Mike Allen Coaching


Brilliant idea #360. Point ring

I’ve an Amazon Alexa in my home connected to wifi enabled lightulbs so I can walk into, for instance, the master bedroom and say “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lamp” and it will send a message to the lamp to turn it on (or off). It’ll even turn it up or down or, with the right bulb, change the colour and therefore mood of the room with a voice command.

There is a problem with voice activated devices however which is that you need to learn the device names – and more than that, the syntax of the device name. So, “Alexa turn on the lamp” won’t work and indeed, if there’s another lamp into an adjacent room that you told Alexa was called ‘lamp’ then it will turn that one on. If you had a wifi connected lamp in every room you’d then need to teach Alexa, and everyone in the family that the this lamp is called “master bedroom lamp”, that one is called “back bedroom lamp” etc. etc.

You see the problem, the more connected home products you have the more you need to teach Alexa, yourself and other members of the family the names and syntax or each device.

Brilliant idea #360 is a ring (possibly a bracelet until the tech is miniturised enough) that can tell where you are pointing so you can say “Alexa, turn on (or off) and it will know what device you are pointing at. There’s likeley to be some limitations, at least to start with, so it will know the room you are in and that you are, for instance, pointing upwards (at the ceiling light) or which corner of the room then it will turn on the nearest device.


Quirky.com is back!

Quirky.com was launched in 2009 with a mission to make invention accessible to everyone. You could share your ideas with a community of over a million people and get involved in bringing the best ideas to market. They started hundreds of thousands of idea projects through the community, launched hundreds of products and paid over $10m in payments to the Community. BUT, they were working their way through $80m of Venture Capitol funding at a terrific rate

They also launched Partnerships with the likes of GE which also gave them a cash injection of $30m . To me, they were pioneers in Crowd-based innovation Management but when they closed their doors in 2015 it was a huge shame. 

BUT, they’re back. They’ve re-invented themselves

Essentially, Quirky has decided to partner with open-innovation friendly companies that have the capacity to get to market and thrive there – essentially licensing as a business model. 

Quirky will apparently take anywhere from a 5 percent to 10 percent cut when an invention is being sold directly to consumers and the inventor will earn a 3 percent royalty. When a third-party retailer sells the product, the inventor will earn 1.5 percent. This information is clearly stated on the company’s FAQ page.

While 1.5-3% doesn’t sound much, the inventors don’t need to spend a dollar, ever, to start making money off of their inventions.


Brilliant Idea #359. The huggable bracelet

It’s a wareable bracelet, like a fitbit or similar, but, it’s passes on hugs from friends and family.

It’ll expand and warm up when people send it a hug via an app.

Imagine someone is going through an illness, or bereavement, or just the first day at  a new job – something where knowing that other people are thinking of them is of value, they wear the band and get a warm hug.


Now this is an idea. China aims to rate its 1.3 billion residents

The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents

They are calling it a Social Credit System. They will seemingly do this by monitoring and evaluating your daily activities; what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not).

That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.

It’s both brilliant and terrifying.

More on this story on this link.

Data From 3.5 Million Employees Shows How Innovation Really Works

This is new research from Harvard Business Review is worth a read. They analysed millions of employees of users of an innovation management platform called Spigit. If you only have 60 seconds, here are the take-aways;

  1. Scale – more participants. To succeed, an innovation program needs lots of participants. It’s the wisdom of the crowd: a large mass of participants will always out-ideate a small group of smart people. On average, companies generate one idea for every four participants in the system.
  2. Frequency – more ideas. To get to a set of promising ideas whose implementation would make sense, you need to sift through a lot of candidates. To succeed, a company needs to create frequent idea challenges for its employees. These challenges reinforce a culture of innovation and generate more ideas going into the pipeline. While there is a great deal of variation based on the types of ideas and the companies reviewing them, on average, it takes five idea candidates to generate one idea that the company judges to be worth implementing.
  3. Engagement – more people evaluating ideas. It’s not enough to get some people suggesting ideas. You need lots of other people figuring out whether those ideas are worth working on, or what it will take for them to become better. A successful idea management system is a ferment of commentary, with lots of feedback.
  4. Diversity – more kinds of people contributing. You might think the most productive innovation system would be full of engineers or other problem-solvers. You’d be wrong. A successful system needs contributions from all over the organization, especially staff who are close to the front lines: sales staff, support workers, or people in close touch with the company’s manufacturing processes, for example.

Again, well worth a read. For more information on the software platform that they studied the users of, click here.

The reluctant innovator

I was working on a project recently and helping out with a roadshow at one of their sites. They were actively looking for ideas from employees. One chap came up to me and promptly told me his idea. Of course I said, “great idea, put it in the system” to which he replied, “nah, you put it in there for me”.

Of the thousands of people that work for this company 90+% of them will never admit to having an idea. Here’s one that had one, waiting for an opportunity to share with someone, but he chose not to share it (with anyone other than me). Why would that be?

It prompted quite some debate internally but I resolved to never understanding why he wouldn’t give it up, and in doing so get some credit for it.

Then, out of the blue, just as the idea collection campaign was closing, I noticed that same idea. So whatever the barriers were, he lowered them himself and put it in.

I had to track him down and ask him why it took him 3 weeks!

Eventually I caught up with him. The reason: his manager pestered and pestered so he put the idea in just to (his words) “get her off my back”.

Then another idea popped in from him. Then another, and this one WAS a brilliant idea. In-fact that one was perhaps one of the best ideas. It was to make every button in the home essentially a panic button.

The vital question is; would we have got that killer idea if we hadn’t have had the 2 or 3 average ideas?

I don’t believe so. I honestly don’t think that he held back giving me the average idea because he knew it was average.

The lesson, if there is one, is to work as hard as you need to in order to flip people from being someone that won’t share their ideas to someone that will. THEN (and only then) might we get the killer idea.

Brilliant Idea #358. Evacuation pods for high rise buildings

Unfortunately the difficulties of evacuating high rise buildings has been in the news.  If the fire is below you, the ability to escape to safety is very difficult.

Brilliant Idea #358 is an evacuation pod.  They’re used on ships all the time. The only difference is that these have large, auto-opening parachutes.