Inventing the Software that Invents the Future

Worried about today’s stock market activity? Retreat with me into the security of the bright future that awaits.

Microsoft’s Craig Mundie (pater familias of the Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments), is on a college tour across the nation.  The trip is something of a reprise of jaunts Bill Gates famously made over the years, when he would string together visits to campuses partly to evangelize, partly to recruit, and mostly to get new ideas from bright young (and contrarian) minds.  The Seattle paper today labels these tours as filling the role of Microsoft’s “chief inspiration officer” (“Mundie gives campuses peek at tech’s future”).

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Up Late? Innovate.

Here’s some quick thought-provoking advice from Phil McKinney, who runs HP’s Innovation Program Office.  (Phil has his own blog as well, but the advice comes from an interview yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News.)

Q. One of your tips for innovation is to stay up late, because that’s when your filters are down. (The mental filters that rule out wild ideas, which might turn out to be good ones.) Do you still do that?

A. “Oh yeah, it drives my wife crazy. The idea really is to go back to things you’d do before you were successful, before you learned that you’ve always got to be on your guard.”

Man, do I swear by that!  Phil has some other points that I’m less enamored with, mostly because I don’t believe he’s thinking very radically.  His point that in the future we might be data-mining healthcare histories is undercut by the fact that we’re already doing it, as I blogged yesterday

Another less-than-startling prediction: We’ll still be using Second-Life style virtual worlds two decades from now?  Please!  I suppose we’ll also still be changing toner cartridges!!

Check out Phil’s blog, it reflects his innovative thinking better 🙂   But don’t read it till after midnight…

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Pentagon’s New Program for Innovation, in Context

FACT: According to an article in today’s Washington Post, the Pentagon has announced “the selection of six university professors who will form the first class of the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows Program. The professors will receive grants of up to $600,000 per year for up to five years to engage in basic research — essentially a bet by the Pentagon that they will make a discovery that proves vital to maintaining the superiority of the U.S. military.”

ANALYSIS: This new program is an innovation from DoD’s Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E), and since tomorrow I’ll be at Ft. McNair for a two-day conference sponsored by DDR&E on Strategic Communications, I’ll congratulate John Young and his staff for the good idea.

But the Post article falls short in two ways: one immediate (it leaves out key information about next year’s program and the upcoming deadline!) and one longer-term (it ignores the overall context of federal support for R&D).  I’ll fill in the blanks below.

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Required Reading on Innovation and Patents

FACT:  If you’re a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s tremendous books (“The Tipping Point” and “Blink“), then you probably read the New Yorker magazine just to get his articles.  He has a new piece this week, “In the Air: Who Says Big Ideas are Rare?” in which he describes the phenomenally appealing work of the legendary Nathan Myhrvold and his current gig running “Intellectual Ventures,” often mistaken for a VC firm.  Gladwell recounts the facts that Myhrvold “graduated from high school at fourteen. He started Microsoft’s research division, leaving, in 1999, with hundreds of millions.”  It is what he’s done since then that grabs the mind, particularly if you’re interested in invention and innovation:

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Some Photos from Cairo

I’m in Cairo this week, my first-ever trip to Egypt, visiting the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Center (CMIC) – they’re doing some really interesting work particularly in Information Retrieval, Collaborative Content Services, and Digital Content Services – a very web-minded, web-services driven set of research and development activities with some real payoff in areas like machine translation and collaborative practices.   More information on their work at

I love Cairo already, on just my second day here.  I’ve posted some photos at a Flickr collection, and  I’ll keep adding to those….


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