New ideas of 2008

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Like other tools used to scrutinize employee behavior surveillance cameras, software for monitoring e-mail and internet use , fMRI has the potential to influence corporate culture and the level of trust between workers and employers. Courts and legislatures will inevitably become involved as society tries to define reasonable limits. Anyone who doubts that internet commerce faces serious threats from online criminals should consider this: Criminal hacking has spawned a full-blown service economy—one that supports growing legions of relatively lower-skilled but fulsomely larcenous hackers.

In the past year, entrepreneurs, many of them based in Russia, have begun to create criminal hacking enterprises aimed not at stealing but at providing services to help others steal. Business has quickly taken off. Per unit of risk—of apprehension, prosecution, and incarceration—enabling online crime pays better than perpetrating it directly. Criminal services entrepreneurs are netting millions of dollars a month.

Last year, two Russians created a subscription-based identity theft service. The clients are betting that during the day period one billing cycle victims will bank or otherwise submit personal data online. To offer their subscription service, the hackers contracted with yet another service provider to obtain a sophisticated distribution system for the illicit code, called a bot, that they would use to infect the PCs. That distributor enticed website owners to hide its bot on their sites by promising weekly payments based on the volume of traffic, much the way newspapers are paid by advertisers according to the number of visitors to their websites.

As with any service business, customers willing to pay extra can obtain premium offerings. The botnet rental operations offer ancillary consulting to maximize the effectiveness of your attack; some guarantee specified service levels or your money back. For those with the technical skills, opportunities for exploitation are richer than ever before. But something else is happening, too. Those gifted hackers are now enabling the far larger market of wannabes whose deficient skills would otherwise shut them out of the cybercriminal enterprise system.

By creating services for those people, hackers can generate huge profits without actually committing fraud. Gold prospectors may or may not strike it rich, but folks selling pans and pickaxes make a heck of a living either way. What surprises some experts about this new service economy is just how innovative and vibrant it has become.

The hackers code at a PhD level. Their solutions to problems are creative and efficient. They respond to market conditions with agility. Their focus on customer service is intense. If this loose collective of criminal hackers were a company, it would be a celebrated case study of success. Cybercrime services are so sophisticated and powerful that they make one pine for the days of simple website defacements and e-mail viruses with cute embedded messages.

As the victims of online crime pile up, more and more of them will look for someone to hold responsible. Scott Berinato is the executive editor of CSO magazine www. He covers information security and cybercrime. Its buses, streetcars, and subways serve 2. The TTC was once hailed as a model of enlightened, well-run urban transportation, but in the mids underfunding and rapid population growth started to take a heavy toll. The system began to creak, and rider discontent became rampant. A public entity, the TTC is obligated to consult regularly with its customers, a process that became increasingly contentious as rider frustration grew.

It was clear that communication was among the most badly broken parts of the system—an impediment to constructive action. The stalemate might have persisted if not for the serendipitous convergence of social networking technologies, a growing army of technology and transit geeks, and an open-minded new TTC chairman named Adam Giambrone.

Created by members of the Toronto blogging community, the grassroots meeting melded citizen activism with crowd-sourcing. About attendees used real-time Web 2. The happening emulated an innovative open-source problem-solving framework known as BarCamp.


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A BarCamp event is self-organizing; participants gather to think creatively, across disciplines, about areas of shared concern. Among the participants were transit activists, ordinary riders, technology geeks, visual artists and designers, and web developers. Some of the TTC representatives in attendance came out of simple curiosity about the new community Giambrone was seeking to engage. TransitCamp was promising in both its process and its results. The on-site use of social networking tools allowed many ideas to be put forward quickly and iteratively as the day unfolded.

The event moved the TTC to entirely rethink its website redesign plans. In impromptu closing remarks, Giambrone called the participants an inspiring voice for change. The icy relations between the TTC and the riding public have since begun to thaw. A previously issued RFP for the new website was canceled and a new one was developed from the principles that were articulated at TransitCamp.

The commission is still short of funds and facing possible service cuts and fare increases, but it has begun a frank, constructive online conversation with riders about which trade-offs make the most sense. The TransitCamp experience demonstrates the power of a new, technology-supported model for social and community change. This model empowers citizens to engage cooperatively with public officials in an otherwise unlikely civic—and civil—dialogue. TransitCamp reformed a transportation system by reinventing the way stakeholders collaborate with decision makers.

To learn more, visit hbr. Mark Kuznicki is the principal at Remarkk Consulting. Eli Singer is the director of social media for Segal Communications, a Draftfcb agency. Jay Goldman is the president and cofounder of Radiant Core. All three authors are based in Toronto. Their perpetual newness is what makes them enticing to players. Each generation of games begets a new generation of participants who develop what we call the gamer disposition. The gamer disposition has five key attributes. More than attitudes or beliefs, these attributes are character traits that players bring into game worlds and that those worlds reinforce.

We believe that gamers who embody this disposition are better able than their nongamer counterparts to thrive in the twenty-first-century workplace. Gamers like to be evaluated, even compared with one another, through systems of points, rankings, titles, and external measures. Their goal is not to be rewarded but to improve. Game worlds are meritocracies where assessment is symmetrical leaders are assessed just as players are , and after-action reviews are meaningful only as ways of enhancing individual and group performance.

Diversity is essential in the world of the online game. The key to achievement is teamwork, and the strongest teams are a rich mix of diverse talents and abilities. Nothing is constant in a game; it changes in myriad ways, mainly through the actions of the participants themselves. As players, groups, and guilds progress through game content, they literally transform the world they inhabit.

Part of the gamer disposition is grounded in an expectation of flux. Gamers do not simply manage change; they create it, thrive on it, seek it out. For most players, the fun of the game lies in learning how to overcome obstacles. The game world provides all the tools to do this. For gamers, play amounts to assembling and combining tools and resources that will help them learn. The reward is converting new knowledge into action and recognizing that current successes are resources for solving future problems.

Finally, gamers often explore radical alternatives and innovative strategies for completing tasks, quests, and challenges. Even when common solutions are known, the gamer disposition demands a better way, a more original response to the problem. Players often reconstruct their characters in outrageous ways simply to try something new. Together, these five attributes make for employees who are flexible, resourceful, improvisational, eager for a quest, believers in meritocracy, and foes of bureaucracy.

If your organization is receptive to these traits and it should be , look for gamers and the disposition they will bring you. John Seely Brown is a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California and an independent cochairman of a new Deloitte research center. In the coming decade, many businesses will achieve their greatest breakthroughs by playing games—specifically, alternate reality games, or ARGs. Custom-designed ARGs will enable companies to build powerful collaboration networks, discover solutions to specific business problems, forecast opportunities, and innovate more reliably and quickly.

The players who receive these building blocks use wikis, social networking sites, chat rooms, and blogs to analyze clues, debate interpretations, devise mission strategies, predict game events, and ultimately build a common narrative. Although commercial ARGs are, in relative terms, a niche entertainment genre involving several million players worldwide, their enterprise counterpart could eventually become a significant platform for real-world business—in essence, the new operating system.

ARGs train people in hard-to-master skills that make collaboration more productive and satisfying. Playing an ARG teaches 10 collective-intelligence competencies. These include cooperation radar , a knack for identifying the very best collaborators for a given task, and protovation , the ability to rapidly prototype and test experimental solutions.

Alternate reality games help you to develop these 10 collective-intelligence competencies. Learn more about them at mcgonigal. As these competencies mature within a business, ARGs will provide a truly stimulating framework for doing everyday work. The structure for collaboration is clear, with players rallying around explicit goals and continually sharing theories, tactics, and results.

Imagine using an ARG as a more vivid alternative to traditional scenario planning and business-simulation exercises. They leveraged their collective intellect to forecast fictional shifts in gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel prices and availability. They debated how shortages would transform many industries and disciplines.

Finally, they devised interventions to mitigate these effects, producing plausible strategies for managing a realistic future dilemma. The ARG framework allows players to grapple with risky potential realities yet remain safe from real-world consequences. But their skills will be augmented by an ARG-based operating system that amps up collaboration in the service of strategy.

Jane McGonigal is a speaker, writer, and consultant based in Palo Alto, California, where she designs alternate reality games and is an affiliate researcher at the Institute for the Future. But serious players soon latch on, the content improves, and before long everyone tunes in, businesses flock to buy advertising time, and shares in related companies skyrocket. That was the early history of radio. The parallels with the dot-com frenzy are eerie. And the party was just as short: Broadcasting companies struggled to turn a profit, stock prices plummeted, and only a few players survived.

By the time these traumas had passed, a new technology was on the block: television, which has been the dominant broadcasting medium ever since. Radio is very much the poor cousin. All the signs are that the life cycle of the internet will continue to parallel that of broadcasting. The technology that produces websites as we know them is limited in its ability to exploit the mass interactivity that the internet can potentially deliver. Sure, people can communicate with one another instantly online and even form communities—but they do it blind, through a keyboard.

Within five years, the dominant internet interface is likely to be the metaverse , a term used to describe interactive multiplayer games such as Second Life. Why bother with a MySpace page when you can have your own room in a virtual clubhouse? Some companies already have these worlds in their sights: IBM, for example, is developing ways for people to move their avatars from one metaverse to another. If the metaverse is the future of the internet, what should companies do to prepare for it? History once again provides clues. Just as early television networks got a leg up by approaching advertisers and building a base audience in the s and s, companies that get their metaverses up and running early will poach a lot of customers from rivals that leave metaverses for another day.

Also remember that it took decades for TV networks to learn how to efficiently address audiences with appropriate content and advertising, which was essential for the broadcasting business model. That suggests that companies had better start to experiment with the technology while it is still a sideshow. We know that the metaverse will be an important channel for our educational services, but we still have lots of questions about how best to attract students to it and present material on it.

Finally, as was the case for broadcasting, metaverses will present a real challenge for governments and regulators. We already see important issues emerging around security, network reliability, property legislation, and taxation. Down the road, questions of infrastructure, software standards, and compatibility between potentially competing metaverses may also dog regulators, who will have the additional difficulty of coping with these matters on a global scale.

Millions of people have joined virtual worlds such as Second Life and There. What makes virtual worlds so compelling, even in their current primitive form, is the presence of other people. We are inherently social creatures, deeply attuned to the nuanced actions and expressions of others, even other avatars. However, the expressiveness of current avatars is limited.

They can be moved next to each other to talk but often stare blankly into space, inert and unengaged. With virtual worlds poised to become major hubs of social and business activity, an important focus of research is how to make avatars more smoothly expressive—able to make appropriate eye contact, smile, show their interest or boredom, and so on. Giving avatars this kind of expressiveness raises complex questions about how we present ourselves in virtual worlds.

We will soon be able to choose avatars who span a spectrum of veracity in their expressiveness. In face-to-face interactions, our expressions signal our thoughts and feelings. A gaze indicates attention; narrowed lips reveal anger. Our expressions are reliable means of communication, but we can also edit and control them: We feign attentiveness when bored and maintain a poker face during intense negotiations.

Expressions that do not match our underlying feelings are essential not only for deception but also for privacy and social graciousness. In the not-too-distant future, we will choose the veracity of our avatars depending on our needs in each interaction, much as we now choose our communication media—video conference, phone, e-mail, IM—according to our desire for immediacy, accuracy, and control of the message.

In the idealized form, personality programs will give avatars gestures and expressions that, though consistent, detailed, and convincing, are generated by the avatar not the user. In the representative form, which describes most current avatars, expressiveness is based on user commands, entered via keyboard or selected from a menu. When users laugh, or look puzzled or bored, so do their avatars.

At the most advanced end of the continuum is the interior form, which could enable your avatar to represent your thoughts, through its movements and expressions, with even greater veracity than you do in the real world. Technologies for such control range from simple methods such as galvanic skin response, which gauges your emotional state by essentially measuring how sweaty your palms are, to early-stage technologies that read brain activity to deduce your thoughts and feelings.

Interior-form avatars might be desirable for tasks that require a high level of cooperation. Teams could use them to quickly assess when members have doubts or are excited about a new idea. The intensity of such communication might make working together virtually seem more intimate than being together physically. These technologies might also be used in competitive situations. During a business negotiation, one party might demand a move to the more revealing, interior-form avatar. If the other party resisted, would it be perceived as untrustworthy and evasive?

Although such mind reading is far from being commercially available, it is not too soon to be thinking deeply about the choices for expressiveness we may soon have in virtual worlds. When will you want to be in a solipsistic wonderland where everyone is beautiful and poised, where you learn little about your fellow humans yet still enjoy their company?

When will you want interactions in which once-private responses become nakedly public? And when will you choose the extraordinarily delicate balance between revelation and control that characterizes your everyday face-to-face interactions? The explosion in user-generated content will enable organizations to gain previously unparalleled views of customers. This has important implications for user privacy—and presents excellent opportunities for marketers.

To explain: Both user-generated digital content an appointment made on a BlackBerry, photos taken on a cell phone and passively generated data your Skype profile, your GPS coordinates as revealed by your mobile phone, your Google search history leave real-time trails or logs. In an increasingly connected future, the data trails from all these sources will create a massive universe of metadata.

A new generation of devices will provide filters or lenses through which to view this universe. This technology will send constant signals that can be used in the aggregate. Even now in New York City, for example, taxis equipped with global positioning systems allow officials to study the migratory patterns of yellow cabs and come up with better ideas for traffic engineering. Alternatively, increasing amounts of data recorded from people wearing monitors for heart problems or diabetes can quickly reveal patterns of behavior among these populations in a way that long-term studies cannot, yielding a possible boon for the health care industry and insurance companies.

This is just the beginning. Soon it will be possible to view, sort, and mine these aggregations in new ways. For example, tools such as Google Earth, in combination with a cell phone that logs personal health parameters in real time, could allow an organization to, say, map levels of emotion in the population of certain city areas. If the Red Sox won a baseball game, data sent from a variety of tools could be accumulated to register tremendous excitement in the Fenway Park area of Boston. All this raises fundamental questions about whom to trust with our data: Are you more comfortable backing up your digital life with your online provider or doing it off-line in your home?

Which data set is more likely to be compromised?

Large organizations that have the ability to monitor aggregated data will have to resist the temptation to abuse it. Individuals and companies will need to find and walk a new line between serving customers and exploiting them, either way with pinpoint accuracy. In the brave new world of aggregated data, companies will need to monitor themselves as well. Jan Chipchase is a human behavior researcher on the design team at Nokia. He is based in Tokyo. No sooner is a new tool invented than someone cooks up an off-label use. Sometimes an off-label application improves on the initially conceived one.

For example, Thomas Edison originally intended the phonograph to be a dictation machine, not a source of entertainment. Soon enough wiser heads, and market forces, prevailed.

Entrepreneurs and new ideas

Edison abandoned his folly and went into the recording business. Frequently, however, altering the intended use of an invention corrupts rather than elevates it—and its user. Mobile phones have been used slothfully by people pretending to be too busy with a business call to be confronted about some dereliction of theirs.

Camera-equipped models have been put to especially heinous misuse as tiny digital Peeping Toms wielded surreptitiously on escalators and beneath conference-room tables. General Services Administration. Doan testified at a congressional subcommittee hearing into the alleged untoward politicization of her agency—namely, brown-bag lunches during which political appointees to the GSA were urged to use their positions to help elect Republicans.

When asked under oath what transpired at these lunches, Doan said she had not been paying attention because she was doing e-mail on her BlackBerry. She spoke for many when she offered this perfectly plausible excuse for modern inattention. Technology has grown so prosaic as to become the all-purpose, dog-ate-my-homework dodge for busy grown-ups. Forewarned is forearmed. You may be tempted to ban the use of these devices during important meetings and discussions.

Alumni Reunion 2008: old friends, new ideas

And if employees are correct in believing that multitasking during boring meetings allows them to accomplish work of a higher value, ban those meetings. The city of today is too often a campground, an unchecked metastasis. It is either an ever-spreading Atlanta or Los Angeles—an endless suburb unable to contain and sustain itself—or a frightening Gotham of skyscrapers huddled over dark concrete valleys.

Have you ever noticed that the meticulously organized outer surface resembles an aerial view of a city? A turtle-shell city is a place to live, to work, to relax and play. In all, it is a circumscribed, homey shelter. And they found dinosaur bones by the truckload. Once, a team member came across a bone sticking out from the bottom of a recently eroded cliff. It was a bunch of bones from a fairly rare dinosaur called a thescelosaurus. It was a T. There was nothing else it could possibly be. But—and almost everything that Myhrvold has been up to during the past half decade follows from this fact—it was our fault.

Myhrvold gave the skeleton to the Smithsonian. He was twenty-seven years old, and employed as a speech therapist in Boston. Far from the bustle of Boston and the pressure of competition from other eager inventors, he mulled over everything he had discovered about sound. In that moment, Bell knew the answer to the puzzle of the harmonic telegraph. Electric currents could convey sound along a wire if they undulated in accordance with the sound waves.

Back in Boston, he hired a research assistant, Thomas Watson. He turned his attic into a laboratory, and redoubled his efforts. Then, on March 10, , he set up one end of his crude prototype in his bedroom, and had Watson take the other end to the room next door. Bell, always prone to clumsiness, spilled acid on his clothes.

Watson came running—but only because he had heard Bell on the receiver, plain as day. The telephone was born. In , when Nathan Myhrvold left Microsoft and struck out on his own, he set himself an unusual goal. He wanted to see whether the kind of insight that leads to invention could be engineered.

He formed a company called Intellectual Ventures. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He hired the smartest people he knew. It was not a venture-capital firm. Venture capitalists fund insights—that is, they let the magical process that generates new ideas take its course, and then they jump in.

New Ideas in Psychology

Myhrvold wanted to make insights—to come up with ideas, patent them, and then license them to interested companies. He thought that if he brought lots of very clever people together he could reconstruct that moment by the Grand River. What if it was possible to break a complex piece of machinery into a thousand pieces and then, at some predetermined moment, have the machine put itself back together again?

That had to be useful. But for what? Chairing the meeting was Casey Tegreene, an electrical engineer with a law degree, who is the chief patent counsel for I. He stood at one end of the table. Myhrvold was at the opposite end. Next to him was Edward Jung, whom Myhrvold met at Microsoft. Jung is lean and sleek, with closely cropped fine black hair. Once, he spent twenty-two days walking across Texas with nothing but a bedroll, a flashlight, and a rifle, from Big Bend, in the west, to Houston, where he was going to deliver a paper at a biology conference.

On the other side of the table from Jung was Lowell Wood, an imposing man with graying red hair and an enormous head. Three or four pens were crammed into his shirt pocket. The screen saver on his laptop was a picture of Stonehenge. He was at Lawrence Livermore. He was the technical director of Star Wars. The chairman of the chemistry department at Stanford, Richard Zare, had flown in for the day, as had Eric Leuthardt, a young neurosurgeon from Washington University, in St.

Louis, who is a regular at I. Tegreene began. Richard Zare passed around a set of what looked like ceramic dice. Leuthardt drew elaborate diagrams of the spine on the blackboard. Self-assembly was very useful in eye-of-the-needle problems—in cases where you had to get something very large through a very small hole—and Leuthardt wondered if it might be helpful in minimally invasive surgery. The conversation went in fits and starts.

During a break, Myhrvold announced that he had just bought a CAT scanner, on an Internet auction site. There was much murmuring and nodding around the room. Before long, self-assembly was put aside and the talk swung to how to improve X-rays, and then to the puzzling phenomenon of soldiers in Iraq who survive a bomb blast only to die a few days later of a stroke. With Lowell, you just give him a concept, and this stuff pops out.

The two went back and forth, arguing about how you could make a helmet that would better protect soldiers. How useful is it to have a group of really smart people brainstorm for a day? When Myhrvold started out, his expectations were modest. The telephone was his obsession.

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He approached it from a unique perspective, that of a speech therapist. He had put in years of preparation before that moment by the Grand River, and it was impossible to know what unconscious associations triggered his great insight. Invention has its own algorithm: genius, obsession, serendipity, and epiphany in some unknowable combination.

How can you put that in a bottle? But then, in August of , I.

How to Come Up With a Business Idea

The original expectation was that I. It has a backlog of three thousand ideas. Wood said that he once attended a two-day invention session presided over by Jung, and after the first day the group went out to dinner. We sat there. It was a long dinner. I thought we were lightly chewing the rag. But the next day the attorney comes up with eight single-spaced pages flagging thirty-six different inventions from dinner. Intellectual Ventures just had a patent issued on automatic, battery-powered glasses, with a tiny video camera that reads the image off the retina and adjusts the fluid-filled lenses accordingly, up to ten times a second.

It just licensed off a cluster of its patents, for eighty million dollars. But it was fantastic. So you could build a mosquito fence and clear an entire area. They also came up with this idea to stop hurricanes. Basically, the waves in the ocean have energy, and you use that to lower the temperature differential. One of the sessions that Gates participated in was on the possibility of resuscitating nuclear energy. Dead simple. Every serious nuclear accident involves operator error, so you want to eliminate the operator altogether. Lowell and Rod and others wrote a paper on it once.

So we did several sessions on it. The plant, as they conceived it, would produce something like one to three gigawatts of power, which is enough to serve a medium-sized city. For instance, after same-sex marriages became legal in Canada entrepreneurs began selling tourist travel packages that include a marriage ceremony to same-sex couples from other countries. Would you have identified that business opportunity when you heard that the Canadian marriage laws had changed? He went on to develop Facebook and became one of the youngest billionaires in the world.

The explosion of mobile devices has created a huge demand for mobile apps. In a pair of young entrepreneurs named Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab in Paris. They decided that you should be able to tap a button on your mobile phone and get a ride, and as a result went on to found Uber. Look around and ask yourself, "How could this situation be improved? Focus on a particular target market and brainstorm ideas for services that that group would be interested in.

For example, there are millions of aging gardeners across North America. What products or services could you create that would enable them to garden longer and more easily? Finding a niche market and exploiting it is one of the best paths to success in business. The difference between raw wood and finished lumber is a good example of putting a product through an additional process which increases its value, but additional processes are not the only way value can be added.

You might also add services, or combine the product with other products. For instance, a local farm which sells produce also offers a vegetable delivery service; for a fee, consumers can have a box of fresh vegetables delivered to their door each week. What business ideas can you develop along these lines? Focus on what products you might buy and what you might do to them or with them to create a profitable business. Some business ideas aren't suited to local consumption - but appeal greatly to a foreign market. My own little town is surrounded by acres of wild blueberries.

For years the bushes produced berries that mainly fed bears and birds; B. But one entrepreneur realized that there is a high demand for products such as these in Japan - and those same wild blueberries are now being harvested and shipped. Finding out about other cultures and investigating other market opportunities is an excellent way to find business ideas.