Tag: innovation

This Month’s Innovative Idea: Teleportation

What would it be like to have the ability to teleport?

I don’t know about you but hearing Captain Kirk (from Star Trek) utter “Beam me up, Scotty!” has always filled me with wonder. What would it be like to have the ability to teleport? Imagine being able to say goodbye to long airport lines, delayed flights and cramped airplanes. Or imagine spending the afternoon at your favorite café in Mars and being back home in time for dinner. Unfortunately, teleportation is still a Sci-Fi fantasy… or is it?

If you look at teleportation through the definition by David Darling, in his book “Teleportation – The Impossible Leap,” as turning an object or person into “bits” of information

 

and transferring it, this fantasy might very soon come to reality.

According to Erez Livneh, an Israeli scientist graduate of the Weizmann Institute of Science and CEO of biotech company Vecoy Nanomedicines, teleportation via what he calls “Bitportation” might be feasible with the resources and technology we already have.

How does Bitportation work?

Bitportation involves the conversion of an object into information by scanning it, the transmission of that information to a new location and the recreation of a physical entity by a manufacturing device such as a 3D printer.

Just like sending a fax, bitportation relies on multiplication. In other words, there will be two copies of the object, each on a different spatial place. Livneh described this teleporting process as “Copy & Paste” transportation which he contrasts to classical means of transportation that require leaving the starting point and traveling a specific distance to arrive at the destination, which we could refer to as “Cut & Paste” transportation.

The result of bitportation is hence two identical but independent entities at each end of the line.

Livneh argues bitportation is not only feasible, but it is also already here in an early form. We already have many of the resources due to technological innovations, we just need to develop the capabilities.

The impact of this innovative idea goes well beyond our earth…

Traveling through space, as we know it today, involves special spacecraft that travel long distances for extended periods of time. Although traveling to the moon could take as little as 3-4 days, traveling to Mars requires a journey of approximately 300 days. This makes it currently very difficult to send a manned expedition anywhere beyond the moon and definitely beyond our solar system.

Since space travel assumes there is a person onboard a spacecraft and there is so much acceleration a person and spacecraft can take, travel speeds have to be slow. Traveling at the speed of light, which is the maximal speed in the universe based on Relativity Physics, is out of the 

question. But information, on the other hand, can be easily transmitted at the speed of light. If Bitportation is great to have as a means of transportation on earth, in space it is a must.

In a report to NASA, Livneh envisions five stages, which he calls the “RESTORE protocol”: Reach, Establish, Scan & Design, Transmit Object, REmaterialize.

The first step, Reach, involves dispatching an unmanned spacecraft into space towards a planet or asteroid.  This spacecraft could be remotely guided or could have the ability to navigate autonomously through artificial intelligence (AI). Once it arrives at its destination, it will split to deploy a communication orbiter and a manufacturing unit on the ground, therefore establishing the teleporting capability, the second step.

The next step, Scan & Design, will be performed on Earth and it will entail capturing the physical aspects of the object to be teleported. Remember the scanning done by the fax?

The fourth step, Transmit, involves transmitting the 3D model data by space communication signal to the remote communication orbiter deployed on stage one. The orbiter will, in turn, transmit the data received to the manufacturer lander.

The last step is to Rematerialize. In this step, the data transmitted will be utilized to manufacture a copy of the object teleported to space with the help of physical, biological or nano-assembler capabilities. This is one of the most innovative aspects of bitportation.

Livneh shared that physical “rematerialization” is more feasible than ever before thanks to a company called Made in Space. This start-up, based in the US, has developed a 3D printer capable of working in zero-gravity, with which they have been printing parts in the International Space Station since the end of 2014.   

What about the teleportation of humans?

Since we currently have the technology to scan our bodies (think about the range of available diagnostic tools, anything from an X-ray to a sophisticated CAT scan), a human could also, in theory, be scanned and teleported. However, teleporting people is still tricky. We are delicate and complex creatures. It is one thing to transport inanimate matter and another to capture and remake the exact complex structure of atoms that make us who we are.

Since bitportation involves multiplication, the bitportation of humans is essentially human cloning. In addition to the very difficult technological practicalities, cloning brings up a slew of philosophical, theological and moral considerations that will make human bitportation a complicated affair.

The essential question is this: Is the identical clone really identical or just a soulless body? Aside from rematerializing the human body, a shell of sorts, can we also bitportate what makes us who we are? What about our memories, thoughts, and feelings? If these are mere structures in our central neural system, then scanning them precisely will deliver them along with the cloned bodies.

Although this is still a big unknown, several experiments in this area have taken place in the last decade. Neuroscientists were able to “extract” memories using a sophisticated MRI, trace how memories are encoded in the brain,  reconstruct movie clips that people watched, determine which of two images were stored in someone’s memory, and in the most promising study yet, scientists at the University of Oregon have invented a machine that can “extract” thoughts. We are closer to sophisticated mind reading than ever before. So, we could one day have the ability to scan our personality along with our body and turn it into “transportable” data, and this day is maybe not too far.

 

Should you start packing?

 

Once we have the technology to scan our bodies and our personality, the big question remains: What will happen on the other side? A very sophisticated machine will be needed to rematerialize a human being and safely create a perfect clone, one that has both our body and our identity. Safely teleporting people will only be feasible once complex rematerialization technology is available, one that has atomic-scale precision, and we are still rather far from it. So, you may take your time packing.

If you really think about it, teleportation is one of those innovations that can change everything! I can’t wait. Can you?

Want to read more? Learn about our very own expat’s experiences in Shanghai.

Innovative Research: How Innovation Varies Across Countries & Cultures

Have you ever wondered how different cultures view innovation? Why are some countries more willing to adopt new advances while others fight to keep old systems in place? In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at two innovative research studies that reveal the impact of culture on people’s ability to innovate.  We’ll also show you how to use this information to create a work environment conducive to innovation. To begin, let’s jump right in to discuss how a country’s culture affects the early stages of innovation.

What Affects the Early Stages of Innovation?

In a study on innovation in European countries, innovation researchers wanted to see if understanding different national cultures could help them predict certain behavioral patterns when it came to initiating innovation [*]. To do this, they categorized cultures using four dimensions –– power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity — and then tested the relationship between each dimension and innovation. Today, we’ll concentrate on the first two dimensions: power distance and uncertainty avoidance.

 

Power Distance Measures: Just How Much Power Lies in the Hierarchical Structure

 

Cultures with large power-distance measures are those with formal rules and a centralized decision-making system. These societies keep information-sharing to a select few — only those in power, know the master plan and everyone else remains in the dark. On the other hand, small power-distance cultures don’t rely so heavily on a rigid chain of command. There’s free-flowing communication between hierarchical levels. Both of these traits help foster an environment where creative thoughts and ideas can flourish, which may ultimately lead to breakthroughs. So, which culture do you think does better in the initiation phase of innovation…the one with small or large power distance? If you guessed small power distance cultures… you are correct! Countries in this category include the UK, USA, Germany, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries[*].

This innovative research shows that high power distance cultures, such as Belgium, France, Poland, and Portugal, may be unknowingly inhibiting their innovation efforts due to this trait. If people are more likely to feel confined and afraid to come up with new ideas for fear of disapproval, they won’t even try. This strategy will severely limit innovation initiation, according to the study. The next dimension may also greatly impact the early stages of innovation.

 

Uncertainty Avoidance in Innovative Research: Whether Tense Situations are Avoided or Tolerated

You may not think there’s a connection between uncertainty avoidance and innovation, but there is according to the research. See, cultures with high uncertainty avoidance adopt an attitude of “What’s different is dangerous.” People are encouraged to follow the rules to a T — without ever stepping out of line. When this type of environment is created, you’ll often see a workforce that’s unmotivated to think creatively. As a result, they may struggle to come up with new ideas and innovative solutions to existing problems.  Not only that, your team may be much more resistant to change. And as you can imagine, this way of thinking can negatively impact your innovation efforts. On the other hand, a low uncertainty avoidance culture constantly revises rules and makes allowances to bend existing ones, given the right circumstances. Cultures that rank low on this dimension also expect conflict and see it as just another part of life. Ambiguous situations are viewed the same way — since they’re inevitable, you must always be ready to adjust your plan and adapt accordingly, two things that work well when it comes to innovation. Now before we dive into the specific traits shown by innovative cultures, it’s important to understand a few fundamental findings first:

“Existing cultural conditions determine whether, when, how and in what form new innovation will be adopted,” as our next study shows[*].

Let’s explore this idea next.

 

Cultural Impacts on Innovation

Which characteristics do cultures with high innovation rank well on?

Researchers discovered that there’s a greater acceptance of innovation when the foundation is already ingrained in the culture.  For cultures built on long-standing traditions, innovation may seem as if it’s going against the societal norms that have been passed down for generations. Therefore, it may not be as well-received or encouraged. Yet, researchers discovered, and research revealed, that when societies are willing to take traditions and adjust them to fit modern times, innovation is much more likely to happen. To that end, there’s one more factor that may contribute to fostering an innovative culture: whether people believe they can make an impact.

Cultural or organizational “class systems” can become like shackles — with people unable to move and think freely.

And when applied to the work environment, it’s virtually impossible to motivate your team or community to work at their potential (or, as often required to innovate, to exceed their potential) when they don’t see their hard work paying off in some regard.

“Most people work in the hope of reward,” and if they don’t see any insight, they’ll be less inclined to work hard. People need to feel like they can make a difference and that their ideas are not only heard but also used whenever possible. And they need to do this in an environment that fosters community and relationships.

For an innovative culture to flourish and thrive, the scientists learned, this form of social capital is needed.

Cultures that adopt these characteristics, plus the ones listed below, are considered high innovators[*]:

  • Focus on higher Individualism
  • More inclined to take risks
  • Willingness to accept and adapt to change
  • Future-focused
  • Low on Power/Status/Hierarchy (Low Power Distance)
  • Weak Uncertainty Avoidance
  • Open to new ideas and information
  • Willingness to travel frequently
  • Positive attitude towards science
  • Emphasis on higher education and creating a highly-educated society
  • Early adopters

How You Can Apply These Findings to Your Workplace

Now, you can consider how your business might rank in terms of these cultural tendencies.

For example, when it comes to scoring your company’s power distance, which statement do you agree with the most?

  • Power and information-sharing stem from the top of the organization. Only high-level employees have the ability to initiate change and innovation (high power distance).
  • Everyone on the team is heard equally and ideas are frequently exchanged and discussed fairly (low power distance).

If you want to build an innovative environment, you need to shift towards the cooperative, transparent nature shown by low power-distance cultures. In this type of organization,  everyone on the team knows what’s going on and can freely add their input without fear.

What about uncertainty avoidance?

Innovative cultures are willing to deviate from strict rules and guidelines whenever necessary. So, your approach should also be one that easily adapts to new situations and changing times. By setting up this kind of environment, you’ll foster innovative ideas, and you’ll create a motivated workforce at the same time. 

Now that you understand how culture can impact innovation efforts, check out this guide to learn more about the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to organizational innovation.

Old-Traditioned Early Adopters : The Diary of an Expat in Shanghai

Did you know that Fried Tomatoes and Eggs is the most popular dish in China? You can determine how well you know China according to how well you know Chinese food. So, if you associate Chinese food mainly with Sweet and Sour Pork with Rice… well, then your knowledge of China is very basic. If you already know that rice is more popular in the South of China while noodles are more popular in the North, then you are at the next level. If you know that Shenzen and Hong Kong are the right places for Cantonese Dim Sum; Shanghai’s cuisine is heavier and sweet; Sichuan’s is

the spicy choice and that in Beijing you should go for the Peking Duck, then you really know your way around!

But this week, I discovered a deeper layer in the Chinese food culture. At home, at every home, the most common dish is Fried Tomatoes and Eggs. People love to argue about the best way to make them; salty or sweet -with sugar (yes!), spicy or not, frying the eggs or the tomatoes first, etc. ICBC bank used this insight to target Chinese students studying abroad. They launched a campaign based on their love of this dish, which most of them associate with missing home, and it created a great buzz in Chinese social media.

So now you know! I have been living as an expat in China for over three years now, always trying to capture the learnings and insights I discover in my journey towards understanding the local culture. But whenever I feel I have grasped a new facet, I quickly discover something new that surprises me! To top it all, everything changes rapidly. The society that I am getting to know here in the big city is full of early adopters and trendsetters. When they do something, they do it full force – they do it big and fast. As an example, let’s take Mobike. Last year, Mobike introduced a new service that allows people to pick up a red bike anywhere in the city and drop it off anywhere – a station-less shared bike service. You can track the nearest bike by using their app on your phone and open the lock by scanning a code using a mobile payment app. The service is very cheap and allows hundreds of thousands of people around the

city to make short trips, such as the last mile from the metro to their final destination, quicker and more environmentally friendly. To make it attractive for customers, an abundance of bikes were scattered in the city. Very quickly, additional companies started offering the same service; OFO with yellow bikes, and then the green bikes, the blue bikes and then the electric bike. We are talking about around 1.5 million shared bikes around Shanghai!

The early-adopter culture in Shanghai and how it works:

As the competition is fierce, some companies give their service for free, and some pay you for using the bike and moving them around the city. As you can expect, challenges have risen. Now, for example, there are piles of bikes blocking sidewalks and entrances to buildings, creating the need for new solutions. These challenges have developed thanks to the rapid adoption and extensive use of the new service. Over 20 million rides a day in 50 cities around China. Trend-setters? Now the station-less bike-sharing service is spreading to an additional 160 cities around the world. So, they are “Early Adopters with old, traditional favorite dishes.”

This was the first observation I thought to share with you regarding the Chinese culture I’m striving to get to know. Want to hear more? Be sure to check my next post. But, in the meantime, read all about teleportation!

3 Useful Lessons from Innovation Facilitation Sessions that Went Wrong

Published on: September 27, 2017 в 10:38 am

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We’ve all been at meetings, or in an innovation facilitation, in which we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking. Some may say that in an innovation facilitation session any contribution to the discussion is helpful. But what happens if you are the one facilitating the meeting?

 

3 lessons I learned the hard way, during an innovation facilitation

As an innovation facilitator for more than 20 years, I put forth considerable effort to give each participant the chance to express herself/himself throughout the discussion. Sometimes, though, there is a pressing need to achieve quick results, and hearing out the ramblings of someone who is thinking out loud or the lengthy suggestion of a participant whose opinion doesn’t really count much in the organization, doesn’t seem to be the best use of the team’s time.

Still, from an ethical point of view, each voice is valuable, and practically speaking, it is often the reticent engineer from R&D or the shy lawyer from Legal who throw in the comment that swings the entire discussion towards a new and fruitful direction.

Given the compelling arguments – both moral and practical – I tend to monitor discussions attentively to ensure everybody gets a fair chance to contribute, regardless of their ability to wrestle for air time. Imagine my surprise then, when I learned that within a single month, I managed to offend two participants, in two separate workshops, who both felt I had deliberately avoided allowing them the opportunity to contribute to the innovation facilitation discussion.

In the first case, the participant actually got up and left the room. Although a somewhat dramatic and unpleasant moment ensued, it thankfully indicated that I had a serious problem, which I was able to deal with in the next break.

In the other case, I only learned about my mistake in the evening, from the process owners to whom my victim had complained. Luckily, we had an additional workshop session the next day, which allowed me to have a clearing-the-air conversation the next morning, before the workshop started. This, however, raised a nagging thought: I wondered how many other offended participants I had left behind throughout my 22 years of facilitation, without even noticing or discovering it, even after the fact.

 

My immediate learnings from these two traumatic experiences:

 

As an innovation facilitator, you have a commitment to the process owners: achieve results! But you also have a contract with the participants: honoring the time and brain power they have put in your hands. They must all be given a chance to express themselves.

  1. Don’t assume that verbose participants  in an innovation facilitation are necessarily content with their allotted time. They might not understand your “global” fair-time-allocation considerations. He may have talked more than his share already, but he has a great idea now that he wants to communicate, and therefore no patience to hear what lesser minds wish to offer.

2. Use break times and facilitation cues to manage both reticent and vocal participants.

Read about the innovation facilitation session in which I offended my best participant on racist grounds (or not?), and some tips on how to manage the balance between participants’ motivation to speak and their potential contribution to the discussion.

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