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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.

Yesterday I wrote about how to talk to investors about your competitors.  In short, acknowledge they exist, be transparent about strengths & weaknesses and use your differences to talk about how you want to position yourself in the market.

But more important than how you talk about them, how should you actually treat your competitors?

Conventional wisdom in most companies is that “the competition is the enemy” – it’s the rallying cry to dig deeper, get more features out the door, issue press releases citing differences and attack the competition’s weaknesses in sales presentations.  I understand this instinct – it’s tribal, like rooting for sports teams.  And there are actually some benefits to having something that galvanizes your team.


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BOULDER–Clues to future climate may be found in the way that an ordinary drinking glass shatters.

A study appearing this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that microscopic particles of dust, emitted into the atmosphere when dirt breaks apart, follow similar fragment patterns as broken glass and other brittle objects. The research, by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jasper Kok, suggests there are several times more dust particles in the atmosphere than previously believed, since shattered dirt appears to produce an unexpectedly high number of large dust fragments.

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For some great leadership advice, see “Leadership Lessons of the White House Fellows: Learn How to Inspire Others, Achieve Greatness, and Find Success in Any Organization”, by Charles P. Garcia. He says, “Too often businesses assume that offering more money is the only way to motivate employees. The reality is that employees value having strong leaders, who motivate them to do their best, just as much if not more.”

Here are a few tips derived from his first-hand discussions with some of the nation's greatest leaders that apply to every entrepreneur as we recover from tough economic times:

  1. Energize your team. Instead of being the type of leader who sucks the energy away from others, resolve to be the kind of leader who strives to bring passion and positive energy to the workplace every day. Your employees have just helped you pull your company through one of the nation's worst economic periods. It's time they had a source of positive energy.
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Is your imagination in a rut? Has your muse gone on vacation without you? If it feels like you haven’t had a fresh idea in months, here are 11 ways to get your creative mind moving again in 2011:

1.  Change your tune.

Music has the power to fire up the brain’s emotion and reward centers, and to form new connections between ideas. When we open our ears to new music, a host of random associations, perspectives and emotions can float up to the surface to help get those creative juices flowing again. Stream other people’s music at,  or play radio routlette – that’s the roadtrip game where you hit the search button repeatedly, surfing through all available radio stations with the commitment to  listen to one complete song before you move on to the next station. (Sure, you’ll hate some of the tunes you hear, but a bad song is, what, three minutes out of your life?)

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Longaberger is known for its handcrafted maple baskets, so its headquarters are obviously shaped like a giant basket. Not just any old basket, though. It’s a Longaberger Medium Market Basket that’s been blown up to 160 times its normal size.

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1. "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." - Peter Drucker

2. "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw

3."Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people." - William Butler Yeats

4. "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." - Epictetus

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One of the simple ways that I try to make experimentation an everyday activity is to always try at least one new thing each time I give a presentation. One such recent experiment I called "choose your own presentation." I looked back at the 20 or so talks that I'd given this past year, and I tried to group material into the questions that I most commonly get asked. I ended up with 31 questions. My colleagues circulated the list before my presentation, and I went through the eight questions that garnered the most interest.

I thought it would be helpful to provide the list of 31 questions, and my one sentence perspective on each question, as it dovetails with my current book project (tentatively titled, The Little Black Book of Innovation.) Consider it a summary of what's on my mind as 2010 comes to a close.

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“If you’ve never failed… you’ve never lived” is a popular video on YouTube describing the failures of people like Thomas Edison, once called “too stupid to learn” by his teacher and Walt Disney, who was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination”. Not every idea succeeds, and indeed, some of America’s most triumphant inventors, artists and entrepreneurs have most likely failed at some point in their lives. But without risk and the possibility of failure, there can be no Innovation and no success. That is precisely one of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation” imperatives: No Risk, No Innovation.

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I have a resolution for 2011 that I'm hoping you'll sign on to:

What if we stopped comparing and benchmarking? What if we stopped wondering whether we're as innovative as New York or Silicon Valley? What if we stopped positing that New England in the 1970s or 1980s might have been more competitive than it is today?

Basically, what I'm asking is: what if we put all comparisons on pause for 2011, and just focused on creating companies, solving big problems, and kicking a--?

I confess: I'm more guilty than most when it comes to making comparisons. But I promise that in 2011, I'm not going to give an exit interview to every entrepreneur who leaves Boston because they hope to do better in New York or the Valley, asking them to opine on Boston's shortcomings. News flash: entrepreneurs can fail in those places too. When I'm at a panel discussion where the panelists start bloviating about the Valley versus Boston, or New York versus Boston, I'm walking out.

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It's December again and the year is coming to an end! How do you feel? Excited? Eager to see what's in store for the new year?

For myself personally, I love Decembers because it's the time when I take a breather, look back and see how the year has been.

I just did my year end review yesterday, and I'm extremely excited to get started on year 2011. In this article, I'll share with you 7 powerful questions to ask yourself as you close off your year.

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Ask any successful entrepreneur or investor what attributes are critical to building a successful business, and it's a safe bet that "perseverance" will be near the top of the list.

And there's no better illustration of this than the stories of two of the country's original successful startups -- the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies.

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Is Harvard Business School giving Stanford and Wharton a run for its money? It seems that yes, the prestigious business school is finally driving its own tech-focused, start-up movement. Harvard’s existing entrepreneurship center, the HBS Rock Center will be complemented by the Harvard Innovation Lab, opening in fall 2011.

And who’s driving the movement? The students are, reports BostInnovation writer Cheryl Morris. The school recently announced its $50,000 “Minimum Viable Product Fund” (MVP Fund), which was initiated by a very dear friend of mine, Dan Rumennik, HBS ’12. The fund’s name plays on the lean startup methodology that emphasizes working on customer development in tandem with product development. As reported by Morris, the HBS Rock Center contributed the $50K and will be awarding winners. The fund aims to award ten teams with $5,000 each, but teams may request up to $10,000 in funding.

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