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innovation DAILY

Here we highlight selected innovation related articles from around the world on a daily basis.  These articles related to innovation and funding for innovative companies, and best practices for innovation based economic development.

It's now a little over 6 months into 2010, so a good time to reflect on the highlights of the year so far. At the beginning of the year, we identified some key trends to track: (in alphabetical order) Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, Mobile, Real-Time Web, Structured Data.

Mobile and Real-Time Web have been particularly eventful in 2010, as you'll see below. Augmented Reality and Internet of Things are both early stage trends, but have continued to edge towards the mainstream this year. The movement towards Structured Data has made significant progress in 2010, primarily thanks to RDFa and the adoption of that Semantic Web format by Facebook, Google and other big companies.

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How much money do you put away each month toward retirement? Maybe you sock away all you can, already dreaming of that Florida condo. Or maybe you can’t even imagine where you’ll be then, what you’ll want to use the money for, even what you’ll be like: when you think about yourself far in the future, it’s almost like thinking about someone else. A growing body of work suggests that the more you feel your future self is really you, the more you’ll put in his or her—whoops, your—bank account.

When making decisions, we often treat our future self the way we would treat another person, found a study in 2008 by Princeton psychologist Emily Pronin. People in the study often shied away from doing something helpful but unpleasant when they had to do it right at that moment. But when their help was needed a few months or a year down the line, they were more likely to sign up—just as likely as they were to suggest that someone else should help out.

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Everybody knows that men and women think differently in a lot of ways. But do those differences matter when it comes to working remotely and managing remote teams? According to Sally Helgesen, it matters a lot. Managers who don’t appreciate those distances can do themselves, their companies and those employees a great disservice.

Sally is the author of “The Female-Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work”. She cites scientific studies that show how a woman’s brain functions in different ways than a man’s.  How they differ is important, particularly for managers who might not be aware of these conflicting world views or assign value to behaviors that don’t get the desired results.

According to Helgesen, one major difference is that women tend to be highly skilled multitaskers, while men are able to concentrate on one thing for more concentrated periods. Neuroscientific research confirms this, and women often take pride in their ability to handle a ton of things at once. This is a plus and a minus, for women and for those who manage them.

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girlboredentrepreneur.jpgThe lack of female entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley has been a hot topic recently.

The New York Times reports that, although around 40% of private companies in the US are owned by women, there is still a significant lack of female entrepreneurship in the tech sector -- only 8% of American venture-backed tech startups are founded by female CEOs.

Cyan Banister can attest to these stats out of her own personal experience. During her 4-year tenure as an investor in the Valley, so few female entrepreneurs have approached her that she can count all of them on one hand.

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corporate social responsibility csr best practicesIn today’s competitive market, companies that incorporate social and green policies can leave a lasting impression on the consumer. As Sofia Ribeiro pointed out in her post Using Community Involvement as Part of Your Green Marketing and CSR Strategy, a Cone Inc. survey revealed that 83% of people will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible. With this in mind, how do companies go about communicating their best initiatives?

Recently, Perry Goldschein took the podium at Sustainable Brands 2010 to talk about the seven best practices of corporate social responsibility (CSR). As the founding partner of SDialogue LLC, a strategic sustainability communications firm, Perry provided insights on how to engage your consumers and stakeholders. Follow this recap with CSR’s Seven Best Practices to learn how to put your organization’s best social and environmental practices in the spotlight:

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Talk, talk, talk—but the White House is pushing appliance makers and technology companies for a Kumbaya moment

It takes time to hammer out an agreement, but progress is occurring.

That's the word from John McDonald, the general manager of the transmission and distribution business at General Electric and the chair of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel Governing Board at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Last September, NIST announced plans to establish 77 smart grid standards over the next few years and finalize 14 priority standards in 2010 alone. A few months later, the number of standards to be set for 2010 jumped to 16, including a standard for communication protocols for household appliances. Setting that many standards in a relatively short time is unprecedented in the technology world: often it can take several years -- and the opinion of the marketplace -- to achieve even one standard.

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You Need an Innovation ProstheticAn innovation tool is a cognitive prosthetic that helps individuals and groups overcome their human limitations to innovate more capably. Just as an artificial limb or hearing aid compensates and augments a missing or impaired part of the body, a thinking tool does the same – it compensates and augments for a variety of cognitive deficiencies in all humans.

Yet there is an aversion to using a structured tool to be creative:

  • The Arts: Musicians, poets, and graphic artists shun the idea of using a standard tool or template because it makes them appear less creative to their fans and the public. But consider Paul McCartney who sold more albums in the U.S. than anyone. In his biography, he confided: “As usual, for these co-written things, John often had just the first verse, which was always enough: it was the direction, it was the signpost and it was the inspiration for the whole song. I hate the word but it was the template.” Listen carefully to artist, Jackson Pollock, describe his approach:
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http://www.socalrangecomplexeis.com/images/northern-right-whale.jpgJust like people in a bar or other noisy location, North American right whales increase the volume of their calls as environmental noise increases; and just like humans, at a certain point, it may become too costly to continue to shout, according to marine and acoustic scientists.

“The impacts of increases in ocean noise from human activities are a concern for the conservation of marine animals like right whales,” said Susan Parks, assistant professor of acoustics and research associate, Applied Research Laboratory, Penn State. “The ability to change vocalizations to compensate for environmental noise is critical for successful communication in an increasingly noisy ocean.”

Right whales are large baleen whales that often approach close to shore. They may have been given the name because they were the right whales to hunt as they are rich in blubber, slow swimming and remain afloat after death. Consequently, whalers nearly hunted these whales to extinction. Currently right whales are monitored to determine the health and size of the population. The northern and southern right whales are on the endangered species list.

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In the era of Skype, web conferencing tools and collaboration software conventional wisdom says that distributed startup teams can be just as effective as those that are in person.

Conventional wisdom is wrong. Or more precisely the people espousing the benefits of distributed startups teams are often distributed and therefore self rationalizing it. Been there.

The reality is that a certain magic that happens when you’re in person is critical in a startup. You attend five customer meetings together over a two-week period and after each meeting you replay the results in the office about what it meant. The CEO weighs in with his perspectives, the head of product management disputes his conclusions and the marketing VP has a different take.

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IF THE private sector continues to save hard even as governments try to borrow less, the risks of a double-dip recession rise. A long period of high household saving seems assured in rich countries whose consumers lived off credit and have heavy debt burdens to show for it. But much of the recent increase in private-sector savings comes not from consumers but from businesses. Profits have been more than enough to cover corporate spending in many parts of the rich world, leaving an excess of funds for firms to squirrel away. A lot depends on whether this continues.

If cautious firms pile up more savings, the prospects for recovery are poor. Economies will be stuck in the current—and odd—configuration where corporate surpluses fund government deficits. If firms loosen their purse-strings to hire workers and to invest, that will allow governments to scale back their borrowing.

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Business-plan competitions have fostered a "contest economy" that promotes start-up activity and much-needed innovation.

Puneet Mehta, Archana Patchirajan, and Sonpreet Bhatia all had lucrative day jobs as technologists at big Wall Street firms when they learned about the NYC BigApps competition last October. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was calling on software developers to create mobile apps based on newly released city data. The two-month deadline gave the three Indian-born developers the incentive to build out an idea they had only talked about before. After 40 days, they had a one-stop application called NYC Way, which puts a compendium of city information at users' fingertips.

Their efforts were rewarded with $5,500 in cash prizes, a meeting with the mayor, and an overwhelmingly positive public reception for their product, which has become a popular download through Apple's App Store. Encouraged, the three partners quit their jobs and co-founded a business called MyCityWay, which now markets similar apps for seven additional cities and multiple platforms, earning revenue through partnerships. In April, the company received $300,000 in seed money from the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund, a new city fund set up to invest in start-ups. The company expects to make its first hires this summer.

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CODE OF ETHICS Two California colleges will analyze student DNA in new controversial projects. Heated debate surrounds the ethics of the universities' decisions to analyze student DNA

This week, the University of California, Berkeley will mail saliva sample kits to every incoming freshman and transfer student. Students can choose to use the kits to submit their DNA for genetic analysis, as part of an orientation program on the topic of personalized medicine. But U.C. Berkeley isn't the only university offering its students genetic testing. Stanford University's summer session started two weeks ago, including a class on personal genomics that gives medical and graduate students the chance to sequence their genotypes and study the results.

The idea behind the two novel projects is that students will learn about optimizing treatment based on one's genetic profile most effectively if they are studying their own DNA—an idea that has met with both praise for educational innovation and criticism centering on potential ethical issues.

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