TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 27

1. A reimagined NATO – with rapid response capability – could balance the Putin doctrine.

By David Francis in Foreign Policy

2. Hold the bucket: Focusing on a single disease isn’t a good use of philanthropy dollars.

By Felix Salmon in Slate

3. The Navy’s audacious plan for a new warfighting vessel was too good to be true. The result is a ship that meets none of our needs well. Cancel the Littoral Combat Ship.

By William D. Hartung and Jacob Marx at the Center for International Policy

4. The conventional wisdom is that social media stimulates debate, but self-censorship online actually leads to a ‘spiral of silence.’

By Keith Hampton, Lee Rainie, Weixu Lu, Maria Dwyer, Inyoung Shin and Kristen Purcell at the Pew Research Internet Project

5. Better living through design: Injectable, long-acting birth control will revolutionize family planning in the developing world.

By Heather Hansman in Pacific Standard

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Here’s Why It’s Not All About Your Personal Success

Companies must adapt to see themselves as units within a bigger system

bif10-600-sq-info

This is one of a 10-article series of conversations with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18.

Keith Yamashita vividly remembers one smoggy school day from when he was eight years old. He and fellow classmates at the local elementary school in Santa Ana, California, spent their recess corralled in the indoor gymnasium to watch a movie.

“That film stuck with me for the rest of my life” Yamashita later recalled while sharing a tale of personal transformation onstage at the Collaborative Innovation Summit, a storytelling event hosted annually by the nonprofit Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence, RI.

The 9-minute film, “Powers of Ten” by Charles and Ray Eames, begins with an overhead view of a couple lounging on top of a checkered picnic blanket in a park. The camera zooms out and appears to rise into the atmosphere, marking off the distance from the picnic blanket in powers of ten, until it is far outside our galaxy. Then it zooms back in, ending at the atoms in the husband’s hand.

“Up to that point,” he said, “I had no idea that anything existed beyond my house and school, existed outside of what I knew.”

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Yamashita is the chairman of SYPartners, a fast-paced consultancy whose work has realigned the visions of numerous corporate titans.

SYPartners encouraged Nike to make a greater commitment to corporate responsibility. General Electric, a company with a 20-year track record of acquisitions, was helped to welcome internal growth. That SYPartners took Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on a field trip, visiting artisanal businesses and food shops to rethink the meaning of connoisseurship, remains an industry legend. Shortly after, Starbucks closed all of its U.S. locations for a day to retrain its staff.

“Companies that get the most stuck are often ones that have been very successful at doing something,” Yamashita observes. “It’s always easier to perpetuate what is, rather than to invent the new.”

In his talk at the BIF Summit, Yamashita used the Eames film to demonstrate the importance of collaborative perspective. From different viewpoints, the sun may be a mere pinpoint, while a proton may be a critical force.

It is no longer enough to aim for personal success, Yamashita tells his clients. Companies must adapt to see themselves as units within a bigger system; they must collaborate while being able to articulate what unique part they play.

Yamashita started his career at Apple, as Steve Jobs’ writer. “My job was to get on paper the things that were floating around in Steve’s mind,” says Yamashita. He credits Jobs to teaching him his first lesson on business innovation: “the power of galvanizing vision. Steve had this wonderful capability of permitting himself to see what the rest of the world did not yet see, and holding steadfast to that as a compass.”

Keith Yamashita founded SYPartners with Apple’s former creative director Robert Stone. The firm, headquartered in a sunny loft in San Francisco’s warehouse district, boasts an eclectic team of strategists — “designers and technologists, poets and MBAs.” They navigate their practice through a compass of innovation, devised from their collective experience. The compass has the following points: “See, Believe, Think, Act.”

“What we permit ourselves to see affects and challenges what we believe, which changes what we’re willing to think about,” Yamashita explains. Consequently, “what we’re willing to think about builds confidence and courage to take action.”

To Yamashita, “the process of innovation is going around that circle dozens of times to come up with something that disrupts and that’s valuable.” He adds, “They’re super simple words, but the practice of it goes deep.”

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Though Yamashita spoke to a rapt audience at BIF’s Collaborative Innovation Summit, he claims his most meaningful experience there did not come from sharing his vision, but from sharing the visions of others.

“I remember eating lunch with three remarkable individuals — BIF storytellers” he says. Their table started a “round-robin conversation,” letting each person forecast the future of their industry.

Yamashita recalls that Carmen Medina, a former director within the CIA, predicted, that “in several years, open systems will be closed systems.”

Another luncher, Ben Berkowitz, founder of SeeClickFix, an app that enables citizens to report community problems to the local government, anticipated “an increase of people mobilizing not through structure or hierarchy, but by the will to contribute on their own terms.”

To the right of him sat Fast Company founder Alan Webber, (“my life-long mentor,” says Yamashita), who stressed the idea that our most pressing problems cannot be solved without better integration of government, business resources and public initiative.

“Over the past four years, all of those predictions have turned out to be true,” says Yamashita. “To me, that’s such an emblem of what the BIF Summit is about — convening with others to be able to see things that none of us could see on our own. I’m thrilled be to able to go BIF10 this year.”

The BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit combines 30 brilliant storytellers with more than 400 innovation junkies in a two-day storytelling jam, featuring tales of personal discovery and transformation that spark real connection and “random collisions of unusual suspects.”

Saul Kaplan is the author of The Business Model Innovation Factory. He is the founder and chief catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence and blogs regularly at It’s Saul Connected. Follow him on Twitter at @skap5. Nicha Ratana is a senior pursuing a degree in English Nonfiction Writing at Brown University and an intern at The Business Innovation Factory. Follow her on Twitter at @nicharatana.

 

TIME Innovation

Ralph Lauren Debuts Biometric Shirts at the U.S. Open

Fashion-Wearable Tech
Ralph Lauren's new garment offers smart technology to send heartbeat, respiration, stress levels and other data to tablets and smartphones AP

But don't get excited. You won't be able to buy them until early 2015

Fashion guru Ralph Lauren has sought to morph fashionable sportswear into wearable technology with the launch of the Polo Tech smart shirt, which is being worn by some ball boys at this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament.

The compression garment comes with technology from a Canadian firm, OMsignal, that feeds detailed information about a wearer’s heart rate, breathing, activity and so on directly to a smartphone or tablet.

Silver-yarn-based sensors gauge athletic performance by measuring the expansion and compression of the wearer’s chest along with electrical changes associated with heart rate. The information is collected in a small black-box-type recorder, which can be removed when the garment needs to be thrown into the washing machine.

While the Polo Tech shirt is making a splash at the U.S. Open, the public won’t be able to purchase it until the spring.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 26

1. “This is a reflection of long-standing and growing inequalities of access to basic systems of healthcare delivery.” –Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer on the Ebola outbreak.

By Democracy Now!

2. Despite commitments to the contrary, elite colleges are still failing to bring poorer students into the fold.

By Richard Pérez-Peña in the New York Times

3. #ISISMediaBlackout: Tuning out Islamist rhetoric and taking out their powerful propaganda weapon.

By Nancy Messieh at the Atlantic Council

4. What makes income inequality so pernicious? The shocking odds against moving up the income ladder for some Americans.

By Richard Reeves at the Brookings Institution

5. The specter of Iraq’s looming collapse is inflaming concerns about Afghanistan’s electoral crisis. But the two countries are very different.

By The Editors of Bloomberg View

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Physics

Supersonic Submarines Just Took One Step Closer to Reality

That would make San Francisco to Shanghai in two hours a possibility

Chinese scientists say there could one day be a high-tech submarine that crosses the Pacific Ocean in less time than it takes to watch a movie, the South China Morning Post reports.

Researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology, in northeast China, have made dramatic improvements to a Soviet-era military technology called supercavitation that allows submersibles to travel at high speeds, the Post says.

Supercavitation envelops a submerged vessel inside an air bubble to minimize friction. It enabled the Russian Shakval torpedo to reach speeds of 230 m.p.h. — but theoretically, a supercavitated vessel, given sufficient power at launch, could reach the speed of sound (some 3,603 m.p.h.). That would mean crossing the 6,000-odd miles from San Francisco to Shanghai in just two hours.

One of the problems of supercavitation has been how to steer a vessel at such speeds. The Harbin scientists say they could have the answer.

According to the Post, they’ve developed a way of allowing a supercavitated vessel to shower itself with liquid while traveling inside its own air bubble. The liquid creates a membrane on the surface of the vessel, and by manipulating this membrane, the degree of friction applied to different areas of the vessel could be controlled, which would enable steering.

“We are very excited by its potential,” said Li Fengchen, professor of fluid machinery and engineering at the Harbin Institute’s complex flow and heat transfer lab. “By combining liquid-membrane technology with supercavitation, we can significantly reduce the launch challenges and make cruising control easier,” he told the Post.

Li stressed, however, that many technical problems needed to be solved before supersonic submarine travel could take place.

[SCMP]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 25

1. Slavery’s long shadow is inextricably linked to modern income inequality in the south.

By Stephen Mihm in the Boston Globe

2. Superdistricts in the House of Representatives could end the tyranny of incumbency in Congress.

By Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post

3. Yelp the Police: Georgia teens build an app to rate law enforcement interactions.

By Rebecca Borison in Business Insider

4. The new Egyptian government’s policies of repression and exclusion could push citizens into the arms of extremist groups.

By Michele Dunn and Scott Williamson at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

5. Transforming oil and gas rigs into artificial reefs could save the delicate ecosystems formed around the structures.

By Amber Jackson in Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

3 Simple Words to Revolutionize the World

Stephanie Alvarez Ewens

A business philosophy as old-school as it gets

bif10-600-sq-info

This is one of a 10-article series of conversations with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18

How many people end business meetings with an “I love you” and a hug? Venture capitalist and former AT&T Labs scientist Deb Mills-Scofield does.

To Mills-Scofield, to do business is to negotiate diverse personalities to get things done — and she has the gift for it. “The broader, deeper, and more diverse your network, the bigger the impact you can make on the world,” she says.

She explains her network this way: Her consultancy, Mills-Scofield LLC, is her livelihood and passion; venture capital firm, Glengary, where she is a partner, is her way of giving back. She helps entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground by connecting them with clients and collaborators who are hungry for innovation. Furthermore, she mentors a small army of students at her alma mater, Brown University, introducing them to opportunities where they can help “kick things up a bit.”

Each connection Mills-Scofield makes is an iteration of her business philosophy, which is as old-school as it gets: she believes, simply, in “paying it forward.”

“Your network is not about you. A network is to be shared,” she maintains. “Networking is about people: seeing what makes them tick, and connecting them to someone to help them.”

She admits to being selective in networking, but her criterion is humble: “I only help people who are willing to help others.”

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Mills-Scofield grew up in Rumson, NJ. She and her sister attended public school, but every Tuesday, her mother took them into Manhattan to visit the museums. The girls were also encouraged to take another day off every week — to stay home and play.

“Right from the get-go,” Mills-Scofield says, “my model for education was that it is a personal responsibility.”

At Brown, she created one of the country’s first undergraduate majors in cognitive science. She went on to work for Bell Labs, where she was responsible for engineering the most lucrative messaging-system patent in the history of AT&T Lucent.

Long before corporate America started to sloganeer its rebellion, before “Work is Personal” and “All Business is Social,” Deb Mills-Scofield did business the only way that made sense to her — with curiosity and compassion. She called herself a “troublemaker.”

“Part of what I bring when I’m consulting is the fact that I care about you as a person, and not as your function,” she says.

In conversation, Mills-Scofield asserts a motherly kind of authority. She is frank but affectionate; she genuinely asks after your family. She doesn’t miss anything.

Her consultancy helps companies humanize their practice. “Any business that wants a return on investment needs to focus on how it impacts its community,” she says.

Mills-Scofield urges CEOs to put themselves in their customer’s shoes. “Have you ever tried to buy from yourself? Have you ever called your own customer service line?” she asks them. She teaches leaders to trust their employees’ desire to learn and create. “Treat them like adults!” she insists. “Give them the autonomy to innovate.”

Fundamentally, she believes that management’s job is to exercise “stewardship” over the organization, not control. “Business strategy is a living, breathing thing,” Mills-Scofield claims, “It’s not a plaque on a shelf, which is where most companies have gone wrong.”

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When Mills-Scofield visits the Brown campus in the fall, she will hold her “office hours” in the cozy kitchen of the student community service center. Over the years, the guidance she has offered her “kids,” as she calls them, has made her a household name within the institution.

This September, she looks forward to introducing her mentees to one of the greatest resources within her network: the Collaborative Innovation Summit hosted annually by the nonprofit Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence, RI.

In 2009, Mills-Scofield connected with Saul Kaplan, BIF’s founder, to encourage a student’s interest in local business innovation. She and Kaplan struck up a friendship, founded on their belief in the better nature of business, and he invited her to speak at the BIF Summit.

“We desperately need to see real examples of world-changing innovation and the “ordinary” people who come together to create it,” Mills-Scofield says.

“I call the BIF Summit a ‘wedding.’ It is better than any other conference at creating connections among strangers at a profoundly human level, because it provides the space — physical, emotional, and intellectual — for you to challenge yourself to think differently, surrounded by other people who are willing to take the risk with you.”

“I came to the BIF-6 Summit, and my network has never been the same since,” she says. “It’s a gift. I’ve been to every one and I can’t wait to go to BIF10.”

The BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit combines 30 brilliant storytellers with more than 400 innovation junkies in a two-day storytelling jam, featuring tales of personal discovery and transformation that spark real connection and “random collisions of unusual suspects.”

Saul Kaplan is the author of The Business Model Innovation Factory. He is the founder and chief catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence and blogs regularly at It’s Saul Connected. Follow him on Twitter at @skap5. Nicha Ratana is a senior pursuing a degree in English Nonfiction Writing at Brown University and an intern at The Business Innovation Factory. Follow her on Twitter at @nicharatana.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 22

1. A stacked deck: reform the modern fee-based system of criminal justice that has pushed poor communities to the brink.

By Alex Tabarrok in Marginal Revolution

2. Real political change in Iraq – and a strong regional partnership – is the only way to defeat ISIS.

By Michael Breen in US News and World Report

3. To avoid the next Ferguson and address the nation’s systemic racism, America needs black leaders to take a stand together.

By Bob Herbert in Jacobin

4. With their educations on the line, smartphones for teenagers are a critical tool for success.

By John Doerr in the Wall Street Journal

5. To solve the riddle of women turning to extremist violence, we must address the security issues that deeply impact their lives.

By Jane Harman in CNN

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Oculix, Netflix’s Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Demo, Looks Pretty Boring

Virtual reality interfaces should be more than clumsy-looking design transplants.

It’s a little discouraging watching Netflix’s Oculus Rift demo (a so-called hack it’s calling “Oculix”), the one where the screen pans through a black void in which the observer finds her- or himself circled by show portals.

Imagine iOS wrapped around your head like a towel: a vortex of lights, or a sheath of video boxes. (For some reason, it made me think of the Senate chamber in the Star Wars prequels with its movable hover-platforms.)

Pick a channel by waving your hands in the air (using LeapMotion’s gesture sensor) and you can stream movies or TV shows through Oculus’s head-mounted contraption direct to your eyeballs.

This isn’t what’s interesting about virtual reality to me. We’ve placed movies up close to our faces for decades, be that on giant screens or via glasses with special LCD displays designed to confound our sense of scale. But what’s so different about sitting in a comfortable movie theater (or for that matter, an Omnimax wraparound dome) looking at screens dozens of feet tall and wide, compared with watching video at home through a glorified, full-motion View Master?

Home convenience, there’s that, though I’d argue there’s little convenient about clapping hardware as unwieldy as World War I gas masks on our heads, then leashing ourselves to stationary servers with clumsy cables.

I’m less put off by the ungainliness of Oculus Rift (and Project Morpheus, and every other attempt to revive the buzz-concept “virtual reality” lately) than I am by the lack of imagination in these hacked-together interfaces, whereby a company takes the most obvious and mundane approach toward exhibiting the potential VR lays at its doorstep. Strap on Oculus Rift and you can watch Netflix videos up close to your face! Wave your hands in the air like Tom Cruise in Minority Report and take two or three times as long to do what takes everyone else microseconds with a remote or on a touch-based tablet!

To be fair, it is just a hack, and in a statement Netflix noted that it “may never become part of the Netflix product, internal infrastructure, or otherwise be used beyond [Netflix] Hack Day.” In other words, it’s just for fun, not even rising to the level “proof of concept.” This isn’t Netflix trying to sell you on either its stake in VR or the Oculus Rift headset itself.

I’m just surprised by its obviousness. If you’re going to hack Netflix into VR, why not do something no one’s seen before? Imagine, for instance, summoning a movie like The Matrix, only going into the extras and bringing up the making-of clips, then having the option to pan around virtual versions of the “bullet time” sets to see for yourself how that went down. You could be Keanu Reeves (or see what he’d be seeing) as he falls back limbo-like, his arms splaying, or you could be the circle of cameras themselves, wheeling around the actor’s frame at different velocities and elevations. Imagine reassembling a scene to create your own version of events, playing the role of virtual director with godlike visual command of the landscape.

Netflix is a viewing environment, an interface to conjure videos on demand, a kind of “visual carrier.” If we’re about to experience the visual paradigm shift everyone keeps telling us VR amounts to, it has a much bigger role to play in shaping what it means to stream a video in a virtual environment. To me, it at least means more than forklifting a bunch of screens into a wraparound environment, just because enveloping yourself in a cone of colors looks cool.

My hat’s off to the programmers who took the time to build the Oculix demo. I certainly couldn’t have done it. But next time, why not show us VR that feels like a compelling reason to use VR, and not just lights in a box on your face.

TIME apps

Good Idea: Dock a Tiny Netflix Window in Your Browser While You Work

Behold Netflix Mini in all its glory.

The idea was spawned from one of Netflix’s hack days. That’s the bad news: Netflix Mini is still just an idea at this point.

It would ostensibly be an extension for Google’s Chrome web browser that would dock a tiny window in the lower-right corner, allowing you to work on whatever you’re working on while catching up on whatever show you’re binge-watching. A similar extension called PIP Video already exists, but I couldn’t get it working with Netflix videos. YouTube videos worked fine, however.

While Netflix Mini may or may not become real someday, can we all agree that it probably should? Yes? Handshake?

Check out Netflix’s writeup of its summer hack day for other ideas that were presented.

[Geek.com]

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