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Consistency vs. “innovative churn”

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I’m not a real junk food hound, but every so often I get a craving for McDonalds and Dairy Queen. The other day I went on a bit of a rampage and had a Big Mac, cheeseburger and fries from Mickey D’s and a Turtle Pecan Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Now arguably, the Big Mac is nature’s perfect food, possessing all the four essential food groups – salt, sweet, fat and cheese – but what really struck me is that the Big Mac I was eating was absolutely identical to every Big Mac I have ever had.

Nature's perfect food?

Nature's perfect food?

It got me musing about all the places I have had a Big Mac. Beijing, Capetown, Amsterdam, Paris, New York, Johannesburg and on and on. With the exception of the vegetarian “Maharaja Macs” I had in Mumbai and Delhi, every single one of them was identical – bang on the money. Yet they say that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – so what gives?

It is the very fact that a Big Mac is going to be a Big Mac no matter when or where you eat it is precisely the secret of its success. I can recall when I was studying at ESSEC in Paris in my twenties, there was nothing more epicurian than sitting outside a left bank McDonalds at a proper Parisian cafe table with a Big Mac, frites and a half liter of red wine (yes, McDonalds sold wine!) watching Paris walk by. It was a comforting taste of home, yet it was jazzed up in true Paris style.

Similarly, when I was in Beijing for the run up to the 2008 Olympics, giving a speech on the innovation and commercialization ecosystem in British Columbia, it was Mickey D’s that provided that familiar taste of home, when Peking Duck wasn’t on offer. My Mandarin is pretty much limited to “2 beers please, and thank you,” and so it was great to be able to point at the laminated picture menu with a big smile, and there it was – nature’s perfect food!

Rob Duncan and colleague Allison Markin enjoying the consistent taste of Starbucks in Beijing

Rob Duncan and colleague Allison Markin enjoying the consistent taste of Starbucks in Beijing

So clearly, consistency has it’s place. In a world where we have such a frenetic amount of “innovative churn” that it is almost impossible to buy the same toothpaste or deodorant twice in a row, it is good to see some things never change – they don’t need to!

To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about innovation related topics, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

Energizing innovation by enabling social connections

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One of my most satisfying experiments was the introduction of Commercialization Bootcamps at BCIT’s Centre for Applied Research and Innovation (CARI). Rather than just being a dump of lecture content (which people told us they DIDN’T want), the purpose of the one-day events is to enable social connections between inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers, professionals and students.

Watch this quick video to get the idea:

Client feedback is telling us that the Bootcamps are a total success, and that the connections that attendees have made with one another have advanced their ideas closer to market.

To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about enhancing innovation through bootcamps, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

Using facebook to create an innovation community

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I am currently completing my doctorate in the area of collaborative innovation through online social networks. One of the “living experiments” I am watching is the effort by BCIT’s Applied Research Liaison Office (ARLO) to create an online community that brings together students, industry and faculty. What ARLO has done is set up a Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/BCITARLO) and endeavored to populate the community with a healthy mix of students, industry people and others who are interested in applied research and innovation.

ARLO Facebook Page

ARLO Facebook Page

As with everything experimental, there are both successes and challenges. Some of my observations so far are:

Challenges:
- Getting members to sign up, and to stick around.
- Achieving the right mix of participants.
- Keeping the content fresh and appealing.
- Getting members of the community to interact with each other.
- Moving beyond the surface contact nature of Facebook.

Successes:
- Increased awareness of the ARLO office and what they do.
- Stimulated the creation of a student-led consulting group.
- Opened a two-way communication channel with the market in a medium they like.

Is Facebook the right medium to create this type of community? Only time will tell…

To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about collaborative innovation through online social networks, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

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