Back in the 2012 legislative session, several poorly crafted Internet bills galvanized the local tech community to discuss how to respond. What resulted was a townhall meeting and a the formation of Facebook group for the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA). It had all the good intentions to formally organize and provide a voice for Hawaii's technology community. Previous organizations like the Hawaii Technology Trade Association and the Hawaii Science and Technology Council had already come and gone, leaving a huge void for this nascent economic sector. (Note, these links for HTTA and HiSciTech are only stubs as their original website have been long discontinued.)
Three years later, the HIA continues to survive primarily as a Facebook group, with online discussions motivated by key individuals like Jared Kuroiwa, Peter Kay, Derek Gabriel, Ryan Hew and others. Interestingly, the group has not met face-to-face to discuss plans to organize, although many of the individuals know each other -- until now.
The question whether there is a voice for tech in Hawaii still remains. It came up repeatedly during a Hawaii Venture Capital Association lunch in January 2015. It was also a topic of conversation at the f2f gathering of the HIA. Jared Kuroiwa along with Robbie Melton, help moderated the discussion and summarized the following conclusions in the Facebook Group:
Investigate having a "technology group" within the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii (or other organization).
Look at if there are enough people wanting to form our own organization/501cX (pledge vote coming up).
HIA will still track bills and will have a wiki.innovationhawaii.com site set up to make it easier for people to find things.
HIA will continue to work with other tech organizations to form a unified position. If you are a leader (or member) of other tech groups, please feel free to share.
Derek Gabriel made a strong case for #1. Consulting with Len Higashi (HTDC) and with strong support from Sen. Glenn Wakai, the idea of joining an existing business association like the Chamber made a lot of sense. The organizational structure already exists and credibility established. The Chamber already has an Economic Development and Innovation Committee. Companies and individuals only need to spend the money, somewhere between $150 - $300 to join.
With case #2, Ryan Hew continues to be willing to provide the services, gratis I might add, to form a 501cX organization for the HIA. He has graciously offered this from day one and continues to do so. The challenge here, and probably the main reason it has not happened since that first meeting in Feb 2012 is that once the organization has filed the paperwork, the hard and laborious work begins. Maintaining a 501cX requires a dedication to administrative work that very few have the time or resource to commit to. So as much as an independent HIA as a 501cX is appealing, until someone steps up to work the day to day details, HIA will most likely continue as a Facebook group.
With item #3, Jason Axelson volunteered to set up a wiki for the group. One complaint expressed was that information about the original charter for HIA was hard to find. It is scattered between the Facebook group and the website HawaiiInnovation.com. One good thing over the years is the Charter has remained consistent:
The Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA) aims to create a more unified voice representing the islands' innovation community (technology, startups, entrepreneurs, new and social media, etc.) to foster innovation, educate lawmakers, and advocate appropriate policy.
Finally, it may not be a bad thing to have HIA continue as loose gathering of individuals, dialoging on Facebook. The tech/innovation community speaks through many organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, High Tech Development Corp., Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Hawaii Business Roundtable and Enterprise Honolulu. Having one more formal organization may not be the most productive. What is productive is building an informed community well versed in the issues. HIA may not 100% of the time agree on which bills to support, but its individual participants can still submit testimony and that voice according to Sen Wakai is still a very valuable one.
At the conclusion of this past week's Stanford Univ. Design Thinking Bootcamp at the Sheraton Waikiki, the energy and excitement was palpable. People felt they not only had a tool they would take back to their organizations but there was a groundswell of support that they could tap.
The Design Thinking initiative in Hawaii started in September 2010 when Oceanit brought Larry Shubert from Zip Innovations here for a one day workshop. Larry was formerly a principal with IDEO and leveraged the concepts that came out of there and the Stanford d.school. After all, they are related through David Kelley who is the founder of IDEO and head of the d.school. The September workshop was energizing and it would have been disappointing had that initial momentum been lost over time.
In parallel but on a somewhat different track the University of Hawaii created the Innovation Council and held a Symposium on Innovation in January 2011. At the conclusion of the Symposium the Council submitted their recommendations on innovation. They included:
Identify Key Areas for Commercialization Opportunities
Integrate Entrepreneurship into the Curriculum
It would seem Design Thinking is related to if not tightly coupled with recommendation 4, to Integrate Entrepreneurship into the Curriculum of the University.
In April 2011, organizers, Oceanit, HTDV and the Inovi Group started to conduct the Design Thinking Wallet Challenge. The Wallet Challenge was a half-day introduction to the process of Design Thinking. Sessions were conducted for Dept. of Education teachers on Oahu and Maui, private schools including Iolani and Punahou and tech companies participating in TechEnterprise 2011. The Wallet Challenge workshops were a lead in to the Design Thinking Bootcamp that just concluded last week.
It is encouraging to see the dots connecting. There are discussions taking place to have a follow up Design Thinking workshop in the summer of 2012. But between now and then there are opportunities to practice what was taught in the Bootcamp. Let's see what flowers bloom from the seeds just planted.
This past Monday, I had a chance to help facilitate a Design Thinking workshop as part of the Career and Technical Education, Career Pathway Student Performance Based Assessment Competitions. Ours was a session put on for the attending high school teachers.
Design thinking was born out of IDEO, the award winning design firm in Palo Alto. CA. President/CEO Tim Brown articulated the process of design thinking at a TED conference in 2009 that caught on and continues to spread. Also integrally linked to this process is Stanford University's d.School and something founder David Kelly calls "radical collaboration." The d.School process is outlined in the latest issue of Stanford Magazine and available online.
The design thinking workshop at the CTE event was modestly smaller in scale and condensed in a 2 hour window. Nevertheless it gave the teachers a taste of what the design thinking process entails. On site to administer the workshop were members of Hawaii's tech advocacy community including Oceanit, Hawaii Technology Development Venture, Hawaii Science and Technology Institute, ISISHawaii and the Inovi Group.
The two hour session was a rapid sequence of events to design a new wallet. It started with team formation, interviews about personal wallet preferences, wallet designs, feedback and collaboration and finally prototyping. Everyone proceeded to tap their inner child using construction paper, felt, scissors, tape, velcro and even a little bling to complete the visualization process. Given the short timeframe, the teachers came up with some creative wallet designs.
Keith Matsumoto from HTDV closed out the session by explaining how this design thinking process can help to develop Hawaii's workforce of the future. He said, "today's kids coming out of school can't think. This process of design thinking can help to change that." Matsumoto pointed to the dual-use companies, those companies working on projects funded by the the Dept. of Defense who also look to commercializing those products. Students who get a foundational training in the design thinking process can be valuable assets to companies looking to commercialize product for the market, whether it's medical, energy, ocean or tourism related. Along with the University of Hawaii's Innovation Council backing this effort, this is necessary workforce development for the 21st century.
This Entrepreneurial Symposium, organized by the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, Enterprise Honolulu and the High Tech Development Corporation, was a unique opportunity to hear how three entrepreneurial support organizations, each in different states (Ohio, Kansas and Oklahoma) approach the development and nurturing of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The goal for each of these organizations is to foster job growth in the technology sector and to position their state to be a global competitor.
Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart (Ohio) talked about developing a consensus plan by pulling all the stakeholders together to get broad commitment for entrepreneurial development. This involved public/private partnerships and an effort to transform the culture which was predominantly manufacturing. Over the course of 12 years, starting in 1998, Ohio lost an estimated 450,000 jobs. Something needed to be done and as Leach puts it, "never waste a crisis." They took on the task of transforming the business culture and elevating the role of entrepreneurship. They also play an active role in networking entrepreneurs with investors as well as keep state legislators aware of the role entrepreneurs play in business and job creation.
Joni Cobb, CEO of Pipeline exuded enthusiasm and passion for the role entrepreneurs play in building businesses in Kansas. Pipeline, which started as an initiative of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation is now a 501(c)3 non-profit providing tools and services to support the development of entrepreneurs. As described by Cobb:
PIPELINE is an “immersion experience.” Our goal is to link each Innovator into a robust and powerful network of supporters, peers and mentors. The Innovator does not just “learn about business.” The aim is to undergo a life altering experience that also changes the direction and trajectory of their company. In the process, Innovators recognize the power of the statewide network, and remain engaged in Kansas as mentors, coaches and investors.
Pipeline's approach struck me as being like an intensive Executive MBA program in Entrepreneurship, with Cobb as the Dean and Chief Evangelist. Going through it would be a life changing experience.
Finally, Tom Walker, CEO of I2E (Innovation to Enterprise) based in Oklahoma, talked about their primary focus: Business Services, Access to Capital and Entrepreneurial Development. Its mission is "Home grown economic development by fostering the birth and nurturing the growth of advanced technology companies in Oklahoma." I2E was formed in 1997 as part of Oklahoma's State Legislature's Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology Initiative. Over the course of 2007 - 2010, I2E showed their 150 companies exhibited a 30% growth rate while the rest of the state was in decline. I2E not only provides business support services and access to capital, they also coordinate events and publish resources like the Entrepreneur's Path: A Handbook for High Growth Companies.
Each of these organizations started as their respective state's initiative to grow the tech sector in the late 1990's and early 2000's. They took time to gain consensus and broad base support. Now in 2010, each is recognized as models of best practices and for other states to replicate. Needless to say, Hawaii has had the same desire and has numerous assortment of state agencies and business non-profits groups to prove it. But the question still remains, does Hawaii have the commitment and willpower to create and sustain a vibrant, creative, entrepreneurial technology sector. I am glad we are having this conversation but one we have obviously had before. Will it be any different this time around, during this new administration? Hope remains...
We're hearing a lot about how innovation is a key attribute for Hawaii businesses to compete in the fast paced national and international marketplace. Businesses here are faced with the raising costs of doing business, skilled labor moving out of the state and developing countries leap frogging our capabilities. Does innovation hold the answers to these challenges? In what way does innovation take place and how do companies instill a culture of innovation?
Oceanit, the Hawaii Science & Technology Council and Blue Planet Foundation are trying to help answer these questions. On September 24, 2010, they invited Larry Shubert, formerly with IDEO and now heading up Zip Innovations to facilitate a one-day workshop on Product Design Innovation. The session was well attended with representatives from Oceanit, Referentia, Archinoetics, Blue Planet, Avatar Reality, Clearfuels, TeraSys and others. Shubert opened with a couple of ice-breaker exercises to loosen up the mind. One was to sketch your neighbor in one minute. (I can barely draw a stick man in one minute.) The other was to draw as many objects given a sheet of 30 blank circles. I came up with globes, the sun, balls, targets, wheels, donuts, smiley faces, marbles, planets and then my 2 minutes ran out. Both exercises challenged yourself to be creative without self criticism. It's interesting how in such a short period of time you can find ways of limiting how freely you can think. The aim with Shubert's innovation process is to free the mind, to come up with "wild ideas".
To help the attendees with the process of innovation, Shubert shared a video from IDEO shot last year by ABC Nightline. In it, the challenge was put forth to design a new shopping cart in 5 days. It's quite an exciting pr0cess especially given such a short timeframe for completion. And probably a foreboding of what we were then challenged to do.
Jeff Mikulina from Blue Planet Foundation then presented the challenge Hawaii faces with petroleum-based energy dependence. This challenge was further distilled down to an exercise for the class. Taking the perspective of four different individuals in the community, how would they view the energy challenge, what would motivate them to move to clean energy and given a 5-year window, what technologies might facilitate that move. The group broke up into teams and brainstormed through scenarios. The facilitators encouraged the brainstorming activity to be unfettered by judgments and preconceived notions. The groups each selected their best ideas via a method I am quite familiar with, voting with Post-its.
Finally the pièce de résistance was for each of the groups to build a mock up of their solution and role play a skit demonstrating how this technology or solution got adopted. There were some great ideas and even better acting. I took a few photos and posted them to my Flickr site but they don't give justice to the actual presentations. Videos might start surfacing soon so keep an eye out for them.
All in all a good session but just a taste of the innovation process. The challenge now is to put this into everyday business practice. I spoke to Larry Shubert briefly after the workshop and he said,
As you know, innovation is a challenging full contact sport! It is driven by numerous factors including environment, culture, corporate support, process and team dynamics to name a few. Every company has unique needs and objectives.
Our ongoing challenge is to practice innovation on a daily basis and to see how innovation can take hold within the corporate culture. The Innovation Center at HMSA where I work engages in this everyday. We've got our stories to tell and you can find some of then on our website. Share your stories of innovation and together let's see innovation take root and thrive in Hawaii.