Chapter 3. Career Options - Great Ways to Be a Foresight Leader

8. Research & Development

Emblem of the USAF Air R&D Command, 1950)

Emblem of the USAF
Air R&D Command, 1950)

Our last product and service division department is Research & Development (R&D), which is responsible for new product and service ideation and prototyping (early development). Along with a few folks in top leadership, R&D leaders are typically considered the technology foresight professionals in any organization.

This department is typically responsible for two of the top twenty foresight specialties, in alpha order as follows:

1. Ideation & Design,
2. Innovation & R&D. 

image75Ideation Management is another human capital related function that is benefiting from exciting new tools for generating collective foresight from large groups of an organization’s employees, customers, and stakeholders. Employee idea collection and refinement platforms (see BrightIdea, Datastation, CogniStreamer, Hype, IdeaScale, Imaginatik, and SpigitEngage), technical problem solving communities (InnoCentive), and employee engagement and feedback platforms (TeamPulse, Suggestion Ox) are now niche industries, selling their ideation products to HR leaders in all kinds of businesses. These firms are pioneers in software-as-a-service innovation management. Many of these systems work on top of the firm’s internal social networks and CRM systems, and the better ones incentivize firm-wide problem identification, idea generation and evaluation of employee and customer provided solutions, crudely assessing submitted ideas for their potential ROI for the firm, and offering project management tools for ideas that are turned into projects by employees or leadership. Prediction markets, which elicit forecasts and feedback on the potential outcomes of company ventures and relevant events, are another new area for collective foresight. But ideation and innovation management platforms are much more commercially successful and internally useful than prediction markets at present.

Design can be thought of as the hands-on, tangible exploration of ideas. It tends to focus on beauty, novelty, and style in the firm’s current and potential products and services. Ideally, the design professionals in this department work closely with sales and marketing, to discover what people want that isn’t yet being delivered, and with customer service, to discover problems and annoyances that can be eliminated. They also commonly work with top management in the Facilitation & Gaming specialty, helping to design environments and experiences that improve the firm’s foresight and collaboration. Like ideation itself, design can be used anywhere in the firm, and it deserves a champion in top management that sees its promise. Design consulting firms like IDEO offer design thinking engagements that will help leaders recognize the great power of structured creativity in thinking about, and interacting with, our mental and physical environment.

The new domain of Innovation Management, and the CINO (chief innovation officer) have become exciting new frontiers for innovation-related foresight work. As our IT systems get progressively smarter, we can use them, and smart rulesets, to continually improve the level of collaboration among the firm’s stakeholders and prospective customers.

image81Henry Chesbrough’s concept of open innovation, where the best firms use both internal and external innovation sources (i.e. ideas and IP from customers, rival companies, universities, and the global public), is a model that seems increasingly attractive for top firms in coming years. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are just two leaders in a plethora of crowdfunding companies that are capitalizing (often up to the ten million dollar range, and still climbing) and demand-testing all kinds of new events, projects, and products. Quirky and Assembly are among the world’s first crowdfounding companies, in which inventors and anyone else online who adds value to business ideas can work together to innovate and launch a new product or service, and receive equity or shares based on their inputs (i.e., with Quirky, 10% equity goes to the idea provider, another 5% to others who offer marketing, technical, or other value, and the rest to Quirky).

We can expect more of these kinds of companies in the next decade, now that small investors are allowed to directly invest in and receive equity (President Obama’s JOBS Act, one of the highlights of his administration). Prior to this, only accredited investors (folks with $1M or greater personal assets beyond their primary residence) could join angel investing syndicates, a law that put small business innovation at a systematic disadvantage. Democratizing small business equity investing via the JOBS Act is a big advantage for startups, and it seems likely to also grow jobs. Small businesses have been greatly advantaged in the last few years by crowdfunding sites as well. Crowdfunding grew 81% in 2012, its first year of major success, and hit $2.7B worldwide.

Clayton Christensen et al. in The Innovator’s DNA (2011) describe five behavioral skills that are key to innovation and R&D: Association (of information, to create ideas), Questioning (to highlight problems, define unknowns, challenge assumptions), Observing (seeing clearly what presently works and what doesn’t), Networking (connecting to others with diverse inputs), and Experimentation (a culture tolerant of quick, fast, and frequent failure during learning). This is not a definitive list, as other innovation-aiding skills have been proposed (e.g. design thinking). But it seems a solid start. For foresighted R&D managers today, providing greater employee freedom and incentive to innovate, doing better recruitment and global sourcing of technical innovators, enabling firm-wide or open innovation via software platforms, and aligning culture with innovation goals, and those goals with learning and development efforts, are some of the many promising foresight frontiers in this department.

R&D is the traditional name for this department, and it has its own set of communities and practice standards in every major industry. We mentioned some of those in Chapter 1. Unlike innovation management, R&D practitioners tend to focus more on basic research and technical intelligence, and less on the generation of successful products and services. The larger any firm gets, and the larger the industry it serves, the more a case can be made to support in-house scientific staff that focuses on exploring basic scientific and technical capabilties and phenomena that are within the scope of the firm’s mission.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 2. Personal Foresight – Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 2: Personal Foresight

Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 4: Models

Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 7. Acceleration – Guiding Our Extraordinary Future

Chapter 7: Acceleration

Guiding Our Extraordinary Future (In Process)

II. Global Progress: 5 Goals, 10 Values, Many Trends

Innovation: Our Abundant Future
Intelligence: Our Augmented Future
Interdependence: Our Civil Future
Immunity: Our Protected Future
Sustainability: Our Rebalanced Future

III. Universal Accelerating Change

Great Race to Inner Space: Our Surprising Future
Entropy&Information: We’re Running Down & Up
The Puzzle of Meaning: We Have No Einstein Yet
Trees, Funnels & Landscapes: Intro to Evo Devo
Big Picture Change: Five Scales of Accelerating ED
Transcension Hypothesis: Where Acceleratn Ends?
IDABDAK: Social Response to Accel & Developmnt
We’re On a Runaway Train: Being Accelaware

IV. Evo Devo and Exponential Foresight

Seeing It All: Accel., Diverg, Adapt, Convrg, Decel.
Natural (I4S) Innovation: The Evolutionary Drive
Natural (I4S) Intelligence: The Human-AI Partnership
Natural (I4S) Morality: Why Empathy and Ethics Rule
Natural (I4S) Security: Strength from Disruption
Natural (I4S) Sustainability: The Developmental Drive
S-Curves: Managing the Four Constituencies
Pain to Gain: Traversing the Three Kuznets Phases
Hype to Reality: Beyond Hype Cycles to Reality Checks
Exponentials Database: Measuring Accelerations
TINA Trends: Societal Evolutionary Development
Managing Change: STEEPCOP Events, Probs, Ideas
A Great Shift: A Survival to a Sentient Economy

V. Evo Devo and Exponential Activism

Building Protopias: Five Goals of Social Progress
Normative Foresight: Ten Values of Society
Top & STEEPCOP Acceleratns: Positive & Negative
Dystopias, Risks, and Failure States
Three Levels of Activism: People, Tech & Universe
A Great Opportunity: Exponential Empowerment


Chapter 8. Your Digital Self – The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

Chapter 8: Your Digital Self

The Human Face of the Coming Singularity (In Process)

I. Your Personal AI (PAI): Your Digital Self

Digital Society: Data, Mediation, and Agents
Personal AIs: Advancing the Five Goals
PAI Innovation: Abundance and Diversity
PAI Intelligence: Bio-Inspired AI
PAI Morality: Selection and Groupnets
PAI Security: Safe Learning Agents
PAI Sustainability: Science and Balance
The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

II. PAI Protopias & Dystopias in 8 Domains

1. Personal Agents: News, Ent., Education
2. Social Agents: Relat. and Social Justice
3. Political Agents :  Activism & Represent.
4. Economic Agents:  Retail, Finance, Entrep
5. Builder Agents :  Work, Innov. & Science
6. Environ. Agents : Pop. and Sustainability
7. Health Agents :  Health, Wellness, Death
8. Security Agents :  Def., Crime, Corrections

III. PAI Activism & Exponential Empowerment

Next Government: PAIs, Groupnets, Democ.
Next Economy: Creat. Destr. & Basic Income
Next Society: PAI Ent., Mortality & Uploading
What Will Your PAI Contribution Be?

Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Chapter 10: Startup Ideas

Great Product and Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs (In Process)

I. 4U’s Idea Hub: Building Better Futures

Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock
Ballistic Shields and Gun Control: Protecting Us All from Lone Shooters
Bioinspiration Wiki: Biomimetics and Bio-Inspired Design
Brain Preservation Services: Memory and Mortality Redefined
Carcams: Document Thieves, Bad Driving, and Bad Behavior
Competition in Govt Services: Less Corruption, More Innovation
Computer Adaptive Education (CAE): Better Learning and Training
Conversational Deep Learning Devsuites: Millions of AI Coders
Digital Tables: Telepresence, Games, Entertainment & Education
Dynaships: Sustainable Low-Speed Cargo Shipping
Electromagnetic Suspension: Nausea-Free Working & Reading in Cars
Epigenetic Health Tests: Cellular Aging, Bad Diet, Body Abuse Feedback
Fireline Explosives and Ember Drones: Next-Gen Fire Control
Global English: Empowering the Next Generation of Global Youth
Greenbots: Drone Seeders and Robotic Waterers for Mass Regreening
High-Density Housing and Zoning: Making Our Cities Affordable Again
Highway Enclosures and Trail Networks: Green and Quiet Urban Space
Inflatable Packaging: Faster and Greener Shipping and Returns
Internet of Families: Connecting People Over Things
Kidcams: Next-Gen Security for Child Safety and Empowerment
Kidpods: Indoor & Outdoor Parent-Assistive Toyboxes
Microdesalination: Democratizing Sustainable Fresh Water Production
Noise Monitors: Documenting and Reducing Noise Pollution
Oceanside Baths: Sustainable Year Round Beach Enjoyment
Open Blood Scanners: DIY Citizen Health Care Sensor Tech
Open Streaming Radio: User-Centered Audio Creation and Rating
Open Streaming Video: User-Centered Video Creation and Rating
Open Values Filters: Social Rankers, Arg. Mappers, and Consensus Finders
Personal AIs: Your Private Advisor, Activist, and Interface to the World
Pet Empowerment: Next-Gen Rights and Abilities for Our Domestic Animals
Safe Closets: Fire-, Earthquake-, and Intruder-Proof Retreat Spaces
Safe Cars: Reducing Our Insane 1.3M Annual Auto Deaths Today
Safe Motorcycles: Lane Splitting in Gridlock Without Risk of Death
Shared Value Insurance: User-Centered Risk Reduction Services
Sleeperbuses and Microhotels: Demonetized Intercity Travel
Space-Based Solar Power: Stratellite Powering and Weather Management
Stratellites: Next-Gen Urban Broadband, Transparency, and Security
Touch DNA: Next-Gen Home Security and Crime Deterrence
View Towers: Improving Urban Walkability, Inspiration, and Community

Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight – Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Chapter 11: Evo Devo Foresight

Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice