Is Neuroplasticity an Effective Leadership Tool?

Every healthy brain has neurons. Those neurons store and carry information tied to your thoughts, education and experiences. Those neurons travel on paths in the brain, which are called neuropaths. The information the neurons carry helps you move, speak and think. In addition, those paths help you make sense of the world and relate one topic to another. For example, you can use mathematics to assess the amount of people in the room relative to the amount of chairs. If there are an insufficient amount of chairs, the neurons help you make a decision on how to add more chairs.

Conversely, the neuropaths help you assess a dangerous situation as well as a method to eliminate it. That could be fight, flight or freeze. Some refer to this as instinct. I assert it is much more profound than instinct.

When you are born, you had very few neuropaths in your brain. By the age of two, you grew significantly more paths. By ten, your brain was filled with so many neuropaths it looked like an over crowed intersection of multiple freeways. The increase in neuropaths is the result of the data you received or better said, inherited, from your environment.

For many years, it was believed that people could only grow a finite number of neuropaths. That would fit into a philosophy of: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It would mean that the personality and thought process you developed by age ten would remain the same for the rest of your life. In a way, that has been a fact of life for many.

Neuroplasticity has changed that. Now scientists know the brain has the ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. In other words, it is possible to grow new neuropaths. With new neuropaths you are able to develop entirely new perspectives or thought processes.

Breakthroughs tend to have that effect on the brain. If you could imagine, in the 1920s, the NY Times wrote an article insulting the intelligence of Robert Goddard. Goddard asserted that man would one day fly to the moon. The NY Times thought that was an absurdity. In hindsight, this was a normal thought process for the NY Times. The neuropaths of the masses held no memories or information about the reality of flight to the moon. It appeared as a pipe dream and not worthy of intellectual discussion.

In 1969, the NY Times wrote an apology letter to Goddard. Because man did go to the moon, the neuropaths of everyone held information about it being a reality.

In your personal or professional life, neuroplasticity is very relevant. In business, if staff and management can grow new neuropaths, they will increase their abilities to invent new processes, products or services. Why? Current neuropaths only allow you to see the world based on what you already know. The most you can do is make improvements, which is adding new ideas to existing neuropaths. New neuropaths allow you to see things you didn’t know you didn’t know. In other words, it allows you to create new paradigms. Once the new neuropaths are created, it appears as common sense to most. The challenge, though, is working through the frustration and uncertainty that accompanies growing new neuropaths.

As you can see, neuroplasticity practices are not commonly pursued. Those who intentionally practice neuroplasticity may be considered disruptive leaders. They are the people like Goddard who saw possibilities without proof. Others like Tesla and Edison were the so-called insane people who dared to imagine that which was unimaginable by the masses. Yet, they are the very people who changed the world. To immerse yourself in the world of neuroplasticity practices is to live in a world of breakthroughs.

Business Intelligence

1. Companies are aggressively moving to computerized support of their organizations. Can you list at least 2 of the factors driving this move?

• Speed and efficiency.
• Legibility and accuracy.
• Self-sufficiency.
• Cheaper research and development.

2. The definition of Business Intelligence (BI) is:

BI is an umbrella term that combines architecture, tools, databases, analytical tools, applications and methodologies.

What does “umbrella” term mean?

The definition of Business Intelligence (BI) encompasses various software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. The discipline entails many related activities, including data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting

3. Sometime we say that the term Business Intelligence (BI) is “context free”. What does this mean?

The term business intelligence is “context free” in the sense that the expression means different things to different people. For this reason, we have seen researchers advancing different definitions for business intelligence.

4. Describe what a data warehouse is and how it might differ from a traditional database used for transaction processing.

A data warehouse is a central repository for corporate data and information that an organization derives transaction data, operational systems and external data sources. Although these two may look like they are similar, they exhibit several differences with regard to usage pattern, architecture as well as technology. A traditional database is based on operational processing while a data warehouse is based on informational processing.

A data warehouse focuses on storage, filtering, retrieval and analysis of voluminous information.

A traditional database is used for day to day operations while a data warehouse is used for long-term informational requirements.

5. What is the difference between a data warehouse and a data mart?

A data mart is a subset of a data warehouse that relates to specific business line. Data marts are managed by a specific department within an organization. On the other hand, a data warehouse involves multiple subject areas and assembles detailed information from multiple source systems.

6. What is meant by “Big Data”?

Big data refers to a huge volume of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data from which viable information can be extracted. This kind of data is so voluminous that it cannot be processed using outmoded database and software techniques. Big data helps organizations to improve their operations and be in a position to make quick and smart decisions.

7. Data mining methods are divided into supervised and unsupervised methods. What are these and how are they different?

Supervised data mining method has to do with the presentation of fully labeled data to a machine learning algorithm. On the other hand, unsupervised data mining methods conduct clustering. Data instances are divided into a number of groups.

Unsupervised data mining methods do not put emphasis on predetermined attributes. Moreover, it does not predict a target value. Instead, unsupervised data mining finds hidden structure and relation among data.

Supervised data mining methods are appropriate when there is a specific target value that I to be used to predict about data. The targets can have two or more possible outcomes, or even be a continuous numeric value.

Supervised data mining methods the classes are known in advance while in the other the groups or classes are not known in advance. In supervised data mining methods, data is assigned to be known before computation but in unsupervised learning Datasets are assigned to segments, without the clusters being known.

8. When we consider KPI’s (key performance indicators) we distinguish between driver KPI’s and outcome KPI’s. What is the difference between the two (give a couple of examples of each)

Key performance indicators provide a framework on which organizations can value their progress. Outcome KPIs which are also referred to as lagging indicators measure the output of previous activities. On the other hand, driver KPIs/leading indicators measure the activities that have a significant on outcome KPIs. Driver KPIs have a significant effect on outcome KPIs, but the reverse is not necessarily true.

9. A BSC (balanced scorecard) approach for BPM (business process management) is well-know and widely-used. Describe the strengths of a BSC approach.

BPM entails activities

BPM involves activities like automation, remodeling, monitoring, and analyzing and improving business processes.

Cost efficiency

This is one of the most palpable benefits of BPM approach. It cuts down on costs and increases revenue. BPM adds crucial value in the long run by allowing businesses to compete globally. BPM technology equips a business to switch gears and respond to changing business environment appropriately.

Agility

Change is inevitable in business and a business must be ready to undergo sudden changes at any time. BPM accords a business the flexibility of making changes at minimal costs.

Improved productivity

BPM automates several elements within regular workflows. Process improvements such as eliminations of drawbacks, elimination of redundant steps, and introduction of parallel processing are achieved through BPM. These process improvements allow employees to focus on other important activities of their business since the core support functions would have been handled.

Better visibility

Basically, BPM uses advanced software programs to facilitate the automation process. These programs enable process owners to keep abreast of their performance. Apart from guaranteeing transparency, BPM keep track of how processes work without the need of monitoring techniques and extensive labor.

10. A closed-loop process is often used to optimize business performance. Briefly describe what a closed-loop process means.

A closed-loop process, also referred to as feedback control system is a management system that promotes a well-organized base of preferred outcomes and system feedback. This process is designed to achieve and maintain the desired output in comparison with the actual condition.

Are Bioplastics the Future of Plastics?

We all know about the issues we face with plastic, it is a material typically derived from petrol based chemicals and basically, do not degrade like normal materials. They are also not particularly well suited for recycling, though this has changed in the past decade.

While reducing our plastic use, and recycling plastic is the main factor in reducing the environmental impact of plastic, there is a growing interest in Bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from plant biomass, such as corn and hope to offer better sustainability and increased positive environmental impact.

But are Bioplastics as good as they sound?

One of the main selling points for Bioplastics is the raw materials used to generate it are more sustainably sourced than petroleum-based plastic. Abundant availability of raw materials for manufacturing bioplastics place less strain on resource supply, as well as cause less strain to the earth from sourcing processes.

However, Bioplastics still suffer some of the same issues as traditional plastic. They typically come in 2 forms, durable and biodegradable. In general, a durable bioplastic won’t degrade, which is quite important depending on its application. For example, Cola has developed the PlantBottle as a possible alternative to PET bottles and is made of 30% ethanol sourced from plant material. It won’t decompose though, which is quite important when storing acidic liquids such as Cola. It can, however, be recycled in the same manner a normal PET bottle can.

Obviously, the dream product is a biodegradable plastic, and these do exist, with PLA (polylactic acid) being increasing popular. PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester typically derived from renewable resources like corn starch, tapioca roots and sugarcane. PLA is popular in 3D printing in particular hobbyist style 3D printing.

While biodegradable plastic sounds amazing, in general, it is not quite as simple as it sounds high-temperature industrial composting facility, not your average household compost bin. For example, PLA is broken down by a bacterial called Amycolatopsis. The issue here is that in the US there are 200 industrial composting facilities but there are 50 million tonnes of organic waste still ending up in landfills across the country each year.

Until composting biodegradable plastic becomes more feasible its potential for success seems limited. On the other hand, durable Bioplastics that can be recycled in a similar manner to normal plastic provides a logical solution to manufacturing petrol based plastic.

Whatever the future of bioplastics the most important thing we can focus on is recycling current plastic and trying to reduce our reliance on it.

A Goldfish Has a Longer Attention Span Than I Do!

This short Whisper will provide you with a fantastic TOOL to keep your Mindset on the proper track each and every day.

You have 78 organs in your body. Your smart phone is probably organ number 79 for you.

You need each of those first 78 organs to function well to keep you healthy and alive.

I’m betting you think you need organ number 79 to function normally also.

I’m nearly 68 years old now and never had a smart phone until I was 63. Now I can’t seem to live without the damn thing and if I misplace it I panic.

It’s with me 7 days a week and 365 days a year. As much as my organs are.

It sits on my night stand and if it buzzes any time during the night I check it because I think it could be an emergency of some sort.

It’s the first thing I check in the morning when my eyes open and I’m attempting to clear the fog of sleep to prepare for the day.

It’s with me everywhere I go including where no other people are allowed… the bathroom. Yes, I’m using it while sitting on the toilet also. Heaven forbid.

I use the Internet connection on it to instantly learn about practically anything I need to know about during my day.

I used to have to get out the Encyclopedia Britannica or drive to the local library to get my needed information.

If I had to drive somewhere I always had my trusty Atlas map book to dig out and show me directions but now I just input the address I want to go to into my Maps App on my phone and some lady tells me each and every turn I need to make and I’m there.

I use Facebook to spy on my kids and grandkids every day.

How the hell did we function and get anything done in the 60’s and 70’s?

And now a Microsoft study tells me that due to the effect of our digitalized lifestyle a frickin goldfish has a longer attention span than I do!

Mine is 8 seconds now and a goldfish has a 9 second attention span! At least that’s what Microsoft tells me and if you don’t believe me Google it.

To be honest, I simply like having this high tech gadget with me to make my life easier. And it definitely does accomplish that for me so I’m not getting rid of it anytime soon.

So I have decided to use this high tech gadget to help me with my practice of living with mindfulness.

In my last Whisper I talked about what Mindfulness is and how to define and recognize it and the benefits it offers anyone who practices it.

In today’s fast, complex, chaotic lifestyles it is difficult to remember the importance of continuing to work on improving our Mindset each and every day.

We get lost in the have-to-be-there, have-to-do-this, never-ending shuffle of daily life nowadays.

So I’ve started using my smart phone to be my personal alarm to remind me to WORK ON MY MINDFULNESS.

You should do the same since I know your phone is within your reach at this very moment.

Each and every time it rings, buzzes, vibrates, or plays me a tune I know this my personal alarm and time to get back into my present moment, check on my thoughts and what I’m thinking about, take a look at how I’m feeling, and check what I’m doing right now and if I’m doing it the best I can.

Since I’ve got the damn thing with me all the time it makes perfect sense to use it as my MINDFULNESS ALARM. And you can easily and effortlessly do the same.

How great is that? It’s amazing!

If you think about it, this is a powerful TOOL you can rely on to snap you back into your reality of the moment instantly, get you re-focused on the task at hand whether at work or home, and remind you of how important it is to work on your Mindset every time it alerts you.

If you doubt my words here simply take notice how your body and your mind react each time your smart phone rings or vibrates.

It’s hold on you is real, and your ability to turn the tables and use it’s power for your benefit is also real.

When you utilize it as your own free personal assistant and life alarm you balance and diminish the negative reputation society has given these little high tech devices.

You can now welcome the intrusions as your signal to immediately get out of your ‘awake sleep’ and raise your consciousness and snap back into your present moment of living.

Using your smart phone as your alarm to BE ALIVE and not simply exist in a state of awake sleep is huge for you.

From now on every time your phone rings, buzzes, vibrates, or plays you a tune remember IT IS YOUR PERSONAL MINDFULNESS ALARM and it is your signal to snap back into your present moment!

And this life alarm we carry everywhere can remind us of how important the other 78 organs in our body are and that we had better take care of them so we can continue to use organ number 79.

You again worked on and elevated your Mindset to a higher level by reading this Whisper. Cool…

The Opioid Epidemic: How Substance Abuse and Addiction Centers Are Using Innovation to Raise the Bar

In 2017 the Opioid addiction problem has reached an all-time high. Young adults are dying at an alarming rate. Substance abuse and addiction facilities are facing tremendous pressure to raise the bar in proactively educating patients and the community on addiction prevention, providing results based therapy and utilizing innovative technology in their facilities to streamline providing quality medical care from a valued based perspective. Here a few measures that the top substance abuse and addiction facilities are doing to stay innovative and ahead in this devastating fight.

One of the measures that are being taken by some facilities is the implementation of proactively launching teams that will go out into the community to educate others about the serious state that our country is facing with this drug addiction problem. They are educating families on what the signs are, the large population of young adults between the ages of 18-24 that are being affected, and more importantly measures that can be taken to get the medical recovery assistance needed for their loved ones to overcome this deadly addiction.

Another measure being taken by some of the innovative recovery centers is regular intervals of investment in their staff to be certified and receive continual training. This positions them to stay aware of the latest changes and solutions that are being introduced into the healthcare sector to battle opioid addiction in the most effective methods available. It also ensures that their staff are well prepared to provide up to date treatment plans for those families and individuals in need.

The top drug abuse and addiction facilities are also investing in quality software technology that positions them to administer quick and efficient healthcare solutions to those patients that are admitted to their facilities. They are focused on investing in practice management, Ehr, and medical billing solutions that are all integrated into one complete solution to eliminate the interoperability challenges that most facilities that are not keeping up with current technology trends are facing. This positions these higher level recovery centers to have fewer communication issues between their multiple facilities and provide efficient medical service to their patients in a battle that can only be won with the right medical strategies.

When you are searching for the right recovery center for your friends or family, please take your time and do your due diligence. Research the options that are available to you for the right solution that will fit your needs. The fight against opioid addiction is a hard war that we are up against, however, with proactive educational initiatives and innovative technology implementations for our recovery centers we are moving in the right direction.

Where to Find the Idea That Will Make You Rich

I can’t tell you what your next million-dollar idea will be-but I can tell you, with near 100% certainty, where you’re going to find it. And it probably won’t be where you think.

In order to understand this, you have to understand what creativity is-and what it isn’t. Because your next million-dollar idea will be, by definition, a creative idea. And creativity, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t come from nowhere.

Creativity is not the “lightning bolt” that comes out of the blue. And creative ideas aren’t formed from nothing. In the vast majority of cases, creative ideas are found at the intersection of two or more seemingly unconnected things.

You’ve probably never heard of Robert Palladino, a former Trappist monk. But without him, there’s a very good chance that you would also have never heard of the iPhone.

Robert Palladino taught calligraphy at a small liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. And in 1973, a former student at that college (he had dropped out after just one semester), happened to sit in on Palladino’s calligraphy course.

That student’s name was Steve Jobs. In addition to calligraphy, he also dabbled in computers.

When Steve Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak created the Apple computer-and later, the Mac-Jobs remembered his calligraphy class, and insisted that their computer would be able to display calligraphic fonts. This helped set Apple apart, which helped make it (eventually) successful. Successful enough to create other innovations-like the iPhone.

Now here’s the thing. Computers already existed. And calligraphy already existed. But, until Steve Jobs came along, nobody had ever thought of combining the two. And if Jobs hadn’t happened to walk into that calligraphy class at Reed College, he might not have thought of it either.

Steve Jobs found his million-dollar idea (or, more accurately, billion-dollar idea) at the intersection of computers and calligraphy.

So what’s your “calligraphy class”? What’s your “other thing”? Do you have one? Or are you, like many leaders, afflicted with what I call “professional tunnel vision”?

Leaders with this affliction would never take a calligraphy course. They would say it’s “frivolous,” and “not relevant to business.” And they would not invent the iPhone.

Because million-dollar ideas are so often found at the intersection of seemingly unrelated things, don’t you think it would behoove you to have a broad range of interests?Because if you have a broad range of interests-if you read widely, if you have diverse interests, if you associate with people from different walks of life-the odds of you finding your “other thing,” your “calligraphy class,” your “million-dollar idea” increase dramatically.

So where will you find your million-dollar idea? You’ll find it at the intersection of two or more seemingly different things that already exist. And when you can look at those things and connect them in a way that nobody else ever did before-well, that’s the real lightning bolt.

Leaders: Innovative Organizational Tour Guides

As organizations focus on updating their technology and innovation, leaders have to be more astute change agents in order to grow and remain relevant in their industry. Leaders are the travel guides for their teams, businesses, and organizations. Business operations are the mechanics in the lifecycle of a business journey. The welfare of the group depends in large part on the responsibility of good leadership.

Just as a tour guide provides information, assistance, historical interests, and sites, along with educational entertainment to enlighten their tourists, celebrated leaders must assume the same type of mindset when keeping their business or organization healthy, emergent and innovative. Here are some notable leadership attributes needed on the journey to transformation:

Listening, Learning and Leveraging

Good leaders listen intuitively, not only to their executives but to the lower levels of hierarchy (their subordinates and foot soldiers). They have the insatiable desire for continued learning and understand how to leverage valuable information and lessons from their collaborations.

Educating, Exchanging and Encouraging

Leaders provide educational opportunities within their organization, exchange functional ideas and encourage knowledge-driven lead generation.

Adventurous, an Asset and Analytical

You are an asset to your organization as you incorporate analytical skills and embody the courage to take bold steps to target and achieve your overall vision.

Disciplined, Diverse and Delegates

Upper-level managers and executives must be disciplined in their business affairs. It behooves them to add the ingredients of diversity to their workforce and not be afraid to delegate responsibilities accordingly.

Experimental, Empowers, Empathetic

Leaders must be willing to test new concepts, empower their workforce with clarity of purpose and convey a sense of compassion as needed.

Responsible, Risk-takers, Revolutionaries

The credibility of leadership holds the gavel of responsibility in order to make all members of their organization accountable for their duties. Leaders are risk-takers who are disruptive thinkers. They promote innovation within their organization to become a trusted leader in their industry.

Strategic, Savvy, Selfless

Great leaders think strategically but are not procrastinators. They exude a sense of confidence and are unselfish when it comes to sharing success.

Leaders are clearly different than bosses. Bosses tend to give orders, can be domineering, sometimes egotistical, as title and hierarchal position are important to them. Great leaders inspire others to think creatively and independently. Leaders do not have to always be right because such thinking and attitudes can lead to the demise of their leadership role and put their organization in jeopardy. Traditional leadership cannot match the pace of transformation in the key to modern technology and innovation.

Leaders immerse themselves in creating an environment that attracts, nurtures and encourages creativity, excellence and company advocacy. They operate with a level of optimism, enthusiasm and honor their core values that multiply with the same type of exuberance throughout the rest of the organization.

Speech Analytics: Unravel the Unknown for Enhanced Customer Service

In today’s digitally-driven world, organizations are putting their best foot forward to better comprehend, tote up, and respond to their customer-base with a clear intent to proliferate their brand presence and augment their sales stream. For this, they have started using the science of speech analytics to gain quick insight into customer interactions, technical glitches, fraudulent calls, and even to identify behavioral trends.

Up until relatively off late, for many – technology (computers) appositely comprehending the customers’ sentiments was an ‘out-of-the-box’ philosophy. The journey began with the automated menus that asserted callers’ to press the selected keys, and every so often ends up with – sorry, this input is not valid, please try it again. A sigh of relief for most as this haphazard and irksome practice has plunged into a “more refined” notion. And the good news is, it is bestowed with an array of newer capabilities that can easily replicate what we human beings can do. Typically, a speech analytics software encompasses an acoustic model, grammars, a language model and recognition algorithms.

Not to mention, by combining big data techniques with voice analysis, companies can promptly analyze the huge amount of call data to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. In this light, call center service providers equipped with speech analytics capability cannot only fathom, translate speech into text but also can gauge customer stress and appeasement levels.

This article attempts to highlight the significance of speech analytics software in today’s business landscape:

Opening/Closing Scripts: It enables to determine the preeminent ways that call center agents should adhere to and report if the set protocols are not being satiated at the agent’s end. In addition to this, it suggests the words and phrases that agents should not say while interacting with the customer.

Customer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction: Here comes the power of speech analytics, which allows organizations to track customer satisfaction level. The role of data scientists shares the frame who apply their intelligence and specify word and phrases that express customer satisfaction/dissatisfaction level.

Agent Performance: Are your agents giving their 100% to address your customer queries/feedbacks? Maybe? Not Sure? Don’t panic! Again, this is one of the incredible attributes, which speech analytics software are ingrained with. It allows you to keep a check on your agents’ performance and analyze what they are up to. This, in turn, will help you to make a better strategy that complements your customers’ satisfaction criteria in a coherent manner.

Note: The benefits of a speech analytics platform do not end here. However, I will elucidate the other beneficial aspects in my next post. Keep reading!

The Bottom-line – Speech analytics can help enhance the efficiency of call centers by providing quick insights, which, in turn, reduces average call handling time, boosts first call resolution, ensures customer satisfaction, and curtails customer churn by predicting at-risk customers.

Your Wicked Customers Are Trying To Break Your Rules! What If You Helped Them?

Ever heard of a ‘false metric’? It’s the very human act of viewing a relatively unimportant part of a system as though it were a critical indicator of success. For instance, a manager might track the productivity of his staff by ensuring that they all ‘clock in on time.’ But arriving early is no guarantee of productivity, and measuring it is not the same thing as ensuring the result you’re after. Et voila: False metric.

When you run a business – or head up a department – there are opportunities galore for falling into the trap of measuring false metrics. Here’s one: The innate desire of a manager to ensure that his customers ‘behave properly.’

‘My four-year-old rolls his eyes at you’

My stepsister, Chantelle, tells a story about her son, Joshua, who started attending nursery school for the first time. Joshua was told he had to follow 10 steps in a cutting-out exercise, but Joshua spotted a way to do it quicker. The teacher told him he had to follow all 10 steps, otherwise he was ‘not doing it properly’.

His mom fondly recalls the teacher’s irritation when she reported that the recalcitrant little four-year-old actually rolled his eyes at her. Apparently he argued, quite passionately, that the extra steps were stupid.

Joshua got into trouble for doing the wrong thing. But one might argue, as Joshua did, that there are two ways of looking at that…

Are you listening to your Joshuas?

Inarguably, life is smoother and easier when customers behave. When they obey our internal rules and processes, managerial headaches dissolve into a warm cream of comforting efficiency. The trouble, though, is twofold:

1: They are under absolutely no moral obligation to do so. It’s we who want their patronage, and not they who are obliged to please or obey us; and

2: Sometimes our own internal rules are simply wrong. Or at least, inefficient. When the customer tries to short-circuit them, he or she is trying to teach you to run your business, and to serve them, just a little better.

What if… ?

When customers bypass your process, short-circuit your systems or break your rules, they are often seeking expedience and convenience. What if you innovated around your own processes and gave it to them?

While some rules may be sacrosanct (legal compliance by way of an example), many are not. They are merely our own procedures, and we love them inordinately. The good news is that they are our rules, and we can break them. Our customers are showing us where our internal barriers lie and how we are making it difficult for them to give us their money, provided we are willing to listen.

To minimize ridiculous rules, try these three exercises:

1. Ask which rules are stupid

Ask your staff which rules customers think are stupid. They’re in the front line and they will generally be delighted to tell you how life could be made easier for everyone. Certainly, you can’t always give them every concession that they, or the customers, may want. But in many cases, you could if you tried. Allow this feedback to guide you into all new industry innovations, which may ultimately becoming unique selling points.

2. Burn down the building

Gather your leadership team and set the following rule for your strat. session:

‘The traditional way of doing it has been outlawed. How else might we serve the same need?’ Or alternatively: ‘We are now our competitors. We have half the budget, but our hearts and souls are invested in one purpose: to topple the original company! We can’t do it the way they do it. So how could we go about it?’ Or even: ‘The company has burnt to the ground. We’ve lost everything. We need to keep serving our customers but we need a new, cheap, fast way to do it right now that doesn’t rely on any equipment or rules or systems that we used previously. What have you got?’

3. Take the Enterprise test

Studies increasingly show that disruptive innovation tends to come from outside of an industry. That’s because those within it can’t see issues in simple ways. They see through the lens of their own mountains of rules and norms. Enter: The Starship Enterprise Test.

Consider: If you want a meal of steak and vegetables, you have to drive to a restaurant, find parking, wait for a table, order the meal, then wait for it.

On the Enterprise, however, you would say: ‘Computer. Food. Prime rib-eye steak and vegetables.’ Poof! Your food appears. One single step to accomplish the goal.

This thought exercise – asking how it would work on the Starship Enterprise – can lead to the founding moments of entirely new product categories. It is a recipe for radical innovation and total disruption. It helps you not to think like a rule-bound industry-insider, and helps you to ‘see around’ the complex ways your organizations solves problems today, because there is always a simpler, quicker way.

The merit of these approaches lies in their capacity to extricate your thinking from ‘the way it has always been done.’ They invite you to find creative ways to deliver ‘the ultimate version of the end result’.

Rules help. Except when they don’t. The good news is, they’re your rules. When their abolition leads to better business, you can and should break them.

Is Innovation Slowing Down?

Smart phones. Self-driving cars. Genetic manipulation. Every week seems to bring a new discovery or insight. The possibilities seem more boundless than ever. Yet there are some who say that human achievement is slowing down; and indeed, that it must slow down.

The View from America in 2017

Technology is ascendant in America. On a popular news website, a biomedical company named Draper describes their plan to turn a dragonfly into a living drone. Draper’s project aims at grafting a tiny solar-powered backpack onto a dragonfly and then wiring that backpack to the insect’s nerve cord. This allows an operator to steer the dragonfly. Draper foresees the ability to turn dragonflies into pollination machines for farmers and surveillance devices for intelligence agencies.

Elsewhere, in a lab several stories underground, researchers are fighting malaria through the use of genetic manipulation. Funded by the Gates Foundation, these researchers are experimenting with a species of mosquito most responsible for transmitting the disease. The researcher sits down at a microscope and hovers a needle over tiny mosquito embryos. The needle introduces DNA that will render the malaria-transmitting mosquitos infertile. If this particular mosquito population can be eliminated, the primary vehicle for malaria transmission is also eliminated.

Above the earth, scientists using the Hubble telescope have determined that the universe is expanding much faster than originally thought. Through the blinking of distant quasars, observations provide new information about our origins and hint at discoveries yet to come.

By Patent Applications: Is Innovation Really Slowing Down?

Despite these and countless other examples of discovery, some still say that innovation is slowing down. Many have decried these claims. Bill Gates himself has called such arguments “stupid”. And on the one hand, it is easy to see Gates’ rationale.

A popular argument that innovation is slowing down is based on the number of patent applications filed per year. Patents have surged in the years between 2011 and 2013; and while patentable inventions still appear in the millions each year, the rate of growth in 2014 was strikingly lower. The growth rate in 2015 rebounded somewhat but did not approach earlier years. From this perspective, innovation is not matching previous years.

However, patent applications are expensive, laborious and uncertain. Many reasons exist to forego them. In some cases patents are not even the appropriate protection mechanism for a discovery. As a result, counting only patent applications excludes certain areas of innovation. For example, following the legal case of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, the commercial software development industry has relied on trademark more heavily than patents in recent years.

Patent approval can also be affected by bureaucratic moods. If a high percentage of patent approvals occur in one year, the US Patent and Trade Office may take a harder look at applications the next year to ensure a high quality of patents. As such, the percentage of approvals can vary widely from year to year. Anticipating a higher standard may result in fewer patents applications filed.

When one considers these external factors, the use of patent applications as a metric for innovation looks unreliable and potentially one-dimensional.

Tennis, Diminishing Returns, and Lotka Curves

The law of diminishing returns refers to the point at which the level of benefit gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested. This has broad implications, not only in the realm of economics but in other areas of human accomplishment. Professional tennis is an accessible example.

Roger Federer is a successful tennis player. Over a twenty year career, he has amassed over $101M in winnings. Meanwhile, according to Forbes writer Miguel Morales, the 92nd-ranked tennis player in 2013 (named Michael Russell) netted only about $75,000 after expenses. That remains decent money, and many would no doubt prefer a job as the 92nd-best tennis player in the world as opposed to a cubicle.

In other words, there is ample financial motivation to win tennis tournaments. And as such, many find it in themselves to do just that.

Both Federer and Russell have dedicated their lives to tennis. Both work at it year round. Both “try hard”. But at a certain point, trying harder and financial incentive showed less benefit for Federer than Russell. Something else made Federer a better player and helped him avoid the law of diminishing returns.

In his book “Human Accomplishment”, Charles Murray coined the phrase Lokta curve to visualize this phenomenon. The better tennis player you are, the fewer peers you have. While many players rotate in and out of the top twenty rankings, the top two or three rankings are usually held by the same people.

Over time, within this “elite of the elite” sampling, you can see the unparalleled separate from the merely excellent. Scores of players over the years have held the No. 1 rank for at least one week. Far fewer have held it over 100 weeks. Only one – Roger Federer – has held the rank for over 300 weeks.

If you were to map this distribution as a line across a coordinate plane, a Lokta curve would form: a high number for the total of players who held the No. 1 rank for one week, curving down to the fewer that held it over 100 weeks. On the far side of the plane is Federer alone with his 300 week reign.

The Finite Universe

Tennis can always accommodate more Roger Federers because the participants are mortal and inconstant. The laws of nature are not. Fields that rest on accumulated knowledge will eventually solve their questions, given enough time.

Looking back on his work in particle physics, Richard Feynman remarked how lucky he had been to live when he did. He compared it to the discovery of America – an event that can only happen once. It was an apt metaphor. The power of the atom had been intuited and sought after since the writings of Lucretius, nearly two thousand years prior. And in Feynman’s lifetime, he partook in the project that successfully split the atom at Los Alamos.

As great minds come to take their place on the Lotka curve, their efforts will answer many questions that touch on fundamental truths of nature. Some of those efforts will spawn new questions; others will settle the question. In the case of the latter, it can be argued that innovation’s work in that field is done. In this situation, one can see innovation as truly slowing down.

The essence of innovation is new insight. As such, the matter is never entirely closed. Anatomy, a field long since thought to be explored, surprised everyone in early 2017. With new research and using new tools, the human body gained a new organ near the stomach: the mesentery. The symbolism is fitting. Discovered at the core of the human body, we can see uncharted territories remain within and without, and with it: opportunity for innovation.