. I have a Ph.D. in marketing with minors in electrical engineering, evolutionary ecology, econometrics, and statistics. When I arrived at HP I was a in marketing, managing printer products. Very soon I was beamed across the group into managing the business side of a million dollar a month burn rate, patent litigation event between HP and Xerox. My background in BOTH hard science and soft science sides was the reason for this assignment. Hard science plus soft science training prepared me to be able to translate between all the stakeholder groups in intellectual property.

Being able to translate between engineer and marketeer, engineer and attorney, between attorney and VP of Technology, and between outside counsel and inside counsel, and most importantly for that litigation event, between the PR people, business people, and patent attorneys, we were able to shut down the HP/Xerox litigation at minimum cost. The IP management game is won by simplifying and accelerating communication. Hire a translation layer person, someone who delights at being stuck in the middle of people who can’t, don’t, or won’t communicate.

Build the rebel alliance. Unrecognized in every great technical company is an incipient alliance of people who want to help intellectual property management happen. IP rebel alliance members are sometimes are visible as patent coordinators in business groups, but the vast majority of potential rebel alliance members are below the waterline like an iceberg. By tapping the rebel alliance, I was able to keep IP strategies moving while remaining flat to the wall—not leaving a cost profile that a computer or finance person could see.

For example, I built a world wide automatic payment system for IP payments. But, by tapping the rebel alliance, I built this system without head count, budget, or even an accounting code. No company knows what it should be spending on IP. So the less you have to spend, the more successful you can be. The way to spend less on IP than anyone for a given level of success is to build the rebel alliance.

Democratize inventing. If you haven not engineered an ‘inventing democracy,’ you don’t have it. Being content with inventions that find you, means you have biased and filtered access to the ideas created in your organization. A lot of things make inventing undemocratic: habit, cultural assumptions, ignorance, and inertia. My personal favorite ‘wrong’ cultural assumption is that engineers in engineering groups CAN be inventors while engineers in sales groups CAN NOT be inventors - even if the engineer came from an engineering group and used to be an inventor.

You need to build business processes between the legal department and the inventors. Between the legal department and the business people. And probably between legal, finance, business, and inventors if you have invention incentive program. Democratization of invention is engineered in over time as you feel your way iteratively discovering breakthrough processes. If you design in open-ness, you’ll maximize the quality and income of your IP system.

Be enthusiastic. The root words of “enthusiasm” are “en” which means “in” and “theos” which means god. Enthusiasm is the god within. And enthusiasm is responsible for all the results I’ve achieved in IP management. This was surprising to my boss; he was a twenty-five year managing counsel for IP who once said, “The policies have been on the books for seven years. The doors of the legal department have always been open. Why is everything happening now? … I’m surprised at how much more happens when enthusiasm is behind the process pushing.”

Enthusiasm is not taught in law school. So, enthusiasm is crucial complementary skill to your legal department. Make sure whoever you hire is famous for enthusiasm. For example, while I was running an invention workshop for the first time at a client. During the presentation the IP attorney (now GC for IP) present looked at me and blurted out “This is like an intellectual property revival meeting!” Yes, exactly!!!

Strip your disclosure. Invention disclosures are complex forms created by patent attorneys to pass muster with other patent attorneys. The requirements to document an invention are however, very few. Why complex forms for simple inventions? Because attorneys are shifting the work they are supposed to do, on to inventors. If you want more and better disclosures from the inventors, simplify. Take the legal department’s work, off the backs of your inventors. If the legal department needs more people to process invention disclosures, so be it.

Starting up an intellectual property program is about profit, not cost. Groundrule #1 is that nobody in the system gets to optimize their own costs at the expense of other people in the system. Simplify the disclosure, put a targeting cover sheet on it, you’ll be delighted with how the results come in good and then continue to get better every month.

Close the open loops. Intellectual property is managed open loop. Invention incentives if companies have policies, are always a disaster as far as inventors are concerned. Companies are either months (or years) behind in payments, or the payments come so far after invention (4 years if the patent has to issue before the inventor receives payment) that the “incentives” are useless for making inventors feel like they are part of a team. Basic strategies like how IP pays for itself, are not written, reviewed, measured, or routinely revised.

But donʼt feel bad about IP being open loop. This is what an ground floor opportunity looks like!! Intellectual property infrastructure and culture are built up over-time. Reigniting an IP program is a lot of fun because reigniting IP programs helps companies protect and re-monetize themselves, gets employees working together in new ways, and makes jobs more meaningful for people when they see that their work is valuable, patentable, and part of the company’s competitive advantage going forward.

Competing with the Single-Minded

"When you have someone who is willing to accomplish A without worrying about B and C, they will almost always defeat you in accomplishing A.

"Online, of course, this often leads to doom, since there are many organizations that are willing to get big at the expense of revenue, or writers willing to be noticed at the expense of ethics or reputation.

"But in the short run, the singleminded have a fantastic advantage. And sometimes, their singleminded focus on accomplishing just that one thing (whatever it is) pushes them through the Dip far ahead of you and then yes, they make a ton of money and you've lost forever."

Read the full piece.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What sort of Meeter are you?

A little tongue-in-cheek but worth a read:

Take the maximum allotted time for the meeting, add 15 per cent for every person from India present to a maximum of three, and 20 per cent for each Westerner to a maximum of two.

Deduct two-point-five per cent for each Hong Konger and five per cent for every Filipino, Sri Lankan or Indonesian attendee. (For people of other cultural backgrounds, you have to do your own research.)

The meeting I had just been at started with six Hong Kongers, one Sri Lankan, and a Filipino.

So the sum was 60 minutes minus 25 per cent, taking us down to 45 minutes.

But just as we were starting, a European arrived, pushing the estimate back up to 55 minutes.

At first I was skeptical, but the girls’ system turned out to be remarkably accurate: it WAS 55 minutes.

One committee on which I used to sit lost its token Westerner, and meetings DID finish 20 per cent earlier than usual. Then a Canadian joined us, and meetings went back to their previous length.
Why does it work? To generalize absurdly, Westerners are critical thinkers who see meetings as democratic events at which they can contribute to more or less every item on the agenda.

Indians also like to talk. They come from a society where debating is a popular pastime, since watching Indian TV has the same fun quotient as being waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay.

Hong Kongers are busy people who don’t like meetings, but they are polite, so make the minimal number of comments to show they are present.

Filipinos, Sri Lankans and others stay silent because they loathe meetings so much they are not mentally present, being deep in fantasy worlds.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Understanding Social Media

A passionate presentation, to say the least. The information is current and thought-provoking.

View more documents from Marta Kagan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Education at the CrossRoads (Seth Godin)

...There are three choices that anyone offering higher education is going to have to make.

Should this be scarce or abundant?

MIT and Stanford are starting to make classes available for free online. The marginal cost of this is pretty close to zero, so it's easy for them to share. Abundant education is easy to access and offers motivated individuals a chance to learn.

Scarcity comes from things like accreditation, admissions policies or small classrooms.

Should this be free or expensive?

Wikipedia offers the world's fact base to everyone, for free. So it spreads.

On the other hand, some bar review courses are so expensive the websites don't even have the guts to list the price.

The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.

Should this be about school or about learning?

School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is 'getting it'. It's the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn't care about workbooks or long checklists.

For a while, smart people thought that school was organized to encourage learning. For a long time, though, people in the know have realized that they are fundamentally different activities.

The combinations...

Imagine a school that's built around free, abundant learning. And compare it to one that's focused on scarce, expensive schooling. Or dream up your own combination. My recent MBA program, for example, was scarce (only 9 people got to do it) and it was free and focused on learning.

Just because something is free doesn't meant there isn't money to be made. Someone could charge, for example, for custom curricula, or focused tutoring, or for a certified (scarce) degree. When a million people are taking your course, you only need 1% to pay you to be happy indeed.

Eight combinations of the three choices are available and my guess is that all eight will be tried. If I were going to wager, I'd say that the free, abundant learning combination is the one that's going to change the world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

10 Tips on how to think like a Designer

(1) Embrace constraints. Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies and lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions that without constrains never would have been discovered or created. In the words of T.S. Eliot, "Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl." There's no point complaining about constraints such as time, money, tools, etc. Your problem is what it is. How can you solve it given the resources and time that you have?

(2) Practice restraint. Any fool can be complicated and add more, it takes discipline of mind and strength of will to make the hard choices about what to include and what to exclude. The genius is often in what you omit or leave on the editing room floor.

(3) Adopt the beginner's mind. As the old saying goes, in the expert's mind there are few possibilities, but for one with the beginner's mind, the world is wide open. Designers understand the need to take risks, especially during early explorations of the problem. They are not afraid to break with convention. Good designers are open minded and comfortable with ambiguity early on in the process, this is how discoveries are made.

(4) Check your ego at the door. This is not about you, it's about them (your audience, customer, patient, student, etc.). Look at the problem from their point of view -- put yourself in their shoes. This is not easy, it takes great amounts of empathy. Get in touch with your empathetic side. Empathy — an under valued "soft skill," can be a great differentiator and is key for truly understanding a problem.

(5) Focus on the experience of the design. It's not the thing, it's theexperience of the thing. This is related to #4 above: Put yourself in their shoes. How do people interact with your solution? Remember that much of design has an emotional component, sometimes this is even the largest component (though users may be unaware of this). Do not neglect the emotional aspect of your solutions.

(6) Become a master storyteller. Often it's not only the design — i.e., the solution to a problem — that is important, but the story of it. This is related to #5 above. What's the meaning of the solution? Practice illustrating the significance of solutions both verbally and visually. Start with the general, zoom in to the detail, pull out again to remind us of the theme or key concept, then zoom back in to illuminate more of the detail.

(7) Think communication not decoration. Design — even graphic design — is not about beautification. Design is not just about aesthetics, though aesthetics are important. More than anything, design is about solving problems or making the current situation a little better than before. Design is not art, though there is art in design.

(8) Obsess about ideas not tools. Tools are important and necessary, but they come and go as better tools come along. Obsess instead about ideas. Though most tools are ephemeral, some of your best tools are a simple pencil and sketch pad. These are often the most useful — especially in the early stages of thinking — because they are the most direct. Good advice is to go analog in the beginning with the simplest tools possible.

(9) Clarify your intention. Design is about choices and intentions, it is not accidental. Design is about process. The end user will usually not notice "the design of it." It may seem like it just works, assuming they think about it at all, but this ease-of-use (or ease-of-understanding) is not by accident, it's a result of your careful choices and decisions.

(10) Sharpen your vision & curiosity and learn from the lessons around you. Good designers are skilled at noticing and observing. They are able to see both the big picture and the details of the world around them. Humans are natural pattern seekers; be mindful of this skill in yourself and in others. Design is a "whole brain" process. You are creative, practical, rational, analytic, empathetic, and passionate. Foster these aptitudes.

(11) Learn all the "rules" and know when and why to break them. Over the centuries, those who came before us have established useful and necessary guidelines — these are often called rules or laws and it's important to know them. Yet, unlike other kinds of laws, it may be acceptable to break them at times so long as you know why. Basic graphic design principles and rules are important and useful to know, yet most professionals today have a hole in their education when it comes to the fundamentals of graphic design. I'll try to do my little bit withthe next book to raise the design mindfulness and vocabulary of professionals who do not make a living in design per se, but who have a desire to get better.

Read the full article