I see that Lymbix’s relatively simple idea made the NY Time’s list of big ideas.
ToneCheck, an e-mail-outbox filter that works as a sort of emotional spell-check, offers typists a chance to reconsider their words before hitting “send.”
How many times have we received or sent emails where the tone was misinterpreted. They say that communications is 80% non-verbal so email cuts out 80% of the content the receiver of the message typically uses to decode what is actually meant by the content. People fill in the blanks as it were based on other factors such as did they have their morning coffee yet.
We have debated ad nauseum innovation and how to stimulate it in New Brunswick but it seems to me it all comes down to curiosity. At the NBIF dinner last year when they started showing all the inventions that were patented by NB inventors I can’t remember one in the last century.
This involves a complex multivariate calculus. Curiosity can be ephemeral (gee, I wonder if I could build a little program to check for tone in an email) or driven by a hard need (if I don’t figure out how to reduce my cost of production I will be out of business in 24 months).
Then comes tenacity. I remember that guy from Riverview who was adamant he had a better design for a bicycle seat that wouldn’t cause male ‘problems’. He peddled that idea for years and finally got traction.
Access to funding is also in the mix. It takes a certain kind of money to spend on something that might kill the cat a few times before hitting the jackpot. I dislike the gambling metaphor but it fits. A person who has won the jackpot once or twice is far more likely to go hard at it again to try and win another. The same with risk capital. I can handle 8 losses if I am reasonably certain the 9th idea is going to come up all aces.
We’ve talked about cultural influences as well. In a province with a high out-migration of younger people we speculate that a lot of the curiousity leaves as well. There is a direct correlation between education levels and out-migration – and education has some loose correlation with this stuff.
Of course necessity is the mother of invention. One NB company installed a biomass boiler as a way to lower its massive natural gas bill. A rapidly escalating cost associated with a production variable is a wonderful motivator to get innovative.
This last point is why I am hopeful New Brunswick is ready for an innovation agenda. There are companies across this province who are going to need to dramatically decrease the unit cost of production in response to rising wages, a high CDN dollar and a tightening labour market (for some Romanian immigrants is also a solution but this is a kind of innovation as well). Our IT and service companies with export markets are going to have to get far better at developing international markets. That takes innovation as well.
Hopefully our contact centre industry will be innovative and respond to the rise of social media. New Brunswick could be ideally positioned as the epicentre for corporate social media interaction (millions of telephone and email interactions between companies and clients happen in New Brunswick every week so it isn’t that hard a leap to see this migrating to social media interactions) but it takes effort on the part of the industry and, I would say, economic developers to make this happen. We need to get out front of this.
In the end, curiosity leads to miserable failures. We never hear about the miserable failures of Alexander Graham Bell. We never hear about Isaac Newton’s miserable failure at alchemy. We do, however, hear a lot about their successes.