Posts

My Research Mind – A Little Messy

I have been doing some reflection on my research interests and the connections between the various scientific domains in which I work. I will be on a panel, Working on Mars while Living on Earth - Balancing Demands across Disciplinary Boundaries, with Sandeep Purao (Penn State University), Ajay Vinze (Arizona State University), and Steve Sawyer (Syracuse University) at the 22nd Workshop on Information Systems and Technology where I will share some of my lessons learnt in doing interdisciplinary research and holding academic appointments in various disciplinary units from business schools to information schools and urban studies to public administration.

For a sneak preview here is a graphical description of my research spheres.

Below is a graphical description of my research trajectory mapped across various dimensions.

Leveraging Intrapreneurship towards Organizational Change @ PMI Phoenix Chapter

I will be giving two talks to the Project Management Institute's Phoenix Chapter. Both talks will be on Leveraging Intrapreneurship towards Organizational Change: A Focus on Process Management. The first talk will take place on August 15 @ Dave and Busters (Desert Ridge-North Valley), and the second talk on August 16 @ Doubletree Suites (44th Street and Van Buren-South Valley). The talk will be based on my recent book, Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas Within Your Organization. If you are in the Phoenix metropolitan area, please stop by.

Getting the Best from Your Employees: Leverage Their Ideas

Have you ever struggled with getting the best from your employees? If you have spent even minimal time managing people, your answer is probably going to be 'yes.' Managers often struggle with getting their employees to give their best or to punch above their weight. This topic has been a focus of many dissertations, books, and pundit advice sessions. Among the multitude of reasons why managers struggle with their employees, I submit one of the most critical: most managers lack capabilities to leverage their employee's ideas. Based on my research and consulting with over 30 global organizations (see Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas Within Your Organization), here are five simple good habits to internalize , if you want to get the best from your employees and their talent.

  • First, design an idea-friendly environment for your employees.
  • Second, be an advocate for your employee's ideas.
  • Third, connect your employee to networks that can harness their ideas.
  • Fourth, collaborate with your employees on experimenting with their ideas.
  • Fifth, mobilize your networks to support the diffusion of your employee's ideas and expertise.
P.S. This is an excerpt of an article that I am writing for a magazine. For more details, send me an email.

Visit to the Rotman School of Management – April 3, 2012

I enjoyed my recent visit to Toronto. I had the privilege of addressing a sold-out crowd at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. If your organization is interested in having me come by and talk about my recent book, Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas Within Your Organization (University of Toronto Press, 2011) please send me an email. See below for a brief excerpt from my talk at the Rotman School of Management.

Brad Larson, Creator of Molecules App, Honorable Mention @ NIH/NLM “Show off your Apps” Competition

As promised, in my previous post, my research team and I will be featuring various app developers who have contributed to challenges run by federal agencies on challenges.gov.

Developer: Brad Larson
Bio: Brad Larson is technically gifted with a track-record of programming. He has been working in the mobile app realm since the days of Palm. He is an engineer by training, earning a BS in chemical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, in addition to an MS and PhD in Materials Science from the University of Wisconsin. His current interests in the mobile development space focus on advanced 3-D graphics and high performance image and video processing, particularly when used in scientific applications such as machine vision.
Current Position: Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at SonoPlot, Inc., Consults and develops through Sunset Lake Software

App in Focus: Molecules
Federal Citizen App Program: NIH/NLM “Show off your Apps” Competition
Recognition: Honorable Mention

Description of the App: Molecules is an app that displays 3D renderings of molecules. It allows users to access and download various molecules from the RCSB Protein Data Bank or NCBI’s PubChem. Both are public repositories for molecules and compounds. Once a specified molecule or compound is downloaded, the app displays a 3D rendering and permits the user to manipulate their view; to zoom, pan or even to change from ball-and-stick to spacefilling visualization models. The molecules once downloaded are stored on the mobile device for later review.

Who is the App Intended to Serve: The original target audiences were researchers and high-end knowledge workers in the sciences. Now the primary users are in the education field, with usage even at the high school level.

Current Statistics: The application runs on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. As of March 22, 2012, Molecules has been downloaded by 2,040,480 people.

Why was the app developed: Initial work on the application began on June 15, 2008 and the first version was submitted on July 6, 2008. It launched with the iPhone App Store on July 10, 2008. Molecules was created to solve a challenge identified by his brother, and one that if solved would benefit many researchers. It began and continues to be developed as a hobby project that focuses on 3D renderings of molecules and compounds. In addition to generating 3D renderings of specific molecules, the application was intended to provide mobile access to users anywhere.

How was the app developed: The development of Molecules began with the normal design process (defining the scope, etc.). With its development contingent upon Brad’s learning and mastery of particular skills, such as 3D rendering. The Apple Developer conferences played a critical role in not only teaching him some of these skills, but also in connecting him with others in the development community. Once able to 3D render, he partnered with RCSB Protein Bank and the NCBI’s PubChem to leverage their databases of molecules and compounds. Molecules makes its source code publicly available, allowing other developers to research and fix bugs/other issues. Complications and challenges in the development process were addressed via two avenues; his network of developers built through conferences and the online resource, StackOverflow.com.

How was the availability of the app communicated to potential users: As one of the first 500 applications on the iPhone App Store, it was fairly visible from the launch of that service. It was the eighth most downloaded free utility in 2008. Since then, it has been featured by Apple multiple times on the App Store, and has appeared in passing on Apple's television commercials and in a couple of their keynote presentations. Other websites have listed it in collections of scientific and educational iOS applications. Beyond that, Brad has told friends and associates about the application, but have not actively advertised it beyond occasional mentions on various developer websites like Stack Overflow.

What were the key lessons learned during the development of the app: 1) Build small, throwaway test applications to explore specific areas that I didn't understand and then to use the lessons learned from these experiments in the larger finished application, and 2) Attend conferences for networking to build partnerships and working relationship with other developers.

What recommendations do you have for government agencies that are trying to incentivize the creation of citizen apps and the leveraging of open data programs:

  • Increase the visibility of the challenges and competitions. Many app developers do not know of them.
  • Improve communication with app developers and external parties. Leverage the app developer networks to increase the reach of the message.
  • Cash prizes while good need to be in touch with realities of developers. Seldom do developers have extensive resources to support travel to D.C for events (even when they win prizes or receive recognition).
  • Support the development of local events for app developers to meet, share ideas, learn from each other, and work on problems.

What do you plan on doing next with the Molecules app, and your interest in app development for tackling social and technical problems: Brad plans to continue the development and refinement of Molecules based upon the reviews he receives online. To-date 389 reviews have been written for all-versions of the app, referencing features such as color coding, interface layout and inclusion of more molecule information. His most recent efforts have been focused on adapting and improving the application for the iPad 3. He also, as noted above has begun work in ‘assisted visioning’ applications.

Leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds through Participatory Platforms – Planetizen

My article on Leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds through Participatory Platforms was published on Planetizen.  The future of design and planning is certain to be around participatory platforms, designers and planners should embrace these platforms and leverage their potential towards designing smart(er) cities through open, inclusive, and collaborative approaches.Planners need to learn how to orchestrate participation on these platforms so as to arrive at plans that are representative of community needs and within scope, budget, and resource constraints. Failure to achieve this will result in plans that fall prey to the foolishness or the rowdiness of crowds. I outline five simple guidelines to consider. To read more, click here - LINK

Speaking and Book Signing at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

I will be speaking on Building Innovation into Organizations as a Competency as part of the Entrepreneurship Experts Speaker Series @ Rotman on April 3, 2012. The series is hosted by the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. My talk will be followed by a book signing event for Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas Within Your Organization (Rotman-UTP Publishing, 2011).

To register for the event, which includes a copy of the book: LINK

To learn more about the speaker series: LINK

Five Simple Rules for Managing Your Ideas within Your Organization

I just wrote a post for the University of Toronto Press blog. Link

I have been humbled by the feedback that I have received on my book, Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas within Your Organization. While all readers have provided me with interesting insights on how ideas are managed within their organization, a handful have gone further, asking me some (difficult) questions. I will tackle an easy question in this blog post – “Can you give me a few simple rules that I can use to get better at managing ideas?”  Variants of this question were posed by several readers who could relate to the frustrations employees face when it comes to leveraging their ideas. Little over a year back, I was invited to keynote a Center of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation, and Process Control meeting held at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. My talk, Ten Rules of Leveraging Ideas for Innovation, will serve as the foundation for my five simple rules.
In this blog post, I will focus on the employee perspective; in a future post, I will share five elements that managers should pay attention to...
To read more, please click here - link

IBM Center for the Business of Government Grant: Citizen Apps as a Democratizing Technology

I have received a grant from the IBM Center for the Business of Government for my research project, Citizen Apps as a Democratizing Technology:  Challenges and Opportunities for Federal Agencies. This project will be conducted as part of the policy informatics portfolio at the Metropolitan Institute.

Most US federal agencies have embraced President Obama's vision for 1) greater transparency, 2) increased citizen participation, and 3) greater collaboration. A critical outcome of these initiatives is the willingness of federal agencies to engage with citizens around open-data initiatives and the creation of technology for solving public policy problems - 'citizen apps.' We are witnessing an increasing proliferation of 'citizen apps', i.e. applications designed by citizens and developers to solve public policy challenges. Federal agencies are not only opening up data reservoirs, but are also incentivizing the development of citizen apps through competitions. In this research project, we propose to study citizen apps and the federal programs that fostered (incentivized) their creation.

There are many reasons why it is beneficial to involve citizens in the governance process. One, it opens up problem solving opportunities where citizens can participate. Second, it serves as a forum to increase the diversity of thought and knowledge brought to a problem. This increases the potential for innovation by engaging many minds to solve complex problems. Citizen participation leads to greater collective intelligence and hopefully more robust solutions for social issues. Third, it allows citizens to solve problems that a government agency might be challenged to address. Finally, it empowers the vision set forth by former President John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." Citizen app programs normally come in two broad flavors. One set of citizen app programs are fueled by government open-data initiatives. In these cases, a government agency makes data available to the public and the public in turn responds by using this data creatively to generate technologies (the apps) that better the lives of citizens. The second set of citizen app programs is where a government agency issues a challenge or problem to the public. The public then responds by building solutions to the challenge. In this case, the government may incentivize the development of the apps through issue of recognition prizes and funding. This success of both types of citizen app programs depends on the dynamic collaboration of government agencies, app developers, and the citizenry. To date, our knowledge on what makes for successful collaboration among these three players is limited.

There are a number of design considerations that need to be addressed when building citizen app programs from the nature of incentives provided to goals of the apps, the motivations that drive citizens to create the apps, and how (and where) to deploy the apps, the involvement by the agency (e.g. staff time to interact with app developers), level and amount of data availability, and creation of problem-solving communities and forums, among others. In this research project, we will uncover design considerations that government executives need to bear in mind as they initiate citizen app programs. We will also compare and contrast citizen app programs to arrive at a set of best practices by looking at critical success factors that led to citizen app programs that were highly successful.

Our research project will thoroughly inventory and study the range of citizen apps to understand the typology of the apps, the data they use, the problems they address, the motivation of the designers, the usage by citizens, and the impact on government and governance. We propose to discover and define the inter-relations between the government agencies, the app developers, and the citizens. While our focus will be on studying citizen apps generated out of programs commissioned by the federal government, we will also look at programs started by progressive states (e.g. New York, California, etc).

The results of the final report will benefit public sector government executives, public managers, and the public-at-large in several ways: 1) it will enable government executives to avoid common pitfalls when incentivizing citizen app programs (for e.g. placing emphasis on the frontend, i.e. the creation of apps, and ignoring the more challenging aspect of ensuring that the apps are diffused into the agency's work practices or to citizens); 2) it will enable public managers to understand the landscape of citizen apps, the motivations of citizens who create them, and the factors that drive their usage; and 3) it will enable federal agencies to better engage citizens into the policy setting process through supporting technology development thereby increasing the chances of more effective solution generation for policy problems.