Innovation For the People, By the People

26 May 10

When we think about government these days, “open” and “collaborative” aren’t the first words that come to mind. Bureaucracy is typically a hindrance to innovation—both in the business and the public sectors. Forward-thinking government agencies, however, are seeing the potential of tapping into group intelligence and mass collaboration to better embrace innovation.

In the U.S., President Obama has challenged his cabinet members to ensure that every federal department finds ways to openly discuss innovative solutions with the public over the next 18 months.

In response, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched the Open Innovation Portal in February 2010 as a tool to reach out to the community for solutions to educational challenges, such as increased high school dropout rates and low reading scores. The Open Innovation Portal now has more than 4,000 members, each of whom can post innovative ideas and rate others’ ideas based on defined criteria. Organizations and businesses can even post “challenges” for members. For example, IBM is providing $500,000 in grants through the Open Innovation Portal to support educational innovations that integrate IBM technologies. Read the rest of this entry »


Innovation Inside

24 May 10

There has been a lot of recent innobuzz  about crowd-sourcing and looking outside for innovation. Both techniques have their place in idea generation, but what about the people who know your products the best? You know, your employees. Now, I am not saying you need to launch an innovation center like Bayer is to come up with the next big idea (albeit if you can, go for it), but rather think about ways you can grow or enhance your business from within.

The following are some companies who have successfully looked inside to innovate:

  • Southwest Airlines: Southwest is using an idea management software tool to capture their employee’s ideas on improving and bettering processes. This web-based  ideation tool allows employees in different geographic locations and of different levels to share ideas and work together to problem solve.  Bringing internal minds together has enabled Southwest to improve internal processes and create efficiencies.
  • Intuit: Intuit gives their employees 10% of unstructured time during their workweek (Google does something similar). During this time, Intuit employees are allowed to collaborate with others in order to develop new ideas. Viable products such as are results of such unstructured time. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovator Interview: John Jackson, Police Futurists International

5 May 10

As part of our ongoing Innovator Interview series we interviewed John Jackson, President of the Police Futures International (PFI) and a member of the Houston Police Department. PFI is an organization whose mission is to prepare police forces for the long term via planning and foresight tools. (how cool is that?)

In this interview, Jackson discusses some of his effective forecasting techniques, the organizational challenges he faces and his insights on how one can drive innovation. At first, it may not be clear how a government organization relates to those of you who work in the private sector.  And even Jackson differentiates between the private sector and public sector’s focus on innovation – the former is concerned with “profit and efficiency” and the latter with “equality and representation”. Regardless, the insight and foresight tools Jackson provides within can be applied to most organizations looking to become more future focused.

Read on to see an excerpt from his interview or download a full version for free. Read the rest of this entry »

Change He Can Believe In

22 January 09


Victory! The 44th President of the United States of America will be allowed to keep his faithful Blackberry, making him the first president to email during his time in office. 

Though any emails he transmits during his term will become part of the public record, nothing will be published until after his time in office is complete. 

Read more at the New York Times

sent from my Blackberry Wireless Handheld. 

(just kidding)

It’s No Time to Forget About Innovation

12 November 08

futurethink-new-york-times-innovation-unboxedLast week, the New York Times published a great article on innovation in the current (depressing) economic climate. The main point of the article is what we’ve been telling our clients for months: don’t let a shaky economy kill your innovation efforts. 

A particularly interesting point in the article focuses on how imporant it is maintain a widespread climate of innovation in your organization. 

There are important things managers can do to ensure that creative forward-thinking doesn’t go out the door with each round of layoffs. Fostering a companywide atmosphere of innovation — encouraging everyone to take risks and to think about novel solutions, from receptionists to corner-suite executives — helps ensure that the loss of any particular set of minds needn’t spell trouble for the entire company. Read the rest of this entry »

Digging Politics

9 September 08

Here at futurethink, we’ve tried to stay pretty quiet about the upcoming presidential election. But we recently caught wind of something that’s just too good not to blog about. 

A couple of Obama supporters recently launched a new site called OhBoyObama!. According to the site: 

OhBoyObama! is the unofficial campaign think-tank. Created by Obama supporters for the purpose of giving the Obama grassroots a platform to submit and vote on ideas to better the 2008 general election campaign of Barack Obama. All supporters are welcome to participate. Just register a new account and submit a “scoop” or start voting. Read the rest of this entry »

USPS: Technically Green

21 March 08

futurethink USPS recycle The United States Postal Service (USPS) and Clover Technologies Group announced a new “Mail Back” program. Through the program, customers use free envelopes found in 1,500 Post Offices to mail back inkjet cartridges, PDAs, Blackberries, digital cameras, iPods, and MP3 players – without having to pay for postage.

Clover Technologies pays the postage fees, and receives all the items sent through the program. The company then recycles, remanufactures and remarkets inkjet cartridges, laser cartridges and small electronics. If the electronic item or cartridges cannot be refurbished and resold, its component parts are reused to refurbish other items, or the parts are broken down further and the materials are recycled. Clover has a “zero waste to landfill” policy, meaning it takes everything possible to avoid sending things to landfills.

The program is a brilliant example of how public agencies can, in fact, partner with private companies for a mutual benefit. This is also a huge boon for consumers who have abandoned, old electronics lying around the house. Read the press release for more information.