Book Review: The Innovator’s DNA

the-innovators-dnaThe research piece behind this book might be the next thing I read, as I’m intrigued by the academic rigor applied.

The reveal and living examples of the five skills – questioning, networking, experimenting, observing and associating – are tangible and approachable given their articulation through well-known and highly visible entrepreneurs running innovative companies. There’s much to be gleaned by looking at the way these people behave and, even through simple emulation, enhancing one’s own skills.

My only real disappointment with the book is its limited approach to practical, daily application for those not yet at the top of the tree. It’s rather a different kettle of fish for the innovation-minded, but stuck in bureaucracy, worker who wants to make things better, is still motivated, and hasn’t been crushed by the machine.

How does that person actively innovate? And, in some cases, get away with it?

A section in this book (or an accompanying volume) focussing on daily, in-work, innovation would be useful.

Bringing meaning to social networks

I’m someone who works with social tools for a living. My job is defined by the level of expertise I bring to using them and the way I can use them to connect with people in communities of expertise, mostly in a business context. In a grand failure (or, is it?) of work-life balance, my social and personal life involves a good deal of social network use too.

And, as part of my participation in TEDActive next week, I’m involved in a project called TEDActiveSOC. It’s all about finding deeper meaning in the way we use and create social networks and our ever-increasing hyperconnectedness. My ongoing research and thinking has me convinced that the heart of the project needs to be about enabling the production of social, or public goods.

We all know we can use our social networks for everything from the mundane and trivial to the world-changing.

I want to weight my use and actions in 2011 to real and tangible outcomes; something like a set of Umair Haque‘s laws for organisations into a similar set for social innovation.

It can’t be that hard.

There’s real social capital to be derived for users at the personal level with these outcomes in mind and even greater good at the level of organisations and society as a whole.

I’m keen for a perspective on social, organisational, governmental and personal change as an outcome that use of these tools can amplify. There are no Twitter and Facebook revolutions. Rather there are revolutions of people, somewhat amplified through social networks.

At this point, I’m actually thinking a touch wider. What I want to see is the creation of new social networks (whatever and whenever they are) with a “do no harm” perspective built in from the ground up in the DNA of the companies (and people) who make them.

So too, I want to see the users thinking the same way. Here are the sorts of questions I’m asking myself:

  • How do we use our social tools to ensure that no harm comes to others now and into the future as a consequence of our actions?
  • How do we create thick social value through the invention and use of social tools and networks?
  • How do we ensure our social tools are always about people over things?
  • How do we create and use social tools based on principle versus strategy – aiming purpose over profit?

I think we need to look to Africa and parts of Asia.

In these places, societies are becoming more connected, but in simpler ways that benefit the people directly through outcomes such as ensuring best prices for goods at market (Kenya, I think), knowing which port will buy your catch (Sri Lanka), ensuring police are paid their full wage rather than corrupt officials skimming a cut (Afghanistan), etc. All these projects are enabled by Internet-connected tools, but not accessed by anything more complex than an old-school grey screen Nokia and text messages.

This is the stuff that’s bugging me.

You asked for my feedback – Paxus JobSeeker Survey

It’s a common opinion amongst the people I speak to, that the recruiting industry has a long way to come to improve its performance. Too much, this industry relies on outdated practices that fail to treat candiates as people and to establish a real relationship with them.

So, today, when I received an email asking me to complete the latest Paxus JobSeeker Survey, I did so. And in the “anything else” question, I had this to say:

Paxus (and most other recruiting agencies) fail dismally when it comes to understanding and knowing their candidates – whether active or passive. It would take the effort of a few minutes work to Google each candidate and understand them better from their profiles on such things as their blogs, conferences they have spoken at, LinkedIn Facebook, etc. Yet, the industry persists in being a sausage factory, interested only in numbers through the door.

It’s no longer about this. It’s about a deep, close relationship with candidates and potential candidates over a long period of time. And it’s time the recruiting industry changed.

I have actually taken to refusing to speak with recruiters who haven’t done their research on me. They don’t deserve my time or any income they might make from me.

What do you think? My take is the recruiting industry won’t change unless we pressure it to. So, take the survey and add your views.


While I’m behind on the main session posts as I type this (three sessions behind now…), this is worth highlighting.

One of the unique things (and there are many) about TED@PalmSprings is the opportunity for audience members to get on stage and share their ideas worth spreading.

This morning, a bunch of us did just that. And it was AWESOME!

Welcome to TED DIY!


  • why is a Guitar Hero instrument not a legitimate music tool?
  • imagine if

Al Myers

  • edu revolution!
  • innovate learning methods!
  • immerse!
  • mentors
  • empowered

Jim Fallon

  • UC prof
  • neuroscientist
  • history of deep research into creativity (and other areas)
  • also research into psychopathic killers why?
  • gene expression as consequence of exposure to extreme violence
  • cultures exposed to violence have potential for increased gene expression


  • treat donations themselves as a form of currency
  • work, innovate, create
  • representative cause credits
  • open platform
  • just 1%?
  • what couldn’t we do?


  • difficult to teach genetics, even to doctors
  • have created a how to kit/visualisation for genome comparison

Annette Greenstein

  • evolution about mobility
  • access to location
  • change in thinking
  • what thinking do we need to do?
  • mobility solutions in underprivileged communities


  • Dean of Engineering SMU
  • 1 lifetime to increase computing power 1Mx
  • power of innovation + power of imagination makes everything possible
  • from “one-off” to one billion
  • Global Open Source Home

Jenny Morel

  • Martin Jetpack


  • ex-Navy diver
  • 27y in tech now
  • rowing across Atlantic 2nd Atlantic Trade Winds Expedition
  • 14 man crew
  • Canary Is to Barbados
  • mind over body body needs to be ready
  • gruelling selection process and training
  • lost rudder 11 days in

Seth and Jose

  • creating stock market to fund 10 large scale public artworks
  • auction after 1yr
  • proceeds split between artists and funders
  • invest social capital into social art
  • clever idea!

Sebastian Verbeke

  • storytelling
  • buffalo!
  • (buffalo)^n=English sentence
  • ambiguity
  • just let the buffalo roam

Lisa Buksbaum

  • Soaring Words
  • 250K kids and families helped

Elaine Parker

  • what skills do we need for success?
  • get kids into the kitchen to learn
  • magic as analogy for cooking
  • diabetes and obesity big issues
  • as kids think they make intelligent critical choices about food

Tony O’Driscoll

  • poem about power of TED
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TED Session 5 – Understand

Things got better for me in this session. The kickoff speaker, Nina Jablonski had what I think was the best stage presence so far. Others will disagree, but I really liked her – I’d totally study Anthropology if she was one of my professors.

Nina Jablonski

  • this month is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin‘s birth
  • Origin of Species was published 150 years ago – just one line in it about evolution
  • Darwin likely understood the nature of the spread of pigmentation in human population, but never wrote about it
  • Darwin rejected the idea that pigmentation was related to climate
  • TOMS satellite data collected that shows levels of UV exposure of surface
  • there is a fundamental direct correlation between UV exposure and skin pigmentation in cultural groups – pigmentation is an evolutionary factor
  • melanin acts as a natural sunscreen – darker=more protected
  • also protects against DNA destruction and folate breakdown
  • UVA has no ability to make Vitamin D in skin, only UVB – significant consequences for high latitude populations
  • health and social consequences
  • Vitamin D deficiency from underexposure to UVB a significant issue – measurable effects on skeletal and mental health
  • evidence for evolution is “right on your body”
  • best speaker so far

Arthur Benjamin

  • calculus is the wrong summit for high school math
  • rather, we should teach complex probability and statistics
  • everyone should know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means
  • few people use calculus daily in a meaningful way as opposed to probability
  • calculus still critical – introduce in in 1st year of college

Hans Rosling

  • retrospective on world HIV infection rates
  • recognised in 1983 and virus discovered in 1991
  • global HIV epidemic now reaching steady state – around 1% of adult population
  • 30-40M cases in the world
  • all not reached by treatment – 6% untreated in poor countries 2 years after diagnosis
  • only by stopping transmission can we further reduce infection rates
  • HIV is very different in Africa yet the West views Africa as a single whole
  • oversimplification
  • research is now breaking the perception of Africen infection rates and the source and nature of those infection
  • 4% of the globe has 50% of the infection
  • we need Heart. Money. Brain.

Louise Fresco

  • bread is a staple of human diet
  • “real” bread is about authenticity – why do we have this image?
  • most of our ancestors were close to the land – we have mythologised the past
  • processed white bread is a significant cultural marker – plenty
  • global agricultural population is now ~4% in industrialised nations
  • never before have so few been involved in producing our food
  • the “plenty state” change in the constitution of bread (adding sugar, milk, fruit, eggs) shifts it from staple to partial cause of obesity
  • mass production ->large scale -> habitat destruction
  • we need to go back to knowing what food is about – we are removed from what our bread is
  • the anti-mass production movement bases itself on false arguments and will relegate farming communties to poverty
  • rather than hyperlocal, we need to move away from long haul food to regional food
  • we need to give agricultural communities the necessary tools
  • we need to double global food production by 2020. – the demand for protein in developing nations is a driving force
  • clever, low-key mechanisation
  • more good science
  • ask your governments for integrated food policy
  • food is about cultural respect

Elizabeth Gilbert

  • lifelong love and fascination with writing
  • will it now change with the weight of expectation after Eat, Pray, Love?
  • she is afraid of not achieving more
  • some writers undone by their gifts
  • “Encourage our creative minds to live”
  • looking for models for sane management of creativity – ancient Greece and Rome
    • creativity associated with a divine spirit
    • unknowable reasons
    • daemon or a genius – divine entities of creativity
    • Dobby the House Elf
  • Renaissance changed – Man at the center of the universe
  • you could be a genius rather than have a genius – fundamental difference
  • Tom Waits – embodiment of tortured poet
    • creative process hit him while driving – “Do you not see that I’m driving”
    • no longer tormented by creative process
  • creativity as transcendent event – painful reconciliation for performers and creators
  • Ole!

Jacek Utko

  • newspapers are dying for many reasons
  • can anything save newspapers?
  • Small. Free. Local. Focussed. Views over news
  • Cirque du Soleil as model for newspaper design
  • design posters not newspapers
  • have fun through experimentation
  • treat the entire paper like a single composition akin to music
  • have the  designer responsible for the reader experience
  • circulation grows significantly – 13-35% immediately after the redesign
  • design as a part of the whole process – not just a point
  • improve the product as well – better content
  • strategy+content+design
  • design can change product, company, you – give power tto designers
  • do all your work at the highest posssible level
  • “To be good is not enough.”

Nigel Holmes

  • new update
  • million – billion – trillion sounds inncouous
  • at the scale of a smallbrochure, 1B is 1/42″ high to 1T at 20′
  • If 10T is the deficit, we need 1B ideas

Margaret Wertheim

  • the crochet hook is a powerful tool
  • crocheting a coral reef involves – people on several continents, math, craft, activism
  • 100s of models in installation – 99% of work by women
  • a response to news of damage to Great Barrier Reef
  • aesthetic and poetic dimensions of math
  • Andy Warhol Museum asked her to exhibit
  • also Chicago Cultural Center – at 3000 square feet
  • insane, crochet overdrive
  • many contributors – local people contribute their own pieces
  • organisms in corals reefs exhibit hyperbolic geometry – only way to physically model is with crochet
  • hyperbolic geometry discovered in 19th Century – only in 1997 was use of crocheta
  • also Eucldidea anspherical geometry
  • hyperbolic space
  • “feminine handicraft” defies Euclidean geomery and general relativity – sea slugs don’t care
  • lettuce also embodies hyperbolic geometry
  • The Crochet Code
  • play – kindy for grown-ups
  • we have think tanks, we need play tanks
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TED Session 1 – Reboot

Here’s the thing, I can’t write fast enough to make all this make this all make sense, so what I’m going to do is post my raw notes from each session. Crazy, I know, but hopefully it gives you at least a feel for what’s going on. When I get time, I’ll go through and add more links and detail.

Ask questions if you want more detail.

Juan Enriquez

  • The economy (elephant)
  • When you’re dancing in the flames, what’s next?
  • Banks over-leveraged (Citibank 47x)
  • Mandatory spending now hits 100% at 2017 (maybe sooner)
  • Banish entitlements
  • Work longer (2-4 more years)
  • Reduce military by 3% pa
  • Limit borrowing
  • 225 largest Japanese companies worth 25% of 18 years ago
  • “As we cut we must also grow”
  • Louis L’Amour – end… beginning
  • Skin cells rebooted to stem cells – you can make any body part
  • Oscar Pistorius – combine engineering, robotics, humans – eventually unbeatable
  • Ears now – soon better than normal
  • Eyes beginning
  • There will be a new species of hominids – before we die – take direct control (the ultimate reboot) – TED scribe, ask her questions and Chris will ask the speakers.

P.W. Singer

  • Military tech
  • Packbot
  • Reality is that robots are now doing mundane tasks but will move to critical life and death decision
  • 5300 drones
  • 12K unmanned ground units – Model T
  • Moore’s Law working on military robots
  • We are in a revolution in war
  • Affect the who of fighting at its most fundamental level
  • Warfare now open source
  • War from afar – costless war
  • War porn
  • More PTSD in remote distance fighters – it’s like a video game and we don’t have the same cognitive or conscience filters. 12 hour shifts and home for dinner.
  • How do we rethink the rules of war?

Yves Behar and Forrest

  • Serendipity and collaboration
  • Met at TED last year
  • Mission 1 motorcycle

Comcast broadband ad – shaved panther rabbit with jets –

Thomas Dolby

  • music aids “digestion”

Naturally 7

  • UK charts this week
  • Acapella
  • Beatboxing as a seriously amazing art form
  • Vocal play
  • Wall of sound

David Hanson

  • Robotics
  • Freaky robot faces that look human
  • Conversational response

Bill Gates

  • 2nd time at TED
  • Rebooting philanthropy
  • “Hope I’m not in the Reboot section because sometimes you need to reboot your PCs.”
  • “Any tough problem, I think, can be solved.”
  • Malaria control
    • Bed nets and DDT reduce deaths by 50%
    • Foundation backing drug research – phase 3 trials
  • Great teachers
    • Make opportunity equal for all students, not just top 20%
    • Over 30% drop out rate in US – 50% in minorities
    • Higher chance of going to jail than completing 4yr degree in US if in low income bracket
    • Best teachers not the most senior ones
    • Masters’ degree has nearly no measurable effect
    • Past performance only truly significant measure
    • KIPP program – dynamic, engaging
  • US$3.8B from Gates Foundation in 2009, half on global health initiatives
  • As you improve health there is direct correlation with reduction in population growth as parents feel they do not need to reproduce so many children who *might* survive to adulthood
  • Opportunities compound (Gladwell and Gates) – luck and skill combine
  • Don’t optimise for your epitaph

Ben Zander

  • Conductor Boston Philharmonic
  • Happy Birthday to YOU
  • We have distinguished possibility.
  • What will you do next time you sing “Happy Birthday”? Or indeed next time in anything?
  • You can choose to get up and conduct.
  • Resignation. Anger. Possibility.
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BarCamp Sydney #4 – Saturday, 15 November 2008

The (un)organisers of BarCamp Sydney have let me know that they are preparing for yet another festival of creativity to engage and excite the Australian tech and innovation community. Details below.

Date: 15 November 2008

Venue: UNSW Roundhouse

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PMpm (registration starts at 8:30AM)

Register: Do it yourself on the wiki

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp before, I highly recommend it. Make some time in your schedule. For those that have been before, I needn’t remind you how great BarCamp is. Take a look at my tag list below to see just how much of your life this might touch.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there. I’m not sure how my timetable is yet.