10 Tips for Improving Your RFP Process
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mitch Ditkoff. I am the Co-Founder of Idea Champions, an innovation consulting and training company headquartered in Woodstock, NY. We've been in business since 1986 and, since that time, have responded to more than 1,200 RFPs.
Along the way, we've noticed a curious trend.
Time and again, we've seen RFP-requesting companies get stuck with a vendor or contract that did not fulfill their needs because their RFP process got in the way -- a process that could have been a lot more effective if only it had been more open, honest, and complete.
And so, as a public service to you and all our other prospective clients, here are 10 simple guidelines to increase the odds of your RFP process getting you the kind of results you are looking for:
10 TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR PROPOSAL PROCESS
1. Be Prepared: The odds of us delivering a meaningful proposal to you increase exponentially in response to the accuracy and thoroughness of the input you provide.
If the person you report to has asked you to "google innovation consultants" and put five proposals on his/her desk by next Friday, make sure you are sufficiently briefed so what we deliver to you will be fully aligned with what you really need.
2. Be Clear About Deadlines: Is the proposal you are requesting really due yesterday? The first thing tomorrow? Two weeks from now? Please be willing to give us the scoop on when you really need it and we'll be happy to deliver it by then -- or sooner.
When you give potential vendors a fake deadline, it doesn't bode well for your future working relationship -- one that needs to be rooted in mutual trust, respect, and integrity.
And besides, unnecessarily stressing potential vendors may end up working against you, significantly increasing the odds of you receiving flawed, incomplete, or incomprehensible proposals.
3. Be Transparent: While your proposal process is your business, not ours, there is something to be said for letting us know how many other companies you've invited to respond. If you're asking another 25, our chances are 4% and we might decide not to throw our hat in the ring. Make sense?
If you already know you have only $2,500 to spend on your three-day event in Orlando, let us know that, too. This information will save us the time it takes to write a proposal you will never accept and you the time it will take to read it. Win/Win.
4. Be Ethical: If you are contacting us only to get some useful thought starters about your event or initiative and already know you will not be engaging our services, there's really no need to ask for a proposal.
Chances are good we'll be happy to talk with you about your event, anyway, just for the opportunity to spark a future business relationship with you.
We subscribe to the notion that the more you give, the more you get. But asking us for a proposal that has no chance of being accepted is really not playing fair.
Put yourself in our shoes. The Golden Rule applies.
5. Be Direct About What You're Asking For: If what you mean by "a proposal" is merely our fee, simply ask for it and we'll tell you. It will save us both a lot of time -- and more than a few trees.
If all you need is two pages' worth, mention that, too. If we give you ten and your threshold is two, both of us lose.
6. Be Honest: If you've already decided to engage the services of someone else, but need three competitive bids for "legal reasons," let us know. As part of our newly launched "Consulting Companies for a Proposal Savvy World" campaign, we'll send you -- within 24 hours -- our "They've Already Decided" proposal.
Much less work for us -- and no bad karma for you.
7.Keep Us Posted: At reasonable intervals, after we've submitted our proposal, please be willing to let us know where we stand.
If you haven't read our proposal yet, that's useful to know. If you can't find it, feel free to ask us to send another. If your conference has been canceled, we're just an email away. If you've decided to do it in-house, just holler. If budgets have been frozen... or your CEO has been indicted by the FTC... or you've decided that one of our competitors is the perfect fit, you know where to find us.
This information, delivered in a timely way, will allow us to release the dates we've been holding for you, significantly reducing the odds of you feeling guilty (or cranky) the next time we ask for an update.
8. Respond to Our (Infrequent) Emails: Often, when a prospective client asks us for a proposal, they ask us to "hold the date." This is perfectly understandable. It's common practice.
But sometimes another prospective client, the next day, will ask us for the same date. That's when we'll send you an email and ask for an update.
Since we will have given you the right of first refusal, all you need to do is let us know what's happening. Takes less than two minutes.
9. Provide Authentic Closure: Let's say you decide not to engage our services. Maybe you liked another consultant's approach better or decided to go with the low cost provider.
So be it. Your choice. No problem. Yes, we might be disappointed, but we'll get over it.
What's harder to get over is when there's no closure.
Of course, we realize you owe us nothing. You are not, by law, required to do anything after we submit our proposal. We also realize that your silence isn't synonymous with a lack of care. Indeed, sometimes it's the opposite -- since you may have grown to like us and don't want to be the bearer of bad news.
For us, bad news is better than none.
That's how we learn and, hopefully, get better at responding to your future requests.
And that's not all.
You get to maintain a positive relationship with a company (us) whose services you may want to engage in the future. You also avoid getting a bad rap among the other consulting companies with whom we are regularly in contact.
And we, of course, get the kind of feedback we need help us grow our business. How long does this closure effort take? Three minutes? Five? Ten at the most.
10. Consider Reinventing Your RFP Process: The above nine suggestions, of course, are only from our perspective. We're guessing there are at least a few other improvements you can think of that will significantly raise the odds of your future RFP process being more effective, efficient, and humane.
If you're stuck for fresh ideas about how to improve your RFP process, click here and conjure up some new ways you can change the game for the better.July 29, 2012
What Are You Really Thirsting For?
A little known fact about me (Mitch Ditkoff) is that, in addition to being the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, I am also a poet. In fact, my graduate school education many years ago, at Brown University, was not an MBA program -- but an MFA in poetry. If you want to see what I looked like back then, click the link below. Ready?
July 27, 2012
Creative Thinking Webinars for People Who Work in Corporations
40-minute overview of Idea Champions' newly launched series of creative thinking webinars (aka "Web Workshops") -- a simple, cost-effective way to spark brilliance and breakthrough in your organization.
Creative thinking web workshops
Click here if you want more info
July 26, 2012
Idea Champions, founded in 1986, is committed to unleashing the innate brilliance of people everywhere.
We are catalysts of creativity -- especially the creativity that has been compromised by corporate cultures that have not yet understood how to tap into the natural gifts of their workforce.
Our end game? Sustainable innovation -- helping our clients go beyond business as usual and turn their top-of-the-line ideas into bottom line realities.
But don't just take our word for it. Here's how our clients describe our impact.July 23, 2012
56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail
Innovation is in these days. The word is on the lips of every CEO, CFO, CIO, and anyone else with a three-letter acronym after their name.
As a result, many organizations are launching all kinds of "innovation initiatives" -- hoping to stir the creative soup. This is commendable. But it is also, all too often, a disappointing experience.
Innovation initiatives sound good, but usually don't live up to expectations. The reasons are many. What follows are 56 of the most common -- organizational obstacles we've observed that get in the way of a company truly raising the bar for innovation.
See which ones are familiar to YOU. Then, sit down with your Senior Team... CEO... innovation committee, or best friend and jump start the process of going beyond these obstacles.
56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail
1. "Innovation" framed as an initiative, not the normal way of doing business
2. Absence of a clear definition of what "innovation" really means
3. Innovation not linked to company's existing vision or strategy
4. No sense of urgency
5. Workforce is suffering from "initiative fatigue"
6. CEO does not fully embrace the effort
7. No compelling vision or reason to innovate
8. Senior Team not aligned
9. Key players don't have the time to focus on innovation
10.Innovation champions are not empowered
11. Decision making processes are non-existent or fuzzy
12. Lack of trust
13. Risk averse culture
14. Overemphasis on cost cutting or incremental improvement
15. Workforce ruled by past assumptions and old mental models
16. No process in place for funding new projects
17. Not enough pilot programs in motion
18. Senior Team not walking the talk
19. No company-wide process for managing ideas
20. Too many turf wars. Too many silos.
21. Analysis paralysis
22. Reluctance to cannibalize existing products and services
23. NIH (not invented here) syndrome
24. Funky channels of communication
25. No intrinsic motivation to innovate
26. Unclear gates for evaluating progress
27. Mind numbing bureaucracy
28. Unclear idea pitching processes
29. Lack of clearly defined innovation metrics
30. No accountability for results
31. No way to celebrate quick wins
32. Poorly facilitated meetings
33. No training to unleash individual or team creativity
34. Voo doo evaluation of ideas
35. Inadequate sharing of best practices
36. Lack of teamwork and collaboration
37. Unclear strategy for sustaining the effort
38. Innovation Teams meet too infrequently
39. Middle managers not on board
40. Ineffective roll out of the effort to the workforce
41. Lack of tools and techniques to help people generate new ideas
42. Innovation initiative perceived as another "flavor of the month"
43. Individuals don't understand how to be a part of the effort
44. Diverse inputs or conflicting opinions not honored
45. Imbalance of left-brain and right brain thinking
46. Low morale
47. Over-reliance on technology
48. Failure to secure sustained funding
49. Unrealistic time frames
50. Failure to consider issues associated with scaling up
51. Inability to attract talent to risky new ventures
52. Failure to consider commercialization issues
53. No rewards or recognition program in place
54. No processes in place to get fast feedback
55. Inadequate sense of what your customers really want or need
56. Company hiring process screens out potential innovators
Others we may have missed?July 20, 2012
Like This Blog? You'll Love This Book
I am happy to announce that I have finally gotten off my ifs, ands, or butt and begun writing my next book -- Wisdom at Work. Below are three excerpts. I have also stepped up my efforts to locate an agent and/or publisher. If you are that person or know that person, please contact me. Thank you!July 19, 2012
The AHA Man Makes an Appearance
July 17, 2012
Rethinking The Role of a Manager
The root of the word "manager" comes from the same root as the words "manipulate" and "maneuver", meaning to "adapt or change something to suit one's purpose".
Although these words may carry a pejorative meaning, there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Indeed, into each life a little manipulation and maneuvering must fall.
For example, if the door to your office gets stuck, a handyman might need to manipulate it to get it working again. If there is a log jam at the elevator, you might decide to maneuver around the crowd and take the stairs.
However, there is another kind of manipulation and maneuvering that is a problem -- when managers use their position to bend subordinates to their will.
While short-term gains may result, in the end the heart is taken out of people.
Your staff may become good soldiers, but they will lose something far more important in the process -- their ability to think for themselves.
General George Patton said it best, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
Unfortunately, ingenuity in many corporations has gone the way of the hula-hoop. "Intellectual capital" is the name of the game these days -- and it is the enlightened manager's duty to learn how to play.
Only those companies will succeed whose people are empowered to think for themselves and respond creatively to the relentless change going on all around them.
Managers must make the shift from manipulators to manifesters.
They must learn how to coach their people into increasingly higher states of creative thinking and creative doing.
They must realize that the root of their organization's problem is not the economy, cycle time, strategy or outsourcing, but their own inability to tap into the power of their workforce's innate creativity.
Where does this empowerment start?
First, by recognizing what power is: "the ability to do or act".
And second, by realizing that power is intimately connected to ideas.
Most managers, unfortunately, perceive new ideas as problems -- especially if the ideas are not their own.
More often than not, managers don't pay enough attention to the ideas of the people around them. They say they want innovation. They say they want "their people" to do something different. But they do precious little to support their subordinates in their efforts to do so. More commonly, they foist their own ideas on others and can't figure out why things aren't happening faster.
That's not how change happens.
If people are only acting out somebody else's ideas, it's only a matter of time before they feel discounted, disempowered and just plain dissed.
People are more than hired hands; they are hired minds and hearts, as well.
Let's start with the basics.
Everything you see around you began as an idea. The computer. The stapler. The paperclip, the microchip and the chocolate chip. All of these began as an idea within someone's fevered imagination.
The originators of these ideas were on fire.
Did they have to be "managed?" No way. In fact, if they had a manager, he or she would have done well to get out of the way.
If you want to empower people, honor their ideas. Give them room to challenge the status quo. Give them room to move -- and, by extension, move mountains.
Why? Because people identify most with their ideas.
"I think therefore, I am" is their motto. People feel good when they're encouraged to originate and develop ideas. It gives their work meaning, makes it their own, and intrinsically motivates.
Who has the power in an organization? The people who are allowed to think for themselves and then act on their ideas! Who doesn't have power? The people who have to continually check-in with others.
Think about it. The arrival of a new idea is typically accompanied by a wonderful feeling of upliftment and excitement -- even intoxication.
It's inspiring to have a new idea, to intuit a new way of getting the job done. Not only does this new idea have the potential to bring value to the company, it temporarily frees the idea originator from their normal habits of thinking. A sixth sense takes over, releasing the individual from the gravity of status quo thinking.
In this mindset, the idea originator is transported to a more expansive realm of possibility. All bets are off. The sky's the limit. All assumptions are seen for what they are -- limited beliefs with a history, but no future.
If you are a manager, you want people in this state of mind. It is not a problem. It is not the shirking of responsibility. It is not a waste of time.
On the contrary, it's the first indicator that you are establishing a company culture that is conducive to innovation.
This is not to say, of course, that you have to fund every idea that comes your way.
On some level, ideas are a dime a dozen -- and only a handful of them are ever going to amount to much. But if you treat all ideas as if they are worthless, you will never find the priceless ones.
Creativity, you see, is often a numbers game. Einstein had plenty of bogus theories. Mozart wrote some crap. But they continued being prolific. And it was precisely this self-generating spirit of creation, which enabled them to access the good stuff.
You, as a manager, want to increase the number of new ideas being pitched to you. You want to create an environment where new ideas are popping all the time. If you do, old problems and ineffective ways of doing things will begin dissolving.
This is the hallmark of an innovative organization -- a place where everyone is encouraged and empowered to think creatively. Within this kind of environment managers become coaches, not gatekeepers.
"Coaching", of course, has been widely written about and there are many fine books on the subject. What hasn't been written about very much is how to become an "innovation coach" -- how to create the kind of environment that elicits the hidden genius of the people around you.
It's one thing to tell people "you want their ideas", it's quite another to create the kind of environment that makes this rhetoric real.
Creativity cannot be legislated. It cannot be sustained by pep talks. What needs to happen is that YOU, as a manager, need to change the way you relate to people. Each encounter you have with another person in the workplace needs to quicken the likelihood that their unexpressed ideas will get a fair hearing -- enabling a far greater percentage of them to eventually take root.
How does a manager do this?
First, by expressing a lot of positive regard. Get interested! Pay attention! Be present to the moment!
This is not so much a technique as it is a state of mind. If your head is always filled with your own thoughts and ideas, there won't be any room left to entertain those of others. It's a law of physics. Two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time.
Here's an example: Let's say someone comes up to you in the middle of the day and says something like, "I have this great idea for a new product that will generate over $200 million for our company."
The first thing you need to do is realize the opportunity you have. An idea is about to be shared, one that may herald a breakthrough or, at the very least, solve a problem, capitalize on an opportunity, or make your life easier.
Your willingness to sit up and take notice needs to be just as strong as if a customer were to call and complain. If possible, drop what you're doing, focus all of your attention on the idea generator, take a deep breath, and begin a series of questions that demonstrate your interest. If you cannot drop what you are doing, schedule some time -- as soon as possible -- for the idea originator to pitch you.
And whether the pitch is now or later, your response -- in the form of exploratory questions -- needs to be as genuine as possible. Consider some of the following openers:
* "That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more?"
* "What excites you the most about this idea?"
* "What is the essence of your idea - the core principle?"
* "How do you imagine your idea will benefit others?"
* "In what ways does your idea fit with our strategic vision?"
* "What information do you still need?"
* "Who are your likely collaborators?"
* "Is there anything similar to your idea on the market?
* "What support do you need from me?"
* "What is your next step?"
Basically, you want the idea originator to talk about their idea as much as possible in this moment of truth. An idea needs to first take form in order to take root, and one of the best ways of doing this is to encourage the idea originator to talk about it -- even if their idea is not yet fully developed.
The telling of the idea, in fact, is not unlike someone telling you their dream. The telling helps the dreamer flesh out the details of what they imagined and the subsequent hearing of it firmly installs it in their memory -- and yours -- so the idea does not fade quite as quickly.
Most of us, however, are so wrapped up in our own ideas that we rarely take the time to listen to others. Your subordinates know this and, consequently, rarely share their ideas with you.
But it doesn't have to be this way. And it won't necessarily require a lot of time on your part. Some time, yes. But not as much as you might think.
Bottom line, the time it takes you to listen to the ideas of others is not only worth it -- the success of your enterprise depends on it.
Choose not to listen and you will end up frantically spending a lot more time down the road asking people for their ideas about how to save your business from imminent collapse.
By that time, however, it will be too late. Your workforce will have already tuned you out.July 15, 2012
Big Innovation in the Prison System
Here's an extraordinary fact: There are more people living in US jails than live in the entire state of New Mexico.
Based on the latest data, the combined inmate population of correctional facilities in the United States is currently about 2.35 million.
The cost to the US Government? $74 billion dollars. That's $30,600 per prisoner. Those are staggering numbers. But even more staggering are the recidivism rates. 60% of all prisoners released from jail eventually return.
Clearly, the prison system is broken -- not just in this country, but in the world. Attempts at rehabilitation -- and there have been many -- have simply not worked. Until recently.
The Prem Rawat Foundation's (TPRF) Peace Education Program, now being piloted in Texas' Dominguez State Prison, is getting extraordinary results. Here is the story (be sure to watch the video).
July 13, 2012
What a Wonderful World!
Time for a break from the following concerns: cash flow, next quarter results, your benefits package, boss, weight, innovation process, or summer vacation plans. Here's a fabulous two-minute BBC video narrated by David Attenborough. NOTE: The business of life isn't necessarily a life of business...
Here's how we can help your organization become wonderful.
The Value of Val
If your small business or non-profit is looking for a highly skilled brainstorm facilitator, creative thinking trainer, or custom workshop leader, Val Vadeboncoeur is your man.
Val, a long time friend and collaborator of mine, has just launched Business Light, an innovation consultancy geared for organizations with less-than-deep pockets.
If your organization is looking for a big breakthrough on a small budget, give Val a call. A man of great integrity with a great sense of humor, Val is 100% committed to serving companies who want to make a difference in the world.July 08, 2012
Treat Your Clients Like God!
At least once a week I am approached by a struggling entrepreneur and asked how I market my services. More often than not, I blurt out any number of MBA-like platitudes.
But when I really stop and think about it, my answer morphs into something much deeper: "I treat my clients like God."
Yup. That's my marketing plan. Plain and simple. I treat my clients like God.
After the proverbial blank stare, the cash-strapped entrepreneur before me relaxes and smiles. Deep down in their entrepreneurial bones, what I'm saying makes sense.
Treating your clients like God is the way to go -- not as some kind of clever way to get a competitive edge, but because that is what life is all about: Seeing the divine in everyone. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. And ultimately, doing great work born of a deep-seated gratitude for the opportunity to serve.July 06, 2012
The Cool But Creepy Futuristic World of Ray Kurzweil
ED NOTE: The following post is the second in a series of reports from the World Innovation Forum by Idea Champions' take-no-prisoners-tell-it-like-it-is Director of Training, Val Vadeboncoeur.
"Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell; more human than human is our motto." -- Dr. Eldon Tyrell (from the 1980 Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner) discussing the business of producing replicant humans.
First, a caveat. I attended only the second day of the two-day 2012 World Innovation Forum so I didn't get the full picture of what was presented. From what I understand, the first day's speakers talked more about the "human side of innovation" -- a subject I can easily warm up to.
The second day, which I DID attend, was focused much more on technique, process, tools, and technology and the unbridled enthusiasm for same.
I'm guessing that the Forum was purposely organized around these two themes. But, for me, on the second day, it was a bit like watching a competition of state of the art salesmen and could have been titled "America's Got Technology."
Don't get me wrong. The presenters were all excellent -- knowledgeable, articulate, and well-prepared. But I wasn't buying what they were selling and got the sense that many of my fellow attendees weren't either.
I'm also guessing it was because everyone in the hall had just come in from an outside world that is threatening to unravel in about a thousand different places at once and is, at the same time, more technologically awesome than it's ever been.
If our technology is so wonderful, then why is it being accompanied into the world by so much that is undesirable?
Second, a confession: I'm a tough sell when it comes to new technology.
I'm old enough to have read McLuhan when he first came upon the scene in the 60's and I view technology somewhat through his eyes -- in particular, his notion that every new technology represents a trade-off; it gives us something as well as it takes something away.
The automobile gave us the capability to travel much more extensively than before. It also took away our legs. Now, we have to schedule regular exercise to find them again.
The television gave us dreams and fantasy. But they were someone else's dreams and, as such, took away part of our ability to dream and fantasize.
As the 1950's era story goes, when a little girl was asked if she preferred the new medium of television over radio, she said, "Radio... because the pictures are better."
In addition to this give and take, every new technology shapes us in its image whether we are aware of it or not. That is, it makes us a little more like itself the more we use it.
The use of technology even affects the way we think about life, ourselves, and the universe we live in.
To the ancients, the Universe was a Living Being. To the people of the Industrial Age, it was a big machine with gears and levers. To us, in the 21st century, it's a massive computer -- and we're now trying to reprogram its software.
Of course, in reality, it's all of those things and none of them. In each of these cases, what we're really seeing is ourselves -- our own level of consciousness and understanding reflected back to us.
I admit that I can't quite shake off my inherent distrust of the latest technology and of those who extol its virtues -- especially those who neglect to mention the trade-offs.
One phrase from my favorite presenter of the day, Andrew Winston, stuck with me. While describing the experience of having one's movements on the Web tracked by search engines and subsequently being offered products and services in connection with those movements, Winston said that it felt "cool, but creepy."
That about sums up what the entire second day of presentations at the World Innovation Forum felt like to me -- a vision of the world that lacked warmth, projecting the image of something just out of sight, just around the corner, just out of hearing range, and definitely out of the ability of our five human senses to notice, let alone moderate. New technology as Nosferatu.
The one and only defense against new technology that I'm aware of is consciousness itself -- the idea that the more technology evolves the more I am called upon to become more of a conscious being.
I'm not the first person to notice that we are in a very important race at this point in our evolution -- one between consciousness and technology.
The question we are all facing?
"Can our consciousness and understanding of who we are keep up with our rapidly-expanding technology?" -- a technology that is changing us and life on the planet at warp speed.
And if it can't, are we not in very great danger?
Which brings us to Ray Kurzweil -- scientist, inventor, businessman, and technology salesman.
It's difficult to even process his concept of "The Singularity" -- Kurzweil's catchphrase for the point-of-no-return in the very near future (say, 2029) when the trans-human species replaces the human -- let alone write about it. But here goes.
Kurzweil discussed the exponential growth of computer power (Moore had a Law, don'cha know) complete with one chart after another that followed the same suspiciously exact, and extremely hopeful arc of accelerating information and data.
In Kurzweil's rosy scenario, in a very short time, technology will be a billion times more powerful than it currently is and this exponential growth will lead to miraculous breakthroughs that seem impossible to us today.
Kurzweil went on to discuss technological progress in medicine and what the mapping of the human genome could mean -- customized medical cures for each human being based on each person's particular DNA -- how biology is now an information process and how 3-D printers will materialize physical objects (such as a violin) sent by nothing more than an e-mail.
Soon, explained Kurzweil, we'll be able to email a bus or a house via 3-D printers, or, at least, all the parts of a bus or a house.
But that's nothing compared to the nano-technology that's on its way.
Kurzweil sang the praises of self-replicating nano-bots that could increase our intelligence, cure us of any "defect" in our DNA and keep us living, well, forever!
Imagine -- red blood cell nanobots could be introduced into your blood stream to repair your body. They could even be re-programmed or given new software updates and capabilities from afar at any time. If a new flu virus epidemic strikes, these nanobots could be given the latest info of what these virus cells look like and how to deal with them.
New human organs could be grown without the use of stem cells. All that would be required is a bit of your own DNA, a blood sample, for example, to keep with our Nosferatu theme.
The human brain could be reverse engineered. And, if the "viscerally impressive" (Kurzweil's words) recent Jeopardy-winning computer is any indication, human thought could be equaled and then surpassed in a very short time.
So, what are we waiting for? Get on the technological love train! Nirvana and eternity await.
Or do they?
Kurzweil opened up the floor to questions at the end of his talk. One gentleman acknowledged that Kurzweil had given us only the most incredibly sunny predictions of how this technology could be used and asked if Kurzweil would speak about the downside of this technology.
Kurzweil replied with his one biggest concern that "kept him up at night". Bio-terrorism.
The questioner didn't ask a follow-up question regarding WHO Kurzweil envisioned as being the most likely bio-terrorist, but since Kurzweil had already established that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a good friend and former classmate, it didn't take a great stretch of imagination to see that Kurzweil probably envisioned some Osama Bin Nano as his bogeyman, especially since he went on to talk about the need for government agencies like the FDA to become more powerful and vigilant to deal with these issues.
Really? The most likely bio-terrorist is some religious fanatic nowhere near the centers of power and nowhere near the research labs churning out this stuff? Really?
When Kurzweil uttered the word "bio-terrorist", the first word I thought of was "government". I also recalled Henry Kissinger's recent (2007) and very revealing quote, that "What we, in America, call 'terrorists' are really groups of people who reject the international system."
A friend of mine, Michael Schacker, in 2008, published a book entitled A Spring Without Bees. In it, he correctly identified the "culprit" responsible for the world's rapidly diminishing bee populations due to "Colony Collapse Disorder" whereby bees become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.
Michael made the compelling case that the widespread proliferation of commercial insecticides containing highly-toxic neonicotinoids, which are chemically similar to nicotine, acting on the central nervous system of the bees as well as many other insects and small song birds, were responsible.
Since then, many other bee researchers have confirmed Michael's verdict.
But even though everyone pretty much now KNOWS what is going on here, the corruption of our society and of the people responsible for acting on this information is preventing anyone from really doing much of anything about it, although some European countries have now banned the stuff.
It seems that human beings are not, in the case of commercial pesticide technology, sufficiently evolved enough to safely deal with its use.
How much more dangerous is our lack of control and understanding in the case of all the technology involved with Kurzweil's "Singularity" that brings us the possibility of re-engineering human life?
One has visions of Mickey Mouse's Sorcerer's Apprentice, but with real, massive, and tragic consequences.
Who will control this technology? What will they do with this power? What will be their goals and agendas?
Will they be people similar to the folks at the EPA blocking all progress in restoring our bee populations in the service of large multi-national corporations who produce certain dangerous, but commercially successful pesticides? The people who run the Fukushima nuclear plant who are STILL covering up a massive danger? The people who make up lies about WMDs that lead to wars that kill, injure and displace millions of people for profit? The people in a Las Vegas facility who, by the stroke of a computer key, can send a missile, fired by a flying robot drone, into the window of a family celebrating a wedding on the other side of the world?
If I were Ray Kurzweil, that is what would be keeping me up at night.
When our education system continues to show decline in producing results in every cognitive skill except for, perhaps, testing for levels of obedience, when the world's wealth (and therefore, power) is accumulating in fewer and fewer hands at an increasingly rapid rate and threatening to restructure the world's economic system along the lines of Pharoanic Egypt, when weather on the planet is becoming more and more unpredictable and extreme due to man-made and/or natural warming, and when current technological advances are being used primarily to serve military, surveillance, and security purposes -- and mostly in secret and beyond the reach and control of the democratic institutions they supposedly serve -- it does make one want to root against Kurzweil's vision of a priestly scientific elite re-engineering the human species, or at least hope we can slow it down until we become a whole lot more wise, generous, and loving.
POSTSCRIPT: Some of my fellow World Innovation Forum attendees admitted, as we walked away from Kurzweil's final forum presentation, that their "heads were spinning".
Might this be because Kurzweil was, in actuality (and in Powerpoint), announcing the end of the human race and, furthermore, insisting that this end was coming soon and was inevitable?
And, could this latest technology, promising an eternal Garden of Eden of sorts, actually have a VERY dark side, indeed? Could it possibly become the ultimate terrorist act itself, and, before we realize it, end up hijacking human evolution on this planet?
Small wonder our limited, all-too-human brains were "spinning". It's surprising that they just didn't turn into rocket ships and blast off out of the Milky Way.
All this being said, perhaps the best way to regard this "cool but creepy" information is as a challenge.
I'll articulate the challenge in the form of a question:
"How can the human race become fully human before the opportunity is taken away from us forever?"
Thanks to Scott Cronin for the heads up.July 05, 2012
Introducing Interdependence Day!
July 01, 2012
One day after
its time to introduce
a new holiday:
Yes, it's true,
we are all
in this together.
do this alone,
no matter how skillful
you may be.
Innovation is a team sport.
The Brilliance of Eliminating Left Turns
ED NOTE: Big thank you to Val Vadeboncoeur for this insightful report from the World Innovation Forum.
I caught Andrew Winston's excellent presentation at the 2012 World Innovation Forum last week in NYC in which he focused on how companies can use environmental sustainability as a driver of innovation.
This "Green to Gold" movement has been spurring innovation and boosting profits across a wide range of industries in recent years simply by trying to decrease waste and environmental impact.
Along the way, Andrew, who is the author of Green Recovery (and with Daniel Esty, the book Green to Gold) got into one of my favorite subjects. He offered a series of corporate innovation examples of what he called "head-slappers" and what I call counter-intuitive thinking.
One perfect example of counter-intuitive thinking is what Maersk Shipping did in their efforts to decrease their environmental footprint.
Maersk (a Dutch company) is the world's biggest container shipping line. They asked themselves an odd and challenging question: "Does a shipping company always need to go fast?"
By pursuing that seemingly absurd question, they realized that if they decreased the speed of their ocean-going vessels, they could save up to 40% of their fuel costs, and by merely scheduling and planning better, their ships still arrived on time when their clients expected them to. D'oh!
A little closer to home, Con-Way Trucking of New Jersey had a similar AHA!
By simply reducing the maximum speed of their trucks from 65 MPH to 62 MPH, they now save $10 million a year, and in this economy, that's the difference between making a profit or not.
UPS (and now FedEx as well) had another kind of head slapper insight.
They realized that in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, their truck drivers used up a LOT of gas, wasted a lot of time, and got into a lot of accidents when their trucks had to make left turns and got stuck, all too often, waiting at red lights.
So, they asked themselves the seemingly bizarre question: "Do our trucks really have to make left turns?"
Their conclusion? They didn't!
By re-designing their drivers' routes in busy city downtowns and by re-calibrating their UPS devices to avoid left turns, they save incredible amounts of time and fuel (not to mention having fewer traffic accidents.)
UPS now saves three million gallons of gas and 28 million miles each year by only making right turns!
Similarly, the folks at Scott Paper asked themselves: "Why do we need cardboard tubes to package our toilet paper products?"
What they realized? They didn't.
They now have a line of "tube-free" toilet paper which also saves lots of money AND the environment.
So... the question I (and Andrew) have for you is this: "How can YOUR company use environmental sustainability as a catalyst for innovation?"
And, even more to the point, "What powerful and challenging trigger questions can you ask yourself that might provoke a head slap moment in a flash of counter-intuitive thinking?
Because, sometimes, it's the seemingly ridiculous question that leads to the biggest breakthrough and innovation.
PS: A big thank you to George Levy and the other fine folks at HSM Global for inviting Idea Champions to be a guest blogger at the World Innovation Forum -- now three years running.
Ask the right questions
Why you need to ask why
Big problem or right problem?
15 great quotes on the subject
Who is Idea Champions?