Archive for the 'interview' Category

Innovation in 3D: Ice Dream #DSCC11

Point: Test large-scale innovations for 1/20th the cost by using 3D simulations to prove viability and performance.

Story: Forty years ago, Georges Mougin got an idea: solve water shortages in drought-ridden countries by towing an iceberg over the sea to them. Floating icebergs are pure drinking water, but they slowly melt into seawater.  Why not harvest them before all that drinking water is lost?

The idea of towing an iceberg, however, seemed crazy.  When Mougin talked with scientists about the idea, objections abounded.  “Once you get north of the equator, you’ll have nothing but a rope at the end of your tow,” said Wilford Weeks of the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory at a conference in 1977 when hearing of the idea.  Other questions were: how much power would it take to tow 100-million ton iceberg? What would be the environmental impact of it melting in equatorial waters once it was anchored at a coastal city?

Although Mougin was confident of the idea’s viability, he had no way to prove it. Despite securing the backing of a Saudi prince, Prince Mohammed al Faisal, the projected costs and unanswered questions proved insurmountable.  But Mougin continued working on the idea, doggedly amassing data on issues like ocean currents and learning how technologies from other industries, like those developed for off-shore oil drilling, could be tapped.

Mougin’s lucky break came in 2009, when he heard of Dassault Systemes‘ “Passion for Innovation” program.  Dassault Systemes sponsors the Passion for Innovation program as a philanthropic venture to give individuals or nonprofits free access to Dassault Systemes’ suite of products (CATIA, DELMIA, SIMULIA, ENOVIA, 3DVIA. SoildWorks, Exalead) as well as a team of Dassault Systemes engineers.

“We’ll help you and provide you with the modeling and simulation technologies that should demonstrate that your project is feasible,” said Cedric Simard, IceDream Project Director, Dassault Systemes.

Dassault Systemes worked with Mougin: “We used virtual and digital simulation technology to recreate a virtual world around the iceberg, taking into account real oceanographic and weather data to simulate the sea currents at several depth levels, as well as the wind, waves, and even the impact of the sun’s rays,” Simard said.

After using CATIA software to create an exact model of the iceberg, the team used Dymola for the complex simulation, factoring in issues like ocean temperatures that would affect melting en route as well as meteorological phenomena like wind. The team also used SIMULIA software to consider risks such as fracturing of the iceberg. Running these simulations enabled the team to test the concept for a fraction of the cost of building a prototype: $500,000 instead of $10 million.

The simulations proved that it’d be possible to tow a 7-million-ton berg with one tugboat, primarily relying on ocean currents and consuming only 4000 tons of fuel over the 140-day journey, Simard said. The berg would experience some melting (38%) but still provide enough drinking water for 20,000 people for one year.

“Mougin is a very passionate guy,” Simard said. “He’s 87 years old, and he’s been working on his project for forty years. Now thanks to the power of simulation and the digital world, he can see how his idea would work in reality.”

Action:

  • Create mathematical models of large-scale innovations
  • Ground the model in real-world conditions and environments with empirical data
  • Estimate performance, costs, potential failure modes using advanced software
  • Present a compelling graphical story of the innovation with 3D visualization.

Sources and Additional Information:

My video interview with Cedric Simard on CollaborativeInnovation.org

Ice Dream Project

Dassault Puts Inventor’s ‘Ice Dream’ to 3D Simulation Test” by Beth Stackpole

Iceberg Transport” by Lauren K. Wolf

No Comments »Case study, Entrepreneurs, interview, R&D, Software tool, Uncategorized

Ted Turner on Visionary Leadership

Point: Ted Turner’s tips for seeing over the horizon

Story: Many leaders are described as “visionary” — I’m always curious as to how they got that way. Is it something they’re born with, or something we can we all learn?  I had a chance to participate in a Silicon Flatirons Q&A with media mogul Ted Turner as we probed this question with Ted.

Before CNN, people didn’t think that a 24-hour-a-day news channel was viable.  How did Ted prove them wrong? “It helps to see over the horizon,” Ted said.  ‘Most people can’t do it, but I think your brain is like a muscle. And just like any other muscle, you can use it and your brain will improve.”

Ted elaborated: “I have a 128 IQ, but 140 is genius.  I was in the 97th percentile, so that means 3 percent of people were smarter than me. I knew I was going to have to work hard if I wanted to accomplish something in life. So I read a lot — classics, warfare, Alexander the Great — I used my brain all the time. Everything I did was education.  Others just shot the breeze, wasted time — nothing wrong with that, but you can’t get to the top doing that.”

Ted’s answer points to a combination of aptitude and hard work. (I think it’s interesting that Ted thought being in the 97th percentile meant he’d have to work hard if he wanted to accomplish something — it reminded me of Andy Grove’s “only the paranoid survive” philosophy.)

What did Ted see over the horizon? As Ted described it, the idea for CNN was born of his own desire to stay on top of the news but, as a busy executive, not having time to watch the news during the two times a day it was on during the 1970s. “I knew I was gambling with CNN, but I knew it would work,” Ted said. “At the time, the news came on at 6:30 and again at 11pm. I never saw the news — it was inconvenient. I knew that having news on 24 hours a day so you could check in anytime was something that people would want.”

Beyond CNN, Ted was also working to build a multichannel universe. CNN fit into this universe perfectly.  In the 1970s, three broadcast networks — ABC, NBC and CBS — controlled the programming people could see.  For example, sports games across the country were televized, but they couldn’t be seen outside the local area because the broadcasters had a monopoly.  “The broadcasters had carved up the games,” Ted said, dividing the NFL, AFL and Monday Night Football between them. “Everyone paid the same prices and made the same profit. All three networks were happy, but I wasn’t happy” — customers weren’t being served, and incumbents had no incentive to change.

This is where Ted’s reading and habit of learning came into play again. “It was in early 1975 that I saw an article about communications satellites in Broadcasting magazine,” Ted recalled. Reading the article, Ted realized that he could use one satellite “antenna” in space to cover all of North America.  He’d found a way to compete with the established networks.

There’d be more hard work along the way — “We sweated payroll for ten years,” Ted said — but Ted relished the challenges. “The way to lead is with infectious enthusiasm, get everyone enthusiastic about what we’re doing.”

Action:
* Fit your current strategy into the larger picture: Ted’s vision for CNN was part of his overall goal to build a multi-channel universe
* Lead with infectious enthusiasm

Sources:
Silicon Flatirons Q&A November 13, 2009

Call Me Ted, by Ted Turner

3 Comments »Entrepreneurs, How-to, Innovation, interview