Category Archives: innovation

2014 Global Innovation Forum

“If you can’t move at the speed of culture, you’re in trouble.”

– Jeremy Abbett, Creative Evangelist at Google

The 2014 Global Innovation Forum gathered a stellar group of of innovative disruptors from organizations such as Google, Facebook, Pixar, IBM, eBay, Skype, Lego, Microsoft Ventures, Amazon Web Services, Pepsico, NASA, and so many more. With interesting speakers and workshops, the forum participants buzzed with idea sharing and best practices about how to break down barriers to change. A consistent theme among the speakers: find the “crazies” in your organization to lead change, by infusing disruptive thinking at all levels. Let’s call it: innovation insurrection, characterized by underground networks of colleagues poised to make change happen when opportunities present themselves for action – like (positive change) sleeper cells.

Tom Ellis of Brand Genetics @ Global Innovation Forum Chair of the forum, Tom Ellis of Brand Genetics, provided pithy insight on innovation trends, as well as trends offered by the speakers, such as “forward thinking requires disruption,” “change happens at the edges,” and “to move forward, we must let go of the past,” echoed later by Google’s Jeremy Abbett with this quote: 

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

– L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)

Trevor Davis of IBM talked about the profound effect of urbanization on innovation in the future, serving as a creative catalyst for new thinking. He showed a model for an innovation ecosystem supported by crowd funding, hacking/making, sharing/exploiting, and co-design; with for-profits trickling innovation up and not-for-profit trickling across. The future in his eyes is one of service composition – composition in the sense of music rather than the coding. He predicts the future as “libraries of things” that can be reconstituted into something new by anyone – with or without resources.

Highlight for me: learning about IBM’s Chef Watson (cognitive cooking) in a food truck at SxSW last March. Brilliant idea!!


The Watson computer first gobbled up domain knowledge of recipes, break through science in food pairing, and chef-brain algorithms, then took requests from hungry SxSW-ers. Super inventive way to explore (computer) culinary creativity by serving exotic cuisine on demand to delight the crowd. The image gallery makes me hungry.

Caleb's Kola

Another crazy creative idea: Caleb’s Kola. Manos Spanos from PepsiCo shared how they developed a craft beer-like product to reach the more health-conscious young adult market, created from sparkling water, fair trade cane sugar, and kola nut. The marketing focuses on the kola nut as the natural ingredient well-spring. Caleb, by the way, is the founder of PepsiCo. They’re rolling out the drink in selected restaurants in New York City to create the buzz. You can follow @CalebsKola on Twitter. Clever. Very clever!

Caleb's Kola: 2014 Global Innovation Forum

Manos shared that their small innovation team had to give up the Pepsi trademark in order to inspire a new generation of “kola” drinkers. His keys to making change happen: 1) finding the right internal sponsor, 2) recruiting crazy, passionate people, 3) convincing everyone that change takes time, and 4) stubborn persistence. It paid off, internally. Now, let’s watch Caleb’s Kola become a new brand – a bring within the brand.

Be Googley: 2014 Global Innovation Forum

Jeremy Abbett brought a fresh perspective to how we embrace tomorrow’s creativity and innovation. Forget selfies. “Dronies” [selfies via drone camera] is the next meme on the horizon. Now I want my own drone! He made a distinction between creativity and innovation: “Creativity is doing something new. Innovation is scaling something new.” He urged us to “be Googley” with Moon-shot (10x) thinking to accomplish bold goals for the future. “Technology comes and goes. It’s how we use it that’s so interesting.”  His advice: look at the future through the eyes of children…and iconic films.

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Google talk by Chris Shipton:  2014 Global Innovation Forum

Tony Christov shared the creative campus culture at Pixar – where employees receive allowances to decorate their offices. My want list keeps growing! Without an official decorating budget, my office decoration [quirky assortment of colorful inflatable aliens, retro robots, and homemade spaceship art] will have to keep me inspired. Tony talked about managing the artistic ego – a delicate balance of hubris and insecurity, as well as the need to provide an environment for creative play 24/7. My favorite quote from Tony echoes Ursula Le Guin [above]: “We never get old, we just get grey.” My version: I may be aging, but I’ll never EVER grow up.

Chris Shipton Visual Summary: 2014 Global Innovation Forum

Rob Newland of Facebook talked about reductive thinking and how all future products should be designed for mobile formats. For Facebook, the internet has unleashed a “meritocratic” environment, when anyone can make a name, or make a dollar, such as “Gangnam Style” video, which has received 2B views, 3 million new views each day – more than 15 years of video viewing for a single individual, and more time in viewing that it took to create wikipedia. Simple build-a-computer products coming out on the market, like Kano, will democratize coding and engineering.

Rob encouraged us to learn lessons from “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve provided the link to the transcript from her Ted Talk. Very thought-provoking, and so true: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Though he didn’t say this, I think Rob’s point is to know your audience. Many stories exist, and often we innovate for our own stories, because we think our story is every story.

I’ll wrap this up with advice for the future from Rick Eagar of Arthur D. Little:

  1. Exploit open source tools,
  2. Be part of the innovation community, and
  3. Make knowledge consumption a regular habit.

Chris Shipton Visual Summary: 2014 Global Innovation Forum

Thanks Global Innovation Forum 2014 for allowing me to join your innovation community. I met so many fellow disrupters. I look forward to what we disrupt together in the future! Here’s Chris Shipton‘s visual summary of my presentation.

Chris Shipton Visual Summary: 2014 Global Innovation Forum

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Filed under collaboration, innovation, NASA, technology

Space Apps 2014: It’s a Wrap!

Space Apps Go Beyond

The 2014 International Space Apps Challenge took place last weekend. Over 8000 humans in 95 locations around our planet joined together to leverage NASA data to solve global challenges. So many stories, so little time. Below is a collection of tweets that help characterize the international flavor and collective enthusiasm generated through NASA’s International Space Apps Challenges. Images tell the story better than words can.  I planned to only share five-ten images. Scroll down and you’ll see that I didn’t quite keep to that number.

Find yourselves in these images. I’ll bet you’re in one (or more) of them. 

Local hosts prepared for months to welcome participants: cool venues, name tags, goodies, tools, and hardware.

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Skopje

Space Apps Valencia

Space Apps Baltimore

Space Apps Certificates

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Sinaloa Cookies

Space Apps Toyko

Space Apps Nairobi

Space Apps fuel

Space Apps

We had Google hangouts and talks by space pioneers: astronaut Doug Wheelock from NYC, former astronaut Don Thomas in Baltimore, European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts Paolo Nespoli from Brazil and Luca Parmitano from Rome, and space tourist “astronaut” Mandla Maseko in Dakar, Senegal; Lome, Togo, and Pretoria, South Africa.

Space Apps Google hangout

Space Apps London

Space Apps Afronaut Talk

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps Rome

The participants formed teams around challenges in five mission priorities: asteroids, Earth watch, human spaceflight, robotics, and space technology. Teams created over 600 projects. The most popular challenges were: Where on Earth, Exomars Rover is My Robot, Asteroid Prospector, Space Wearables, Alert-Alert, Growing Food for A Martian Table, Cool It, and SpaceT

Space Apps Let Hacking Begin

Space Apps Bolivia

Space Apps Mexico City

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Porto Alegre, Brazil

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Bangalore

Space Apps Winnipeg

pace Apps Glasgow

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Brazil

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps London

Teams worked together to code software, build software, design mission profiles, and learn how to innovate in a collaborative environment. The solutions were creative, unique, and inspiring — all created in a compressed weekend of long days and short nights.

Space Apps Reno

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Paris

Space Apps Lome

Space Apps Chicago

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Cork

Space Apps Rover

Space Apps Kansas City: Yorbit app

Space Apps South Africa hardware

Space Apps Exeter

Space Apps Nigeria

Space Apps Toronto hardware

Space Apps Lego

And, my personal favorite….

Space Apps Bolivia

Some of the locations took some time to look up into the skies. And that’s what space is all about, after all. Looking beyond the horizon and wondering, what if….

Space Apps Pittsburgh

Space Apps London

Space Apps Cyprus

Space Apps London

Space Apps Bordeaux

Space Apps Chile

Teams have to pitch their projects to local judges on the final day. Two of the local winners can go forward from each location to global judging, as well as a People’s Choice nominee.

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Benin

Space Apps South Africa

Here are some of the winning teams.

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Goldcoast

At Space Apps Toronto, I had the privilege of serving as a judge. What an incredible experience.

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Who can resist a Judges Selfie???

Space Apps Toronto Judges Selfie

And, it’s a WRAP!

Space Apps Toronto: It's a Wrap

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.12.26 PM

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps London

What overflows my heart is NASA’s boundLESSness — beyond borders and cultures. When NASA calls, global citizens, of all walks of life, answer. What an amazing thing to behold! I’m humbled by the opportunity and privilege to serve the public through programs like Space Apps.

Thank you ALL for an OUT-of-this-WORLD experience!!

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Filed under Africa, collaboration, Earth, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

LAUNCH: Practice of Knowledge-Creation

Tangled fibers represent threads of future knowledge.

Tangled fibers represent threads of new knowledge-in-the-making.

I’ve been digging into a practice-based approach for my research on how innovation (new knowledge-creation) emerges from collaboration. I’m defining practice as collective action, transaction, and interaction.  From this viewpoint, knowledge is created in the context of interactive participation – the practice of activity. I’ll call it: “Social Ecology of Knowing through Collaborative Innovation Practices,” at least for now.

From a scholarly perspective, a practice-based approach offers a new epistemology where the “world appears to be relationally constituted, as a seamless web of heterogeneous elements kept together and perpetuated by active processes of ordering and sense making” (Nicolini, Gheranrdi, Yanow 2003: 27).

In other words, the practice of collaboration represents infinite opportunities to innovate our thinking. Interactive collaborative processes create new outcomes, new practices, new relationships, as well as new ways to approach the relationships, practices, and outcomes  – as we’ve experienced with LAUNCH.  Though, not all collaborative undertakings have positive outcomes. New knowledge creation isn’t necessarily pretty. The practice of strategy renewal and technological innovation is most often in response to uncertainty, stagnation, tension, disruption, conflict. Let’s face it. We get creative when we can’t get where we want to go. If someone or something stands in the way, we get busy figuring a way around, under, over, or through our barrier. Collectively, we have so many more options available than we do alone, as we’ve learned through the LAUNCH experience.

LAUNCH has become an innovative knowledge-creation community of practice – the Collective Genius for a Better World.

Our LAUNCH team came together to collaboratively search for game-changing sustainability solutions for life on and off our planet. What we discovered along the way was that the innovations weren’t the only outcome. The collective genius of the folks we brought together to solve these problems – the LAUNCH team, LAUNCH council, and LAUNCH innovators – was an innovation itself, along with the LAUNCH processes we created to search and select the LAUNCH innovators.

We discovered, in the “practice” of LAUNCH, that the world of innovation is always in the making.

Innovation emerges from the broken pieces of what was once status quo. At the impasse, we devise new ways forward. The key: allow ourselves to embrace the brokenness, approach it with fresh eyes and unexpected voices, and engage in bricolage – the making do with available material, mental, social, and cultural resources.

In the confusion, new clarity is born.

In Broken Images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting in his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Robert Graves


Davide Nicolini, Silvia Gheranrdi, Dvora Yanow. Knowing in Organizations: A Practice-Based Approach.  Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2003.

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LAUNCH Goes International: Nordic Innovation Challenge

Five years and five innovation challenges into our LAUNCH innovation experiment, and we’ve finally gone international. The LAUNCH Nordic innovation cycle kicked off February 2014 in Copenhagen with a Big Think, followed by a Summit this month.

LAUNCH Nordic Big Think

LAUNCH Nordic Big Think

We’ve been working on a LAUNCH Affiliate concept for the last two years. The Nike LAUNCH team led the effort to move this concept forward in the international context. Awesome!

Nike LAUNCH team at LAUNCH Nordic

US LAUNCH team at LAUNCH Nordic

LAUNCH Nordic: NASA's Diane Powell second from left

LAUNCH Nordic: NASA’s Diane Powell second from left

LAUNCH Nordic seeks to unite Nordic  industry leaders and regional innovators to identify and scale sustainable innovations in materials. We’re SO thrilled to see the LAUNCH model applied to other regions around the world. The Nordic region is only the first. We hope to see other cities, countries, and/or regions to step forward to apply this model.

LAUNCH Nordic Challenge

The Nordic Challenge is now open through June 1, 2014. The challenge is focusing on innovations within the following areas:

  1. Closed Loop Solutions and Design for Disassembly,
  2. Cleaner Manufacturing and Green Chemistry,
  3. Sustainability Investments and Procurement, and
  4. End-user Engagement.

You can apply for the challenge here.

This is our first time to have two challenges open in a concurrent process. Right now, the US LAUNCH team is in the process of moving forward the Green Chemistry Challenge. We held the Green Challenge Big Think in DC during the same week of the LAUNCH Nordic Summit.

LAUNCH Green Chemistry Big Think

LAUNCH Green Chemistry Big Think

As we move forward, I see a future where we have multiple LAUNCH Affiliate cycles around the world at the same time. Imagine what a difference we can make? You can apply to organize your own LAUNCH, or offer your time and talents to the LAUNCH Collective Genius to support the innovators selected through LAUNCH. Join us!

LAUNCH: Get involved!

LAUNCH: Get involved!

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Filed under innovation, LAUNCH, technology

White House Climate Data Initiative

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Yesterday I had the privilege to take part in the White House Climate Data Initiative Launch event — which culminates months of collaboration with the White House, NASA, GSA, and other federal agencies to create the new website. NASA is leading the curation of federal data sets and tools that will reside on the site for use by citizens, communities, municipalities, organizations, industry, and scientists and technologists to gather insights and make informed decisions about climate resilience. We’ve only just begun the collection of datasets and tools, but this site offers a data watering hole for users to engage and act. The site also features four climate-related International Space Apps Challenges that global solvers can gather together to address April 12-13 at nearly 100 locations around the globe.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Bina Venkataraman and Brian Forde of the White House organized the Climate Data Initiative events. I participated in one of the two workshops preceding the press event. Leaders from citizen organizations, city government, federal and state agencies, and data innovators shared cutting edge tools, and discussed climate-related challenges facing cities, business, and the public. Coastal hazards from sea-level rise is a rallying point to gather data-driven insights and tools to equip decision-makers — who come in many shapes and sizes, from home owners to business owners to city/state/federal leaders.

We heard from Denice Ross, Director of Enterprise Information at the City of New Orleans who discussed the challenge of brittle data supply chains and the pathological complexity of decision-making at the local level. Innovation is a far reach, but optimization is the more reasonable goal for local government. She called for mobile damage assessment tools that can operate in disconnect mode — not only for disaster environments, but for poverty-stricken areas where cell or wifi connections aren’t an option. Sara Wu, Climate Planning and Policy Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia, discussed their need for insights into extreme heat/precipitation to plan for at-risk communities, along with life cycle costs for real estate planning. Their city is working to create a one-stop climate data shop, but implementation of innovative data assessment tools may be more aspirational that realistic. Katherine Greig, Senior Policy Advisor for New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, discussed their need for hyper-local data — such as the depth of basements and height of ground level floors. They are looking for resilience in design standards and consistent planning models. Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Partnerships Advisor for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network in DC discussed the lack of data use in decision-making, and the need for concrete examples of creative use cases.

The workshop featured existing tools and data, including the new Google Earth Engine tool; ESRI, geo-spatial data and map-based resilience tools; InaSAFE, a plug-in open street map tool to simulate disaster effects, Microsoft’s FetchClimate tool, NOAA’s earth data, and more.

Microsoft's FetchClimate Tool

Microsoft’s FetchClimate Tool

Google Earth Engine

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Thanks Second Muse for designing the workshop. You guys are awesome, as always!! Now the real work begins. We need to figure out how to set free all available data and tools (and create new ones) to equip our decision-makers to make decisions for the future — in the face of certain uncertainty.

White House Climate Data Initiative

Here’s what we have at stake: our very own blue marble. The only human-friendly planet we’ve found…so far.

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

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Filed under data, environment, federal government, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

Thoughts on Collaborative Innovation

Here are the charts I presented at the American Leaders 2014 Open Innovation Conference in Baltimore.

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Filed under collaboration, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

INaction Heroes for Girls?

beth beck:

I can’t stop playing this new GoldieBlox video featuring toys for girls. All I can say is: it’s ABOUT TIME!!

The goal of GoldieBlox is to build games that inspire future female engineers. Here’s what their website states:

“At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building. We’re here to help level the playing field in every sense of the phrase. By tapping into girls’ strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spatial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys’ toys”. By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, we aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.

We believe there are a million girls out there who are engineers. They just might not know it yet. We think GoldieBlox can show them the way.”

All you who are looking for gifts for girls this holiday season, look no further!

Originally posted on Bethbeck's Blog:

In the mid-1990s, I accompanied a small team from NASA to the New York City Toy Fair to explore ways to shape NASA’s brand through product licensing. The delegation included NASA’s current Deputy, Lori Garver, who was the head of NASA’s Policy and Plans at that time. (The old Code Z, Land of Misfit Toys…for those of you around NASA at that time.)

On the trip, Lori posed this question:

“Why doesn’t NASA have more female executives?”

We’ll get back to that question later.

We met with brand management and licencing experts, and toured the toy fair. My first time at this event, I was surprised to discover the toys were separated by gender: toys for girls on one side, toys for boys on the other.

Toys for Girls: Wall-to-wall dolls. Barbie dolls. Big dolls. Little dolls. Doll accessories. Our host was quick to point out the new features for…

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