Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Insight is born when Intuition meets and mates with Logic

Henri Poincare

Poincare is considered as one of the great geniuses of all time and there are two very significant sources which study his thought processes. One is a lecture which Poincaré gave to l'Institute Général Psychologique in Paris in 1908 entitled Mathematical invention in which he looked at his own thought processes which led to his major mathematical discoveries. The other is the book by Toulouse who was the director of the Psychology Laboratory of l'École des Hautes Études in Paris. Although published in 1910 the book recounts conversations with Poincaré and tests on him which Toulouse carried out in 1897.

Poincaré read widely, beginning with popular science writings and progressing to more advanced texts. His memory was remarkable and he retained much from all the texts he read but not in the manner of learning by rote, rather by linking the ideas he was assimilating particularly in a visual way. His ability to visualise what he heard proved particularly useful when he attended lectures since his eyesight was so poor that he could not see the symbols properly that his lecturers were writing on the blackboard.

Further Reading -

What interested me most was that Poincare recognized the important role played by Intuition in inventive thinking

It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.

Logic, therefore, remains barren unless fertilised by intuition

Henri Poincare

Poincare's example of intuition-driven research

Professor Klein is studying one of the most abstract questions of the theory of functions to determine whether on a given Riemann surface there always exists a function admitting of given singularities. What does the celebrated German geometer do? He replaces his Riemann surface by a metallic surface whose electric conductivity varies according to certain laws. He connects two of its points with the two poles of a battery. The current, says he, must pass, and the distribution of this current on the surface will define a function whose singularities will be precisely those called for by the enunciation.

Riemann himself always called geometry to his aid; each of his conceptions is an image that no one can forget, once he has caught its meaning.

Source :

My Key Takeaways

  • Trust your Intuition - allow it to talk to you - listen to it attentively.
  • Follow up that conversation with logical thinking
  • It is only when logic meets and mates with Intuition that Insight is born

Where did Tesla Design, Build & Run his AC Motor - all in his Mind !

The Genius of Tesla 

Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) was an all time great Inventor and Futurist. He was an important contributor to the use of commercial electricity, and is best known for developing the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system (Wikipedia).

Marco Tempest gave an excellent TED Talk recently on Nikola Tesla

If you wish to know more about Tesla - -  video on Tesla (Vitaly Pravdivcev's russian documentary with english subtitles)

Also look at "Why Nilkola Tesla is the greatest Geek who ever lived" at

What I would like to focus on is his extraordinary capability for visual thinking

Tesla's Visual Thinking

Much has been made over Tesla's amazing ability to visualize images from his mind. Tesla's visions were so vivid that he was sometimes unsure of what was real and what imaginary. It is well known that Tesla's conception of his AC (alternating current) motor came to him during one of his visions.

"One afternoon ... I was enjoying a walk with my friend in the city park and reciting poetry. At that age I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethes Faust. The sun was just setting and reminded me of a glorious passage: The glow retreats, done is the day of toil; It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring; Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil Upon its tract to follow, follow soaring!

"As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightning and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew with a stick on the sand the diagram shown six years later in my address before the American institute of Electrical Engineers.

"The images were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal. 'See my motor here; watch me reverse it.'"
Tesla used his incredible power throughout his amazing career. He disliked drawing his conceptions down onto paper because they lacked the reality that Tesla's internal drawing board could provide. He did not have to make plans and jot down dimensions, because of this power of instant recall. He could store any designs in his mind to be retrieved intact years later.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Sell your New Product at 10 x Price

The magical thing about 10 x is that it instantly moves us away from incremental thinking and dares us to think out-of-the-box. We are made to ask questions that we would have never asked before.

What should we do to sell our product at 10 x the present price ?

To answer this question, we need to understand why folks buy our product - what do they perceive as the value offered by this product - how can we enhance this perceived value ten fold ?

What do the Customers buy this product for ? When will they be ready to pay 10 x more price willingly ?

Coffee in the ordinary hotels in Bangalore is not more than Rs 10. A cup of coffee at Coffee Day costs ~ Rs 50 - let us understand why Customers are ready to 5 x higher price - are they paying for the coffee or for something else ?

CCD - A lot can happen over coffee - CCD is seen more as a "fun" place where youngsters come in groups and have a good time chatting over coffee. It is a hangout zone for youth and is also a  meeting place for business purposes (i have held quite a few of my meetings at CCD in Bangalore & Pune). CCD also offers other facilities like Wi-Fi, Music (Worldspace) etc. Thus around coffee, they are able to create a variety of offerings that Customers would see value for. So Innovation is not about working within the cup of coffee with incremental ideas - but it is about mapping the opportunity space around a cup of coffee. Interviewer: How does someone end up paying Rs 50 for a coffee and keep coming back for more?
Alok: (smiles) We are an affordable lifestyle format. So our pricing is actually lower than most of our competitors. Having said that, the modern cafe is the third place for the Indian consumer between the home and the office. With more and more Indians out in the workplace, the cafe provides a comfortable environment for him or her to spend time in. The customer attaches a high value to that experience in the cafe. The ease and privacy provided by Cafe Coffee Day helps the customer conduct that business conversation or that interview in a conducive environment.

An alternative question to ask is how to sell 10 x more of our products ?

When will Customers buy 10 x more than what they buy today. Also how to get 10 x more Customers ?

Both telephones and PCs have shown this 10 x increase during 1995 - 2005 in India. During my childhood in Chennai, there were a couple of phones (land line connections) in the entire neighborhood. Now most of us have at least two mobile phones - one personal and one official. When i started my PhD (1992) at IISc Bangalore, my department had one PC in a common room (green display along with a line printer) and there were ~ 20 PCs by the time i finished my PhD (1997). This has been made possible through building infrastructure, relaxing government regulations, reducing product cost etc. 

Innovations within the product alone cannot make this happen - it needs innovations in infrastructure, regulations etc - all these happen in the ecosystem around the products - who will champion these innovations ? If no body does, then the ecosystem is not ready and the analysts conclude that the product was too early to the market. In reality, it is the Innovator's responsibility to ensure that the ecosystem is ready to receive his product. Edison, after inventing the bulb, went on to explore power generation and distribution. He figured this out by asking the simple question "what do people need to use my product ?" - in this case, it is electricity and he went to address that need. Hence he is not the inventor of the electric bulb (it was known for 60 long years before) but is the innovator of electric illumination.

Reinvention of the Toilet by the Missile Technologists

Reinvent The Toilet Challenge

There is a need for developing cost-effective ways of neutralizing human waste - the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced  ~ $42 million program to promote safe, affordable sanitation in developing countries (2011). The effort will include research and tech development funding "to spur innovations in the capture and storage of waste, as well as its processing into reusable energy, fertilizer, and fresh water," according the group's press release.

The centerpiece of the project, under the umbrella of sanitation science and technology, is what's succinctly called the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge." The foundation has awarded eight grants, totaling $3 million, to universities, to spur the "concept development, design, and prototyping of a waterless, hygienic toilet that costs less than $0.05 per user per day," according to the program's documentation.

Such stringent cost constraints are directly connected with the goal of making the designs affordable and thus deployable among the 2.6 billion people worldwide, who, the foundation says, don't have access to conventional flush toilets. The announcement cites 1.5 million annual child deaths from diarrheal disease as part of the devastation caused by lack of access to safe sanitation.

The technical component of the round of grants also includes at least $2.6 million in funding for what are called "Grand Challenge Explorations" of the next generation of sanitation technologies. In addition, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is getting $4.8 million to develop better ways to break down human waste biochemically.

Design challenges
For the design engineering community, the product-focused work is occurring at the eight universities funded under the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge." The eight projects variously attempt to neutralize the waste or to process it to extract energy:

  • Loughborough University. The toilet transforms solid waste into charcoal, with water and salt as byproducts.
  • Delft University. Microwaves are used to convert waste into a gas, which is then fed into a solid oxide fuel cell to generate electricity.
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Electric Science. The toilet diverts urine and recovers water.
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal. A community toilet system that can safely dispose of pollutants and recover water and carbon dioxide.
  • Climate Foundation and Stanford University. A self-contained system that converts waste into charcoal.
  • University of Toronto. Mechanical dehydration and smoldering are used to sanitize feces.
  • CalTech. A solar-powered toilet.
  • National University of Singapore. A pneumatic-flushing community toilet that separates urine and feces

Biotoilets technology from Indian DRDO (the same folks who develop the Missile technologies)

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday announced that his Ministry would soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Defence for installation of bio-toilets in 1000 gram panchayats across the country. It would go a long way in improving sanitation in rural India, Mr. Ramesh said.
The project will be implemented in coordination with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at a cost of Rs. 400 crore, which will be provided by the Union Rural Development Ministry, he said.

Go Green Solutions with support of technology developed and approved by DRDO – Ministry of Defence offers an innovative technology for disposal of human waste in eco friendly manner. These Bio toilets can function at any atmospheric temp between -55 to 60 degree C. The bacterial consortium degrades night soil at temp as low as -55 degree C and produces colourless, odourless and inflammable bio gas containing 50 – 70% methane.

The main constituents of Bio -Toilet are Pre fabricated above the ground shelter and Bio Digester tank. Bio digester tank is a cylindrical structure with the provision of inlet for human waste and out let for Bio gas. Temp in the bio – digester is maintained between 5-30 degree C. A person can use the toilet which is connected to the bio-digester. Night soil degradation occurs through microbial reaction which converts it into bio gas. The smell of night soil, the disease causing organisms in the night soil and the solid matter are eliminated totally. On dry weight basis 90% of the solid waste is reduced. The gaseous effluent (bio-gas) is continuously let off to the atmosphere. Bio Gas can be used for various energy incentive activities like cooking water and room heating. Liquid effluent can be drained to any surface or soak pit with out any environmental hazards.

Human waste disposal in high altitude and low temp areas, Moving Railway coaches, Buses, Big Cities, Mines, remote areas, Beaches, Rural areas, long distance buses is a burning problem. 
The problem has further aggravated in glaciers where ambient temperature drops to -40 degree C and lower. The low temp stops/ delays the natural bio-degradation of the waste leading to its preservation (accumulation) for long time resulting in environmental hazard. Local heating by direct sunlight exposes the waste buried in the ice causing nuisance and foul smell. The melting ice takes the waste to rivers disturbing the aquatic eco system. More over human waste is also responsible for spreading of water born diseases like typhoid, cholera, Shigellosis, Amebic Dysenteries, Diarrhea etc. 

This technology is suitable for any area/ application in India. The process under this technology culminates in to treated effluent which is free from Pathogens and is also environmentally acceptable. The technology has major two components:
  • a- Low temp active inoculums
  • b- Temp controlled Bio digester
A consortium of anaerobic bacteria has been formulated and adopted to work at temp as low as 5 degree C. This is the component which acts as inoculums (seed material) to the bio digester and converts the organic waste into methane and carbon-dioxide. The anaerobic process in- activates the pathogens responsible for water born diseases. Bio digester serves as reaction vessel for bio methanation and provides the anaerobic conditions and required temp for the bacteria. The optimum temp is maintained by microbial heat, insulation of the reactor and solar heating.

Innovations from Unilever - Bigger, Better, Faster - 4D Model

Unilever's 4D Model

Unilever is using breakthrough technology to get bigger and better innovations into the market faster through its unique 4D Model.

The four Ds are Definition - Discovery - Design - Deployment
  •  The Definition of opportunity for brands from great science and technology
  •  The Discovery of the advances that will drive sustainable differentiation
  •  The Design of great products that build great brands
  •  Robust Deployment to the Regions

Open Innovation

Open Innovation & Technology Scouting

How does one realise Open Innovation capabilities and opportunities? 

A model created by Gene Slowinski is used by Unilever and many other companies.
- WANT – define company needs (strategy, objectives)
- FIND – scout parties (search, network, 3rd party scouting, collaborations)
- GET – engage with parties (IP, contracts, business models)
- MANAGE – build a business (integrate, sales, marketing, finance)

Recent New Products - Creative Combinations lead to unbeatable Customer Experience

1. Close Up Fire-Freeze toothpaste - Hot Product gives a cool experience
The heat of aromatic spices meets the most advanced cooling agents in the innovative formula for our most unusual toothpaste.
Unilever’s scientists have developed a unique toothpaste which combines a warming sensation that battles bad breath with long-lasting, cooling freshness.
The Fire-Freeze sensation
Fire-Freeze first delivers a mild, warm tingle while it cleans, thanks to chemosensory technology and extracts including eugenol, an oil found in cloves.
The heat then builds from a blend of aromatic spices and wintergreen, also known as methyl salicylate, a plant-derived product with a natural warming ability.

From hot to cold

Next comes an intense hit of icy freshness, a sensation Unilever scientists were determined to make last long after brushing.
The Fire-Freeze formula uses a patented technology – the longest-lasting cooling agent on the market – which offers up to ten times the power of other cooling molecules.
Zinc sulphate, an anti-malodour active which provides up to 12 hours of fresh breath, ensures the cool feeling lasts for hours. And a blend of menthol, peppermint and vanilla adds the finishing touch to the unforgettable flavour.

Effective results

Results indicate that using Close Up Fire-Freeze over four weeks reduces malodour significantly compared to a conventional gel toothpaste.
2. Tea with Cold Water - Idea to Product in 5 months !!

Lipton SunTea offers cool, refreshing tea made with water straight from the tap.
Brewing the perfect cup of Lipton tea is usually just a case of adding hot water and allowing the flavours to infuse. But Lipton’s SunTea range offers an entirely different concept – and its development presented quite a challenge for Unilever’s scientists.

Getting a great taste with cool water

To create Lipton SunTea, our R&D teams were tasked with delivering a tea bag that could brew quickly in cold water and give a delicious, fruity flavour.
Lipton has delivered delicious hot teas to people all over the world for decades, but getting the same result from cold water is something new.
Traditionally, hot water ‘activates’ tea leaves, but Lipton SunTea is optimally balanced for a great taste and refreshment when brewed and consumed cold.

Finding the right flavours

The teams worked with flavour house IFF to come up with three delicious options designed specifically to work wonders with cold water: Zesty Lemon & Lime, Exotic Peach & Mango, and Intense Mint Green Tea. Fruit inclusions completed the fruit experience of these teas. And their unique pyramid teabags allow the tea leaves room to move, infusing the water with plenty of taste and colour.

Specially treated tea

The balance of tea and fruit flavour in these cold infusions was key. Lipton R&D and tea blenders identified teas of East African origin, which are known for their good colour and taste generation in hot water, to provide a good brew in cold water. Working with their strategic supplier Martin Bauer, tea extracts were added to complement the tea and enhance the brew colour.  Martin Bauer’s thermal tea treatment was applied to their teas. The treatment minimises the risk of any microbiological contamination, given that hot water isn’t used to brew, and in turn sterilises Lipton SunTea.
Lipton SunTea went from a bright idea to a brand new product in just five months, and went on sale in France in 2011.
Key Takeaways
New Product Ideas - Look for unusual combinations - simultaneous hot & cold sensations, Tea with cold water - use technology to make these combinations possible - look for technologies and ideas across domains.
Product Innovations need to be driven by Opportunities - first engage the team in the Definition phase to articulate the Opportunity clearly. Next focus on the technology innovations that will differentiate these products - this is the focused discovery phase.

D-Thinking & Meditation

Recent Research reveals Meditation induces a cognitive control state that promotes divergent thinking
- Lorenza Colzato, Leiden University in Frontiers of Cognition

  • Importance of Divergent Thinking in Creative Problem Solving

    Creative production is often characterized by the divergent nature of human thought and action. Divergence is usually indicated by the ability to generate many, or more complex or complicated, ideas from one idea or from simple ideas or triggers. Traditionally the eight elements below are ones commonly thought of as inherent elements of creative production, as well as attributes associated with creative problem solving abilities.

    Fluency  - The ability to generate a number of ideas so that there is an increase of possible solutions or related products.
    Flexibility - The ability to produce different categories or perceptions whereby there are a variety of different ideas about the same problem or thing.
    Elaboration - The ability to add to, embellish, or build off of an idea or product.
    Originality - The ability to create fresh, unique, unusual, totally new, or extremely different ideas or products
    Complexity - The ability to conceptualize difficult, intricate, many layered or multifaceted ideas or products.
    Risk-taking  - The willingness to be courageous, adventuresome, daring -- trying new things or taking risks in order to stand apart.
    Imagination - The ability to dream up, invent, or to see, to think, to conceptualize new ideas or products - to be ingenious.
    Curiosity - The trait of exhibiting probing behaviors, asking and posing questions, searching, being able to look deeper into ideas, and the wanting to know more about something.

On the divergent thinking process -

Also look related discussion at

OM Meditation improves Divergent Thinking

ScienceDaily (Apr. 2012) — Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University, published 19 April in Frontiers in Cognition.

Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking

  • Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
The practice of meditation has seen a tremendous increase in the western world since the 60s. Scientific interest in meditation has also significantly grown in the past years; however, so far, it has neglected the idea that different type of meditations may drive specific cognitive-control states. In this study we investigate the possible impact of meditation based on focused-attention (FA) and meditation based on open-monitoring (OM) on creativity tasks tapping into convergent and divergent thinking. We show that FA meditation and OM meditation exert specific effect on creativity. First, OM meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, FA meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem. We suggest that the enhancement of positive mood induced by meditating has boosted the effect in the first case and counteracted in the second case.

What is Open Monitoring (OM) Meditation

In “open monitoring meditation” one begins to practice “awareness of thinking.” All we must do to practice this form of meditation is to be aware of our thoughts and feelings and observe them without attachment. In many ways the meditator becomes a scientific observer of the workings of his or her own mind, and begins to have an increasing awareness of just what thoughts bring about changes in emotions: what makes them happy and what makes them sad.

I will be sharing the results of my own experiments on this front in future blog posts.

The ABCD of Creative Thinking

Here we look at the four basic element of creative thinking 

A - Alternative thinking
B - Beyond thinking
C - Convergent thinking and
D - Divergent thinking

The ABCD of Creative Thinking

  • A - Alternative Thinking as a problem analysis technique - Look at the problem through a different lens - What is the problem that you wish to solve - How would a 4 year old kid look at this problem - How would Walt Disney or Steve Jobs look at this problem, How would Mahatma Gandhi look at this problem - I created a powerful deck of 108 triggers for looking at a problem through different lens (on 27 August, 2011) - I have been using it at all my Innovation workshops - we get many good ideas and it is very popular.  I will be sharing this deck in my blog posts.
  • B - Beyond Thinking is also a problem defining technique - but it does it by by visualizing the ideal solution (without being bogged down by current constraints or how to make it work)
  • -
    • The Nine Dots puzzle is a classic example of Beyond thinking - in fact this puzzle gave rise to the phrase "Out-of-the-box-thinking" 
    • Visualize the Ideal Solution - Go beyond the current solutions, technologies, paradigms - go beyond the box - Stretch the paradigms - Think out of the Box - Think of Ideality (IFR - Ideal Final Result) - What will the Ideal solution look like - If you are the omnipotent GOD, how will you solve the problem - dont be limited by current constraints - think of the impossible - then work backwards to see how close you can get to the ideal solution. IFR is one of the foundation pillars of TRIZ - Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (Altshuller).
Here Ellen Domb (TRIZ Expert) explains we can use IFR to define the problem to be solved - (TRIZ Journal is a great resource for mastering TRIZ techniques)

The two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.
  • D - Encourage Divergent thinking - Divergent thinking allows many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.

    SCAMPER is a popular divergent thinking tool - the 7 triggers help us think along 7 directions to solve the problem at hand - starting from simple incremental triggers like what can I substitute, what can I combine to powerful disruptive triggers like what can I eliminate, what can I Reverse....

    How to use SCAMPER and generate ideas -

  • C - Wrap it up with Convergent thinking  - Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular probem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch'. The particpants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, 'long'.