What Is Disruptive Innovation?

The first step of my plan to better connect NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators is 2nd steprecruiting more people for a core team to work on this worthwhile goal. The second step is:

Define disruptive innovation and give a broad outline of who a disruptive innovator is.

Definition Of “Disruptive Innovation”

The concept of disruptive innovation was coined by Clayton Christensen in the 1995 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”

Disruptive innovation…describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

Reason To Be Disruptive Innovatorsdisruptive innovation chart

One of the main reasons I’m promoting disruptive innovation as valuable to NE Wisconsin is shown in the chart to the right. The big picture lesson from this disruptive innovation chart is that for sustaining innovations, incumbents nearly always win. NE Wisconsin has very few incumbents in emerging technology sectors or other industry sectors with high growth and high-paying jobs. Therefore, if we want to “win” when competing in those sectors, the region is most likely to be successful through disruptive innovation.

Christensen further clarifies disruptive innovation as:

“…a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred…”

A slightly different view of disruptive innovation is shown in the chart below. This chart illustrates the concept that disrupters pitch their products to the low end, or least profitable part of the market. Disrupters don’t expect to sell their products to established high end customers because the disruptive product is unproven and, by definition, doesn’t perform as well as competing products from the incumbent market leaders.

disruptive innovation chart 2

That’s one of the reasons shipping early and often is an accepted practice for disruptive innovators. Their sometimes quirky products don’t do everything that products from the incumbents do, but the disruptive products are “good enough” for what low end customers need. If a disrupter develops effective customer relationships with those low end customers, those customers will give them valuable feedback for improving the products.

It can be relatively easy to improve the disruptive product because the customers has made it clear exactly what needs to be fixed, so the innovator who listens well doesn’t waste time working on features or problems the customer doesn’t care about. Another reason it’s easy to improve the product is that the relatively low-volume market for the disruptive product means minimal time and money has been spent on cost reductions for high-volume, high-efficiency manufacturing. Making a product change doesn’t require a large capital investment in a low -volume production process.

Incumbents, on the other hand, can’t quickly change their products because of inventories, marketing campaigns, capital investments in mass production equipment, and other issues inherent in established product lines. Additionally, because they’re not going to frequently change the product, the market leaders tend not to solicit or listen to suggestions for short term improvements.

More Thoroughly Understanding Disruptive Innovation

If you want to understand and be involved in disruptive innovation, read Christensen’s 2015 article “What is Disruptive Innovation?,” then read his book “The Innovator’s innovators dilemmaDilemma.” In the article, Christensen says:

“…Despite broad dissemination, the theory’s core concepts have been widely misunderstood and its basic tenets frequently misapplied. Furthermore, essential refinements in the theory over the past 20 years appear to have been overshadowed by the popularity of the initial formulation. As a result, the theory is sometimes criticized for shortcomings that have already been addressed.

…In our experience, too many people who speak of “disruption” have not read a serious book or article on the subject…Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage…If we get sloppy with our labels or fail to integrate insights from subsequent research and experience into the original theory, then managers may end up using the wrong tools for their context, reducing their chances of success…”

Part of Step 2 for connecting disruptive innovators was “give a broad outline of who a disruptive innovator is.” After writing a first draft of who a disruptive innovator is, I decided the broad outline of a disruptive innovator needs more wordsmithing and feedback from a few people before publishing on this blog. I’ll update this post by adding that outline in the next week or two.

Help Catalyze NE Wisconsin Disruptive Innovation

If you live in NE Wisconsin and are involved in disruptive innovation, or if you want to support it or become involved in this type of innovation, contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

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Core Team To Connect NE Wisconsin Disruptive Innovators

Build Core Team

step 1On Friday I detailed my plan for connecting disruptive innovators in NE Wisconsin. Today’s post will elaborate on the first step of that plan:

Recruit a couple more people for the core team connecting NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators.

One of the things I’ve learned working on major, participant-driven, grassroots projects over the past ten years is that there needs to be a well-aligned core team of six to eight people (minimum) if the project is going to have long term success. One person can get the ball rolling and keep it rolling. But if one or a couple people try to provide all the skills and energy needed to launch, grow and maintain momentum for the project, the odds will not be ever in their favor.

colleges and universitiesI’ve recruited one person who tentatively agreed to work on a part of this project which focuses on area colleges and universities. My primary challenge in making the overall project a viable long term effort is finding three or four more NE Wisconsin people who want to put a decent amount of time and effort into the early stages of the project. Those three or four core team members can then help me recruit a couple more, and voilà ⇒ critical mass for the core team! 🙂

Ideal Core Team Members To Recruit

Below are descriptions of people I’m working to recruit for this project’s core team.

  1. Lead person on a recent disruptive innovation.  To bring credibility and legitimacy to this project, the top priority for additional core team members is someone living in NE Wisconsin who was the lead person on a recent disruptive innovation (regardless of where the innovative work was done). If we can’t get a lead person, we should at least recruit someone who worked on a recent major innovation that happened in this region. Recent is a relative term, but the goal is to have someone who was involved in an innovation project during the past five years.
  2. Emerging technology company innovator.  Another NE Wisconsin person who would bring tremendous credibility to the project is someone who works at a company focused on an emerging technology. This could be someone who lives in NE Wisconsin but works remotely, but it would be best if the emerging tech company is located in this region.
  3. Emerging technology specialist.  Some people’s primary job is working with an emerging technology at a company which is not focused on an emerging technology and has not had a recent disruptive innovation. Another person we could use on this project is an emerging technology specialist, someone highly knowledgeable about a tech like 3D printing, robotics, microelectronics, photonics, etc.
  4. College faculty, student or administrator.  Because a high probability source of innovators is colleges / universities, it would be great to have a college innovation rep on the core team. That rep could be a faculty member, student or administrator, but an instructor who deals with innovation topics would be best for several reasons. Whoever the core team college rep is, they should be involved with some aspect of innovation.
  5. Regional investors representative.  Investors can be very helpful to kickstarting entrepreneurial swarming if they’re willing to provide pre-seed stage incentive money to encourage launch of new startups or to invest moderate amounts of money in tech startups and other seed stage companies for minimal amounts of equity. Having an investor representative on the project core team will be helpful not only because of support funding from that investor, but also because the rep can likely build strong relationships between the core team and other investors.
  6. Liaison for major supporters of innovation community.  Another person to recruit for the core team is someone to be the liaison for major supporters in NE Wisconsin. Ideally the liaison will be a supporter or member of a supporter organization. But the core team member could also be someone who has strong relationships with potential supporters in the region. Supporters include both partners and sponsors. Partners are NE Wisconsin organizations which officially endorse the innovation community and encourages or enables members of the organization to participate in that community. Sponsors are organizations or people who make the innovation community activities financially possible with donations of money or in-kind products or services.
  7. Regional mainstream media representative.  Regional media isn’t required for connecting and building the innovation community, but their involvement could be helpful. Positive media coverage will help this project by educating the general public, by making more disruptive innovators aware of the growing community of innovators, by bringing more credibility to the community, and in other ways.
  8. Social media and communications.  A core team lead person for social media is another not-required-but-very-helpful position. Not all disruptive innovators will spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, but some will. And many bridge connectors who know disruptive innovators will be on social media. Having an effective social media campaign for this project will help general public awareness and will also build awareness in potential supporter organizations.
  9. Website developer.  At some point it will become very important for the innovation community to have a high quality website. In the early days of organizing this project and getting things moving ahead, I will do a free blog website (already on my to-do list). But after we’ve built a reasonable amount of momentum and the project has become a viable long term project, a much better website to facilitate innovator interaction and collaboration will become crucial.
  10. Videographer.  In the world of the internet, digital communications and 21st century marketing and promotion, video production capability is increasingly important. Having a videographer on the core team will be a tremendous asset. If we can’t recruit a videographer, then next best choice would be having a rep from a NE Wisconsin videography company.
  11. Grant writer.  I don’t know of any grants designated specifically for building a region’s community of disruptive innovators. But if a grant writer joins the team, they may know of that type of grant or they may be able to work effectively with grant organizations to get related grants awarded to NE Wisconsin for improving the region’s disruptive innovation and entrepreneurial swarming.
  12. General proponent of disruptive innovation.  If you are not one of the above core member types but are passionate about disruptive innovation, consider getting involved in this project to connect the region’s innovation community.

As the project moves forward and different priorities become apparent for the core team, I’ll update this post to reflect those changes.

If one or more of the above descriptions fits you or someone you know, and you want to help connect and build the NE Wisconsin innovation community, please contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

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August 6,​ ​2016:​ ​News​ ​&​ ​Views​ ​Roundup​ ​For​ ​Events​ ​Wranglers​

Presented below for keeping you up-to-date, and as August 6th’s potential new occupants of your occupational toolbox, are a selection of recent events wrangling news and views. If any of the items below cause your events wrangler Spidey-sense to tingle, click the headline link and read the article in its entirety.

What Meeting Formats Will Take Off in the Future?

future meeting formats

The German Convention Bureau’s Future Meeting Space research project is looking at all the different needs meetings have to fulfill these days, from a totally unplugged retreat-type getaway for deep thinking to its exact opposite, and four more in between. The GCB released this infographic to help illustrate what’s involved in each of the six scenarios explored in the Future Space project…Here’s a little more verbiage to help clarify some of the scenarios outlined in the infographic, which while great, can be a little confusing to decode:

  1. Unplugged Conference…
  2. Co-Working Conference…
  3. Virtual-to-Physical Conference…
  4. Interactive Forum…
  5. Satellite Conference…
  6. Hybrid Conference. I hope most planners have been able to check out this option, which entails an online component to an in-person event. This format saves time and costs for those who attend via Internet, and everyone can still stay on the same page, learning-wise. The best ones I’ve participated in digitally also provide a separate facilitator for the online audience to ensure their participation is incorporated into the IRL event and to build community among digital participants….”

If you’re tired of trying to make the same old event formats seem new and interesting, consider the eight types of meetings described in this article. I especially like the Hybrid Conference format, which I talked about in my post, “Hybrid Event Participation: In-Person And Online.” In today’s connected world, and even more so in the hyper-connected world we’ll live in a few years from now, providing only the in-person or just the virtual experience is short-changing your potential audience of event goers.

Overwhelmed by Email? 19 Tips to Claim Back Your Inbox

emailEmail is the probably the most important business communication tool, and unavoidable in working life today. In the fast-paced world of events, there seems to be a never ending stream of urgent emails demanding your immediate attention, especially nearing the time of the event. Before you chuck your computer out of the window, here are some easy tricks you can learn to email 2master your inbox, and modern tools to help you do it faster.

  1. Differentiate Professional and Personal..
  2. Filter your Newsletters…
  3. Don’t Use Your Emails as Storage…
  4. Aim for your Inbox to be Always Empty…
  5. Template Emails Should Be Your Friend…
  6. Keep it Formal…
  7. Pick Up the Phone…
  8. Recognize Emails for What They Are…”email 3

Most people over the age of 30 who work for or interact with corporations and traditional businesses have much more email to deal with than they would like. Every professional and every business world communicator has to figure out their own way to deal with too much email. This article gives very reasonable and actionable advice. Not all 19 tips will be appropriate for you, but everyone who hates emails at least a little bit will find one or two items they can use to better deal with a common communication challenge.

[I didn’t list all 19 tips in this post. If you are interested in this topic, you’ll want to read the entire article. If you say “meh” about email, you don’t need to see a long list…]

8 Audiovisual and Production Tips for Stage Presentationseight ball

The Event Leadership Institute kicked off its series of interactive Learning Labs on Technical Meeting & Event Production on July 27 with a hands-on course led by Matthew Saravay, president of New York-based production studio Wizard Studios. Course participants learned about projection technology, the types of different microphones and lighting and when to use them, the logistics of staging, and more. Here are some useful tips that Saravay had for planners and production managers.

  1. Use a dark background and light letters for presentations. For PowerPoint presentations and others that involve speaking with a screen, Saravay said to always use a dark background—such as black or purple—with light letters, so the letters pop off the screen. “For presentations, I want to fool people’s eyes,” said Saravay, who noted that an audience will have trouble viewing a presentation with a light background and darker letters…
  2. Equip speakers with an appropriate microphone…
  3. Consider what’s behind the presenter. “Make sure a podium sign or logo is behind the presenter. What you don’t want directly behind the presenter is the screen,” said Saravay…
  4. Ask clients what their needs are so the right type of stage can be selected…
  5. Use teleprompters effectively…
  6. Set different lighting looks…
  7. Create a show flow…
  8. Be strategic when selecting a venue…”

Another “tips” article. One of the truly practical tips I’d never heard before was to use a dark background with light letters for all projected presentations. Never really thought about that before. I’m going to watch for that at future events to consciously evaluate for myself whether I notice a significant difference. It will also be instructive to discuss that with event goers to find out if they’re aware of the dark text vs light text issue.

Closely related to the “dark background, light letters” is “consider what’s behind the speaker.” This is another tip I need to think about after watching a few presentations. Many well-known speakers have done very effective and memorable talks with only the screen behind them.

Back to School for Trade Show Organizers: Build In More Ways to Learn and Connecttrade show display hall

The way we buy has evolved for both the B2B and B2C sectors. Trade show organizers who have re-imagined their expo floors into a solutions-based destination rather than one of a hard-sell shopping place are winning at delivering attendee value.

Results from a recent CEIR study…encompasses responses from both show organizers and their loyal attendees about the factors that drive attendance. In many instances, the organizers’ perceptions can be quite different from those of the attendees…

When evaluating the factors that are most important learning draws for attendees, both the attendee and the expo organizer agreed on the top two reasons:

  1. To keep up-to-date with industry trends…what’s new or emerging?
  2. Professional networking.

But there was a huge divide on the third factor “to attend conference programs/sessions.” Organizers ranked the importance of this factor at 73%. Yet, only 45% of attendees said it’s important to them…

There was another factor under learning, “attend for continuing education credits, CME, etc.,” which only 21% of loyal attendees rated as important or very important. Shocker to organizers’ perceptions: 47% of them perceived it as an important reason…

CEUs have been on a path toward commoditization for many years. We estimate the value to be somewhere between $5 and $30 per hour…we believe trade show presentationthat CEUs are the Fool’s Gold of Attendance Marketing…”

This item takes a look a event factors that are important for trade shows in 2016 and the immediate future. I don’t get involved with managing trade events, although I would enjoy emerging technology trade events, but I have attended many trade events in the past. I definitely agree with the top two reasons unless the attendee is designing a high capital cost major product and is at the trade show to become familiar with competing products that they may be considering for their project.

The issue of “conference programs/sessions” isn’t so much that attendees aren’t interested in the topics. It’s more that the attendees don’t want to be put to sleep by a boring PowerPoint presentation with no chance to have conversations about the topic which allows them to ask questions, share their experiences, hear from their peers, or discuss the issue with professionals who are more interested in the topic than they are in being a presenter. Most trade show organizers are so busy with all the logistics of the vendors displaying at the event that they don’t have time to figure out genuinely engaging trade show sessions.

What the article author wrote about CEUs says it all. The continuing education credit only has value for a few industry sectors that haven’t yet decided trade show CEUs have minimal value.

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Bonus points, Pokémon GO post of the week:  How to Grab onto the Wildly Popular Pokémon Go Phenomenon

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Connecting NE Wisconsin Disruptive Innovators

Connecting Disruptive Innovators

The recent posts I’ve written about innovation and entrepreneurism in NE Wisconsin have got me thinking about all the good things and interesting times that could result from a wisconsin red NEwell-connected regional disruptive innovators network. That train of thought led me to write this Friday evening post about actively working on connecting disruptive innovators in the region.

Connecting those disrupters will lead to increased innovation in the region, new worthwhile personal relationships, fun and productive activities, and a plethora of other possibilities. I’m looking forward to the challenge of connecting these like-minded people because it will pay dividends for the region, for the disrupters and for me.

Connection Plan Next Steps

So today’s post is a brief look at my current plan for connecting NE Wisconsin’s disruptive innovators. I’m just getting started, and the plan is sure to change with time, but as of August 5, 2016, my Next Steps are:

  1. Recruit a couple more people for the core team connecting NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators.trough of disillusionment
  2. Define disruptive innovation and give a broad outline of who a disruptive innovator is.
  3. Define where and what “NE Wisconsin” is.
  4. Build a website for NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators.
  5. Do extensive online research to identify as many of the region’s disruptive innovators as possible. Make a list of disrupters and people (bridge contacts) who might know disrupters. Use a Google doc to organize the results of my research and to create a background document about NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators.
  6. While doing above research, also gather and organize information about what’s happening in other regions with TIE communities, disruptive innovation, and entrepreneurial swarming. Also gather info about how these issues impact a region’s economy.
  7. Develop an outline of topics and questions to discuss with the disruptive innovators and people who might know of innovators in NE Wisconsin.
  8. Talk with people who might be disrupters or bridge contacts.
  9. Connect all the people who are interested in being part of the NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators network, as well as the larger NE Wisconsin TIE community (tech, innovators, entrepreneurs).

Three requests for readers of this post:

  1. If you’d like to discuss this NE Wisconsin innovation project, or you know you’d like to help connect the region’s TIE community and disruptive innovators, please contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.
  2. If you’re a tech, innovator, or entrepreneur type person and want to be connected with other people in the NE Wisconsin TIE community (especially if you’re a disruptive innovator!), please contact me.
  3. If you know of any NE Wisconsin tech, innovator, or entrepreneur type people, please let me know who they are. In addition to their names and other details like companies or projects they’re involved with, if you have contact info you can share, that will be fantastic!

Thank You!

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Social Capital, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurial Swarming

Short post tonight. I had hoped to write a longer introduction to social capital and its interaction with entrepreneurs and disruptive innovation.

However, after several hours of reading and trying to connect the dots so they create a clear picture, it seems the Polaroid photo is still developing. I don’t yet have the words all lined up to explain how identifying and effectively connecting and developing social capital in NE Wisconsin will enable the region to facilitate entrepreneurial swarming and disruptive innovation.bowling alone

Social capital is defined as “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.” Robert Putnam popularized the term in his book Bowling Alone, published in 2000. One of the issues discussed in the book was the difference between bonding social capital and bridging social capital. The Wikipedia entry for social capital also discusses bonding and bridging types of social capital.

I had a long and interesting discussion today about disruptive innovation, entrepreneurs, and social capital. During our conversation, we developed the vague outlines of an approach to improving disruptive innovation in this region by focusing on the appropriate type of social capital. Over the next couple weeks I will develop, in collusion with a fellow proponent of creative destruction, a proposed action plan to identify NE Wisconsin individuals and organizations social capital 2with high amounts of bridging social capital (as opposed to primarily bonding social capital).

The plan we’re developing will clarify the why and how of connecting with people who have the ability to be disruptive innovators, or who may already be innovating below the radar. After we’re satisfied that the plan clearly presents the basic elements of our vision, we’ll work with the appropriate group of NE Wisconsin people and organizations to refine the plan and identify how to connect with the right resources to successfully kickstart a new level of disruptive innovation in NE Wisconsin. If you’re interested in facilitating this type of activity in our region, keep an eye on this blog.

Now it’s time for me to get back to researching and working on our first draft of the proposal…

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MIT Energy Monitoring System & NE Wisconsin Innovation

In a post earlier this week, “MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program,” I said NE Wisconsin tech innovation could benefit greatly from participating in the MIT REAP initiative.

New MIT Energy Monitoring System

A new MIT energy monitoring system for consumers that was in the news this week points to one way NE Wisconsin could work with MIT on disruptive innovation. This system is 10X innovative in estimated cost ($25 – $30 per home) and in design (simple MIT energy sensorinstallation, self-calibrating, OwnYourData IoT philosophy).

“…soon, there could be a much easier way to figure out exactly how much power is being used by every appliance, lighting fixture, and device in your home, with pinpoint accuracy and at low cost…the new MIT system has some key advantages over other approaches. First, it involves no complex installation…the system is designed to be self-calibrating. Second…the sensors can pick up enough detailed information about spikes and patterns in the voltage and current that the system can…tell the difference between every different kind of light, motor, and other device in the home and show exactly which ones go on and off, at what times. Perhaps most significantly, the system is designed so that all of the detailed information stays right inside the user’s own home…

Other groups have attempted to use wireless sensors to pick up the very faint magnetic and electric fields near a wire, but such systems have required a complex alignment process…The MIT team solved the problem by using an array of five sensors, each slightly offset from the others, and a calibration system that tracks the readings from each sensor and figures out which one is positioned to give the strongest signal.

“A bunch of major players have gotten into, and out of, this field,” says Leeb, including giants like Google and Microsoft. But now, he says, the MIT team has solved the key issues and come up with a practical and very powerful system…Once the system is developed into a commercial product, Leeb says, it should cost only about $25 to $30 per home…”

NE Wisconsin Innovating With MIT Technology

If NE Wisconsin participates in REAP, one of my recommendations is to work with MIT on developing niche areas of disruptive tech innovation activity. This new consumer energy monitoring system could fit in one of those niche areas.

The NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators could collaborate with the MIT REAP team and the MIT faculty and students developing relevant new technology. In the case of the energy monitoring system, maybe we could get 50 beta systems (costs covered by NE Wisconsin disruptive innovation supporters) and install them in area homes. We could then work with MIT to fine-tune the systems and maybe develop add-ons, related resource-monitoring devices, or a whole slew of other innovation ideas that might come from Canary Instruments energy monitor 2working on these systems.

I worked on a startup company in northern California that made an energy monitor with similar goals — to measure the electricity being used in a home or smaller living units such as apartments. The competitive advantage of the Canary Instruments monitor was using color feedback to indicate energy usage level, rather than using numbers to show how many units of electrical power are being consumed by all the devices in your home.

The sensors we used to measure electricity usage for the Canary Instruments energy monitors were current transformers, or CTs. The MIT sensors would be easier to install than CTs and are designed to monitor the power differently. It would be fun to use the MIT monitoring system with the Canary Instruments consumer feedback approach.Nexi energy monitor

[Since I left the startup, they’ve developed a new consumer feedback interface called Nexi, still using the color feedback concept, but with a different form factor. I’m not sure which style I like better. Would have to use both of them to see which one appealed most to me over a period of weeks or months.]

The new MIT energy monitoring system is only one of many thousands of disruptive tech innovations being worked on right now at MIT. I guarantee you I could easily find ten or twenty other MIT research projects that could lead to worthwhile NE Wisconsin niche disruptive innovation projects…

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The Need For A NE Wisconsin Reboot (Take 2)

Reboot (Take 1) was presented in “Reboot, Part 1: NE Wisconsin 3.0.” Today’s post takes a slightly different approach in explaining why I think a Reboot is needed.

Technology Is Relevant

As technology becomes more relevant to disruptive innovation, the national economy, and the global economy, NE Wisconsin becomes less relevant to disruptive innovation, the national economy, and the global economy. That trend is shown in the chart below.

Reboot, NE Wisc chart

Factors For Thriving Regional Disruptive Innovation

Nobody has yet figured out a repeatable formula for building a region with fast adoption of emerging technologies, a high level of disruptive innovation, and ongoing creation of new high-paying jobs. But some of the factors which appear to help a region’s disruptive innovation emerge and continue to grow in impact are:

  • Tech industry clusters and ecosystems.entrepreneurship factors
  • Research universities and exemplary education systems.
  • Risk-tolerant regional culture.
  • Unique regional resources and competitive advantages.
  • Strong network of highly successful entrepreneurs.
  • Favorable government policies and regulations.
  • High population density and many creatives.
  • Diverse population, including motivated and educated 1st-gen American immigrants.
  • Uniquely attractive weather, geography and terrain.

Disruptive Innovation Rating For NE Wisconsin

The above list of factors favorable for thriving tech entrepreneurism and disruptive innovation is not definitive or complete, but these are relevant and important issues. Therefore, it seems useful and instructive to look at NE Wisconsin and do an informal rating for the region on each factor.

  1. Tech industry clusters and ecosystems. NE Wisconsin does not have any tech industry clusters or significant ecosystems. Historically strong industries are paper and forest products, dairy, agriculture, and traditional heavy manufacturing. Technology in NE Wisconsin primarily means IT and MIS, rather than CS, coders, developers, founders and emerging technologies such as nanotech, photonics, microelectronics, robotics, 3D printing or wearable computing.
  2. Research universities and exemplary education systems. NE Wisconsin does not have any major tech research universities. The overall performance of the region’s education system is good, but there are few if any exemplary schools or school districts that attract families with high potential youth to relocate to their area because of educational opportunities. Nor do the school systems have extensive collaboration with the NE Wisconsin TIE community (Tech, Innovators, Entrepreneurs). Contrast that with Joseph Schumpeter’s education* and the opinion of GE’s CIO, Jim Fowler**.
  3. Risk-tolerant regional culture. NE Wisconsin has a risk-averse culture. Launching a startup here that does not give you an income equal to or greater than a good-paying “normal” job or having to shut down your startup means you failed, rather than meaning you may have learned how to do better on the next startup. Most potential investors for startups in the region want a guaranteed return that is higher than investing in the stock market or other traditional investment options. They are not interested in investing in startups if only two or three out of ten will be successful. And they’re highly unlikely to invest in pre-seed stage startups as part of a serious effort to improve the entrepreneurial culture of the region or to kickstart entrepreneurial swarming.
  4. Unique regional resources and competitive advantages. NE Wisconsin has only two truly unique regional resources which are known nationally and globally — the Green Bay Packers and the Experimental Aircraft Association. Neither of these are a compelling source of regional disruptive innovation or tech entrepreneurism, although they do present intriguing opportunities that I’ll discuss in a future post.
  5. Strong network of highly successful tech entrepreneurs. NE Wisconsin does not have a strong network of highly successful tech entrepreneurs (as far as I know) who are actively working to expand the tech entrepreneur community and improve the startup communities brad feldregion’s culture. I’m not even aware of very many highly successful tech entrepreneurs in NE Wisconsin. It’s possible such a network exists, and my lack of knowledge about it is due to me not being a highly successful tech entrepreneur and not being seen as useful to the people in that network. And there may be many highly successful tech entrepreneurs in the region, but they just prefer to stay under the radar. Brad Feld of Foundry Group views a strong network of entrepreneurs who lead programs to be the key to building a highly entrepreneurial region.
  6. Favorable government policies and regulations. Wisconsin and NE Wisconsin government policies and regulations are generally not strongly supportive of disruptive innovation and tech entrepreneurship.
  7. High population density, many creatives. NE Wisconsin does not have a high population density, even in its larger cities. The region is not an immigration destination for creatives and does not have a widely connected community of creatives or wide-based regional support for creatives.
  8. Diverse population. NE Wisconsin’s population is not highly diverse. And the population of the region’s TIE community is even less diverse, being mostly white and male.
  9. Uniquely attractive weather, geography and terrain. NE Wisconsin does not have any uniquely attractive weather, geography or terrain. It gets very cold in the winter, but there is not enough snow to build a strong snowsports industry. The region does not have mountains or ocean beaches, and it doesn’t have any other spectacular geography that might draw entrepreneurs, creatives or other potential disruptive innovators.

If you add up all of NE Wisconsin’s factors favorable for disruptive innovation, you won’t get a large number. We don’t have critical mass and aren’t at a tipping point for a significant increase in disruptive innovation. That doesn’t mean we can’t have disruptive innovation–it just means we have to approach the topic differently than other regions.Prophet of Innovation

*   “…[Schumpeter’s mother] wanted an even larger stage for her talents and her son’s…she arranged for the new family to move to Vienna…a far cry from Graz, or even Triesch. In Vienna she entered [Schumpeter] in a renowned preparatory school…The Theresianum was one of the best and most demanding schools of its kind…His family had leased an entire floor of one of the luxurious apartments situated near the famous Ringstrasse…Schumpeter’s daily walks took him past places steeped in history, and where history was still being made…He did this from the ages of ten to twenty-three…The Theresianum required far more rigorous work than most high schools do today…As at high schools everywhere, then and now, many students tried to idle their way through, doing as little work as possible. But Schumpeter–playful and outgoing as he was–had the true intellectual’s curiosity about the world…For a diligent student like Schumpeter, an education at the Theresianum followed by a degree at the University of Vienna conferred priceless intellectual assets…Both the Theresianum and the University of Vienna emphasized what today would be called “networking.”…In the early stages of his career, Schumpeter was to discover that he too needed noble patronage…”

**   “…Kids are the ultimate beta testers…There is a lot of talk about the lack Jim Fowlerof STEM education in America, and we absolutely have to make a formal, concerted effort to get more hard science into our classrooms. But we also shouldn’t overlook the many things outside the classroom that might kick off an active, lifelong interest in technology…that engage young people with technology in ways that draw on their natural independence and creativity…”

Realistic Expectations For Next 20 Years

With the programs and activities currently in place and likely to develop in NE Wisconsin, realistic expectations for technology, disruptive innovation, and entrepreneurism in this region over the next 20 years are:

  1. Technology, innovation and entrepreneurism will continue to improve in NE Wisconsin, but at a slower pace than on the West Coast, the East Coast, and in many other regions not on either coast. Examples of non-coast regions where innovation is ne wiscimproving faster than NE Wisconsin are Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Kansas City, Chattanooga, Ann Arbor, Champaign, Fort Collins, and Provo.
  2. Very few scalable tech startups will launch in this region and very few successful ones will stay in NE Wisconsin as they grow.
  3. Minimal and non-coordinated support for technology, disruptive innovation and tech entrepreneurism will be provided by NE Wisconsin corporations, influential individuals, investors, regional governments, or state government.
  4. There will be minimal NE Wisconsin participation or notable achievements in emerging technologies. There will be few NE Wisconsin ventures leveraging emerging technologies for competitive advantage.
  5. There will be minimal disruptive innovations developed in NE Wisconsin. Few NE Wisconsin companies will effectively leverage disruptive innovations for competitive advantage.
  6. The NE Wisconsin TIE community will continue to not be widely and deeply connected, resulting in infrequent opportunities for like-minded people to interact, discuss, collaborate, or cofound startups. The lack of wide and deep connections also results in much less disruptive innovation and hinders the entrepreneurial swarming necessary for creative destruction.
  7. Most people, especially young people, who passionately want to participate in disruptive innovation will move from NE Wisconsin to another region more supportive of disruptive innovation.

Bottom Line ⇒ NE Wisconsin gradually improves but continues to fall behind other regions.

These expectations might seem overly harsh. Most people in NE Wisconsin do not care about disruptive innovation. Nearly all people in the region who do care about innovation will disagree with this post and point to what they see as examples of improvement and disruptive innovation. Or they will say that this region doesn’t need disruptive innovation to have the best possible regional economy, one that is sustainable and resilient and leads to a bright future for our children and for their children. I respectfully disagree and say significant changes are needed to achieve the regional economy and brighter future we want.next steps

The Next Step for Reboot is to connect people interested in disruptive innovation and a thriving, resilient, sustainable regional economy and have the conversations needed to develop a plan for change.

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If you know of examples of disruptive innovation in NE Wisconsin, please send information and links to Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

If you are interested in discussing and working on disruptive innovation, contact me.

If you know of NE Wisconsin people potentially interested discussing and working on disruptive innovation, please connect them with me, or send me info about them.

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MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program

What Is MIT REAP?

While reading various online and offline resources about disruptive innovation, I came across the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT REAP).

According to their website:MIT REAP

The MIT REAP is a global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth & social progress through innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) built upon a region’s unique history, capacity and comparative advantage. Partner regions form stakeholder teams and commit to a two-year learning engagement working with MIT faculty and the broader REAP community through a series of action-learning activities to assess, build and implement a custom regional strategy for enhancing IDE ecosystems.

MIT REAP admits 8-10 partner regions annually to participate in the two-year engagement. Each partner region has a team comprised of 5-7 highly driven and influential regional members and is headed by a regional champion. All 5 major stakeholder groups are represented in an MIT REAP team: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community.

MIT REAP involves four action-learning cycles over a two-year period. These cycles involve highly interactive workshops every 6 months, which are interspersed by action phases:

(1) A typical workshop is 2.5 days and consists of lecture & discussion, case study analysis, ecosystem engagement tours, programmatic deep dives, group work report-outs, and preparation for action phases. 2 workshops are hosted at MIT and 2 workshops are hosted by selected partner regions.

(2) Action phases are active time between workshops where teams return home to deepen analysis, validate assumptions with a broad network, and implement new programs and policies.

Why Consider MIT REAP For NE Wisconsin

MIT campusI’ve interacted quite a bit over the last ten years with the MIT Club of Wisconsin (MIT alumni who live in Wisconsin). They are a fantastic bunch of people, smartest bunch of interesting geeks I ever met. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit MIT yet, but hope to one day.

If I could chose one university to work with on a wide variety of technology issues, MIT would be my choice. MIT is considered the best technology university in the USA, and is considered by some to be the best in the world. It was the source of many innovations in computer science, and an almost endless list of new technologies have come from, and keep coming from, MIT.

StanfordIf I could chose one university to work with on a wide variety of entrepreneurship issues, Stanford would be my choice. Stanford University has a better reputation than MIT in terms of tech entrepreneurship and being the source of highly-scalable startups. But MIT has also been the starting point for many startups and tech entrepreneurs.

In terms of which of the two would be my top choice for working with NE Wisconsin to leverage emerging technologies, disruptive innovation and entrepreneurial swarming, I would have to pick MIT. They definitely have the edge on emerging tech, they’re definitely behind on entrepreneurial swarming, and they seem slightly behind on disruptive innovation.

But the reason I’d choose MIT is because their culture is probably closer to that of NE Wisconsin than Stanford is. Even though Stanford would probably have better suggestions for our region for disruptive innovations and entrepreneurial swarming, those suggestions would be based on what’s happening in California and other tech hotspots around the world. Those suggestions might be actionable in five or ten years in NE Wisconsin, but not in 2016 or 2017. I think it would be too challenging for Stanford, based on what they know and where they see things going over the next ten years, to figure out innovation improvement recommendations that are appropriate for NE Wisconsin.

wisconsin red NEI think MIT’s recommendations would be a lot more in line with how the companies, universities, government, and investors in this region think. Unfortunately, NE Wisconsin is not ready for Stanford recommendations.

In addition to our area being able to act more effectively on MIT’s recommendations, I think MIT can help NE Wisconsin develop some awesome niche emerging technology specialties. If we can have a few disruptive innovation wins in niche areas, that gives us a base to launch more scalable tech startups, and that will be the beginning of entrepreneurial swarming.

Questions About MIT REAP And Similar Programs

Even if MIT was willing to accept NE Wisconsin into their program (no guarantees about that), there are lots of questions about the MIT REAP opportunity.

  • questionsWho would the region’s representatives be on the MIT REAP team of 5 – 7 members? I’ve got a list of the people I would put on the team.
  • Who would pay for the MIT REAP team’s expenses (MIT fees, travel, lodging, etc)?
  • Why would the MIT REAP improve the region’s tech entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation more than the current NE Wisconsin programs, people, and organizations will without MIT?
  • What are the MIT REAP deliverables or realistic expectations for NE Wisconsin at the end of the two year program?
  • Are there other programs outside NE Wisconsin for improving a region’s disruptive innovation and tech entrepreneurship, and might one of those be better than MIT’s and better than our homegrown bootstrapping efforts?

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PS — Iceland is one of the regions that will be in the next MIT REAP class starting in October 2016. That would be soooooo cool to be in the program and get to know the people from Iceland, as well as all the other teams (I don’t know what other regions will be in the Fall 2016 class). And I’m betting that one of the 2.5 day workshops hosted by partner regions will be done in Reykjavik! 🙂

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