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John Kao Q&A: How the U.S. Can Reclaim its Innovation Edge (and why Rhode Island may hold the key!)

Today’s conversation on innovation typically focuses on individual companies or market sectors, but with his new book, Innovation Nation, Business Innovation Factory Research Advisor John Kao takes the talk to a whole new level: how can you innovate a country?

Kao may just have the most interesting–and diverse–resume of anyone I’ve come across. A celebrated jazz pianist, he’s toured with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention band, produced several movies including sex, lies & videotape, taught at Harvard Business School for 14 years, wrote a best-selling book called Jamming, founded a few firms and consulted to big companies, small start-ups and government agencies around the world. Along the way, he also trained in philosophy with a B.A from Yale, psychiatry with a M.D. from Yale Medical and also business with a M.B.A from Harvard Business.

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Eric von Hippel Joins BIF Research Advisory Council

If you've been following my blog entries of late, you know that I'm a huge fan of Eric von Hippel. His guidance in recent weeks in helping me shape a BIF initiative driven by his lead-user innovation research has been invaluable. So I'm thrilled to announce that Eric has joined our Research Advisory Council. He joins an amazing cast of characters comprised of leading business executives, academic and consulting innovation thought leaders who are helping our BIF community shape our research initiatives as well as provide direction on the best practices and next practices that are most valuable for our members to understand.

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Building Lead-User Research into an Innovation Platform

The real exciting thing about the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is that we’re trying to figure out how processes work from a systems perspective and then provide a real-world environment where those systems can be innovated upon. More than the typical action-oriented research that just takes one slice of one issue and follows the thread down the rabbit hole, we’re providing a platform that generates true collaboration; bringing in disparate, and often times analogous points-of-view into our experimentation process.

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BusinessWeek Assistant Managing Editor Bruce Nussbaum Joins BIF Research Advisory Council

I have exciting news for the BIF community: Bruce Nussbaum has been appointed to our Research Advisory Council. Bruce is an assistant managing editor for BusinessWeek, responsible for coverage of design and innovation.

For years, Bruce has been at the center of a global conversation on the discipline of innovation and is a fierce advocate of the field of design thinking. He has written extensively about how organizations,both inside and outside the corporate sphere, should apply design thinking concepts to their innovation strategy. His blog, NussbaumOnDesign reflects his personal and provocative take on what smart companies are doing (or should be doing) in the U.S., Asia and Europe.

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BIF-3 Storyteller Update: The Pirate's Dilemma has Launched

Our friend and BIF-3 storyteller Matt Mason is having a big day. His book The Pirate's Dilemma has officially hit the bookstore. Matt is a fan favorite from our summit last October. There's something so intrinsically appealing about a business book about pirate's and Matt was an exceptional speaker. This ex-pirate radio DJ turned business entrepreneur and now social advocate has chronicled our youth culture’s ability to drive innovation through any means necessary – often times treading in illegal waters along the way.

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The TopCoder Business Model: Collaboration by Competition

When Dan Pink first introduced the concept of a free agent nation back in 1997, I wonder if he imagined a world where testosterone-driven, competitive collaboration would be the engine for a new free agent business model.

BIF-3 storyteller Jack Hughes is the founder and president of TopCoder, a Connecticut-based company founded in 2002 that has institutionalized programming competitions. These software competitions are a novel way to both showcase programmers from around the world for companies seeking top-flight talent, while at the same time develop computer applications for blue-chip clients who recognize TopCoder’s ability to tap a global talent pool.

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Ringing in the new year with Anpan-man

Before the holiday, I wrote a blog entry about John Maeda's appointment as RISD's next president. John has maintained a blog for quite some time. And if you go back and read some of his earlier entries, you can tell he's been thinking a good deal about what it takes to be an effective leader. I want to share a portion of his entry from November 17th, Always keep a stock of spare heads which tells a delightful story of Japanese comicbook hero Anpan-Man.

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Lessons for Innovation from Hollywood

In preparation for my interview with BIF Research Advisor John Kao later this week, I came across another interview he gave several years ago about how to weave together different disciplines to find a new tool box for business model innovation. One of John's major career accomplishments is Hollywood producer (he produced and financed sex, lies and videotape). John is as close to a contemporary renaissance man as you're likely to find. He says his life always been about making journeys back and forth between different contexts. As it turns out, he found that Hollywood offers some of the best conditions and environment for innovative change.

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