Front End of Innovation Part 1

17 Jun 2016 by

Front end of innovation was a three day conference in Boston that Juhee and I had a chance to attend. It is a yearly event that attracts great speakers and an impressive list of companies. The conference is aimed at innovation managers,  innovation and product development teams to engage in a discussion on innovation, adaptation and disruption. The conference was split into 6 tracks with multiple break out sessions and workshops. the themes for the tracks were 

  1. rapid product development
  2. culture and leadership
  3. customer centric innovation
  4. business model innovation
  5. open innovation, new partnering ecosystems
  6. strategy, management and execution

We have compiled some of the talks that stayed with us into field notes and some insights that we think will be great to share for Studio 5B! Happy Reading!

Taking the Red Pill: Vision Delivered with Sci-Fi Prototyping

Yes, this session was all about augmented reality, drones, personalised medicines, robots and pretty much the image from the Jetsons show. Ari Popper is the founder of SciFutures, a consultancy firm behind prototyping a few of our well known products.

He started with a quote from Thomas Friedman:

“When I wrote ‘The World is Flat’ Facebook dint exist; Twitter was a sound; the cloud was in the sky; 4G was a parking space; LinkedIn was a prison; applications were what you sent to college; and Skype, for most people was a typo.”

World is changing fast and to keep pace of our product development with the ever changing technology we need to prototype the future. What we loved about SciFutures is that they use sci-fi writers and comic books to vision out their story boards. They then quickly delve into 3D prototypes and immersive spaces that test out the view points of their science fantasies.

In the art of universal story telling lies 3 elements: Clarity, Connection and Creation. Ari presented a blueprint of their sci-fi prototyping process 


For Studio5B: We think this is a fun strategy for our projects at Studio 5B, moving from story-telling to story-doing is a compelling way to turn futuristic inspiration into immediate action. 

Invisible Mechanisms of Modern Medicine

Denise Fletcher is the chief innovation officer of Xerox’s Commercial Healthcare Solutions. Denise spoke at length about “Retailization of Healthcare” and its impact on future of healthcare for patients, payers and doctors. A few years ago Xerox invested in, a kiosk that can allow one to access to telemedicine through HIPPA compliant platform. The tech intervention that simplifies access to healthcare had generated massive hype amongst care givers as well as doctors however could not succeed due to varied interests of the founding members. Xerox soon invested in a new Silicon Valley venture Pokitdot which is a brain child of Lisa Maki.


Pokitdot develops software solutions that are systemic, this diagram outlining how different stakeholders benefits from their solutions is very insightful

Lisa pointed out that by simply unlocking one bit of patients security information, medical insurance can give one access to 93 bits of patient’s health data. This is huge, however neither the hospital nor the pharmacy is using this data at the moment. This data is soloed in different information pockets within the insurance companies. Pokitdot is an open innovation platform that partners with multi-national corporations (insurance companies + hospitals) to build a new health care system. They are building multiple APIs that allows greater access to electronic health records, scheduling appointments, optimising payments and finding medicines based on insurance plans.

Notes for Studio 5B: Lisa and Denise are both experts in digital healthcare industry, it might be worth connecting with them if any of the projects need inputs in this domain.

Field trip to MassChallenge

MassChallenge is a space buzzing with entrepreneurial vibe. The high energy and quirky interiors of the space were infectious. It is a non-profit accelerator that houses over 130 seed stage startups each year and has generated over 1.1B$ in under 5 years. It is part of a global network of accelerators giving them access to multitude of international talent and access to corporate partners. The incubator works with many industry domains and healthcare and life sciences features as a prime contender in their list of successful startups. They focus on quick rapid prototyping and user feedback cycles to develop their product and provide with mentorship and legal resources that a lot of early stage start-ups may not have access to. 


And what better place to learn about how to build a startup environment in-house a corporate? VJ Patel heads a team of 20 designers and developers in an innovation lab for CVS Health. He spoke about cultural fit challenges with an in-house innovation incubator and the advantages of collaboration with different business units while creating platform eco-systems. Rick Rundell is an Innovation Strategists and Senior Director at Autodesk. He mentioned that Autodesk has an in-house incubator which allows young start-ups to partner with Autodesk to co-create their vision of the future. “Often it is a much wiser strategy to partner in an area where our core-competencies are low. The start-ups are good at diversified thinking, they find things (applications and uses) that we would have never been able to find ourselves."

For Studio 5B: We can learn a great deal from lean start-up methodologies, would be great to discuss how can we build a start-up culture within our team.

The second part of the session titled “Build, Barter or Buy: The Ultimate Dilemma” discussed the benefits of looking at competition in a more holistic light. Often it is the adjacent industry that makes a business redundant, such has been the case of Uber disrupting transport, Airbnb disrupting Hotels, Digital photography and Instagram disrupting film based photography. Sam Bastia, Innovation Manager at Verizon spoke about how converging with adjacent businesses and being ready to pivot, change value proposition is critical and yet an unsurmountable task for corporates.  

Simple Rules by Donald Sull

Simple Rules by Donald Sull
Donald is an author of Simple Rules (book link), a book that outlines rules to thrive in a complex world. Donald defines rules as guard rails that help you prioritise the essentials and help you measure success. In his presentation he gave three guidelines while making simple rules for our own practice:

  1. Rules need to be handful, to many rules will lead to confusion
  2. Tailored for the purpose
  3. Framework and not algorithm, they are guard rails, pre defined, overly specific  rules may not help in a crisis

Donald spoke about importance of defining rules but being open to changes.

“create a box with scope to deviate, discover and allow serendipity”

In Donald’s talk he gave a few parameters that are helpful in creating simple rules:

He coined this as "Rules to create Simple Rules"


For Studio 5B: Coming up with guard rails/ simple rules while starting each project phase can help set expectations and thrive a complex project!