Archive for the 'Software tool' 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.”


  • 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

Ice Dream Project

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

Iceberg Transport” by Lauren K. Wolf

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Northrop Grumman, Eastman Chemical: Where to Innovate in this Economy

Point:  “Where” innovation comes from can be a place, a time, or a conceptual process.

Story: At Invention Machine’s Power to Innovate user conference, Jim Belfiore, Senior Director of Client Innovation and Practices, posed the question of where to innovate in this economy. Numerous presenters provided varied and surprising answers about where they find innovation and innovation-related opportunities.

First, “where” can be a literal place.  Mark Atkins, CEO of Invention Machine, discussed research on emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, and other rapidly-developing emerging markets.  He cited data on the rise of innovation awareness and investment in these countries.  For example, a recent survey found that 52% of executives in emerging markets thought innovation was critical versus only 31% in the US and EU.  The same survey showed that more executives in emerging markets are investing in innovation than are their mature-market counterparts (85% vs. 53%).

The implication: companies should scan and analyze emerging markets for companies that might be disruptive competitors or that might become the company’s new suppliers, new manufacturers, or new distributors for addressing emerging market needs.  By answering “where” with emerging market players, companies can find new opportunities for collaboration.

Second, Dr. Charles Volk, Vice President and Chief Technologist at Northrop Grumman Navigation Systems, showed how innovation can be found in the past — “where” can be a point in time.  Volk’s division makes high-performance inertial navigation systems that enable aircraft and missiles to know exactly where they are, how fast they are moving, how they are oriented in space, and which way they are heading.  The devices represent more than 50 years of technological success, as well as some failures. Failures of the past, however, can be resurrected when new technology advances and obviates previous constraints.  The key, however, is to be able to access the prior work a company has done on a project, to avoid reinventing the wheel.  The challenge gets even bigger given that so many Boomers are retiring, taking past knowledge and lessons learned with them.  That’s one reason why Northrop used Invention Machine’s Goldfire tool to systematically capture and index legacy knowledge from disparate sources and formats.  According to senior scientist David Rozelle, for example, “Extensive efforts were put into feeding all HRG [Hemispherical Resonator Gyro] product-line documentation into state-of-the-art-knowledge base tools, including Invention Machine’s Goldfire system, to allow future engineers easy access to this huge amount of information through queries to the database.”

Third, Henry Gonzalez, Technology Fellow at Eastman Chemical Co, provided an external-source “where” example. Eastman,  a global manufacturer of chemicals, plastics and fibers, wanted to find a new application for one of its existing technologies. Eastman used Goldfire’s Innovation Trend Analysis and semantic capabilities to identify and target likely conferences and papers that could point to an answer. The results? A two-day effort using Goldfire yielded results that took an Eastman engineer 6-9 months to do previously. Eastman engineers were originally skeptical that a tool could help them be more innovative, but they were convinced by the results and are now expanding their Goldfire deployment.

Finally, Belfiore challenged people to look beyond their current S-curve of technology or product adoption to the next curve. More specifically, his answer to the question of “where” is to examine where your current constraints are. Then look to that as “where” to innovate before a competitor does. For example, in the energy industry, hydrocarbon production and supply are a challenge, with the constraints of cost, resources and environment impact. Most alternatives to the energy issue target eliminating hydrocarbon fuels by substituting wind or sun. But these next-generation solutions come with new problems, such as replacing the world’s fleet of vehicles and existing energy-delivery infrastructure if liquid hydrocarbons are no longer used. Joule BioTech, however, pinpointed fuel as its innovation place. Specifically, Joule focused on finding a new way to make hydrocarbon fuel that would reduce dependence on foreign oil and eliminate the carbon footprint of fuel. Joule disrupted the way fuel is made. Rather than start with a hole in the ground to reach fossil fuels, Joule created sunlight-driven bioreactors that could grow artificial microbes that produce ethanol and diesel. The microbes require only sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce ethanol and diesel, thus not only lowering the cost of production but also removing CO2 from the atmosphere.  When the fuel and diesel is burned in the car engine, therefore, no new CO2 is released. And, the fuel is used in the combustion engine just like gasoline, requiring no new infrastructure.


  • Think about all the possible “wheres” of innovation.
  • Look at the past for failed innovations that you can resurrect using new developments or to address new needs.
  • Look at new markets and the new players arising in those markets as a new source, new collaborator, or new point of demand for innovation.
  • Look beyond the current S-curve to create the next S-curve before the competition does.

For more information, on Northrop Grumman’s HRG project, see:

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Large-scale Solutions without Large-scale Organizations – #BIF6

Point: Instead of trying to change large organizations, we can create new human-scale organizations that embody the needed changes and inspire passion. Micro-volunteering site, citizen site SeeClickFix and Fabien Cousteau’s PlantaFish point the way.

Story: What makes you want to get out of bed in up morning? Inventure Group founder Richard Leider has been asking people this question for over 40 years. The crosscutting answer: purpose. Even better, Leider has found that people with a sense purpose live longer.
Contrast this with John Hagel‘s data that only 20% of US workers feel passionate about their jobs. And the larger the organization, the lower the passion. That lack of passion does not bode well for either these workers or their organizations.

At the Business Innovation Factory‘s BIF-6 summit, 37Signals co-founder Jason Fried posed a similarly fundamental question about organizational growth. Fried asked, “Should we grow?”  His answer: “maybe not,” because so many larger organizations struggle with inertia, bureaucracy, and passion-killing processes. Fried recommended having human-scale organizations of no more that $10 million in revenues.

So how can we keep passion and purpose yet still effect the large-scale changes we need to solve global societal problems like healthcare, climate change and ineffective education systems?

Two BIF-6 storytellers illustrated web 2.0 systems that enable small informal actions by large numbers of people to augment or supplant the activities of larger organizations.  First, Extraordinaries founder Jacob Colker described , which is platform for micro-volunteering.   The system lets qualified organizations (such as a Kenyan village working to bring clean water to its citizens) post requests for simple, low-commitment, high-skill tasks (such as marketing recommendations, tech support, etc.).  Anyone can volunteer their professional services in quick 5-20 minute increments — volunteering while waiting in line, for example.

Second, Ben Berkowitz described his site, which lets citizens report small problems in their communities to a single site. The site routes alerts of these problems to appropriate civic authorities and elected officials.

Both examples illustrate two key points about the future. First is the power of engaging informal, ad hoc participants. Rather than building a lumbering command-and-control workforce, these new systems rely on the billions of hours of idle cognitive and labor resources lying fallow in our communities. Second, these two examples illustrate the power of web 2.0 tools to create large-scale solutions without large-scale development efforts. Anyone with an idea, passion, and a modicum of technical expertise can build an online system that scales to millions or billions of users. Behemoth organizations are neither necessary nor sufficient to solve tomorrow’s problems.

Fabien Cousteau, grandson of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and founder of Plant A Fish, provided compelling motivation for large-scale change: saving the planet takes precedence over saving any organization.  Rather than reform old large organizations, we can create new human-scale organizations that embody the needed changes and inspire passion.


  • Don’t assume that large, mature, centralized organizations can or should change
  • Look for solutions that solve a problem through millions of small steps (handled by distributed crowds)
  • Use lightweight online systems rather than heavyweight organizations to inform, engage, and mobilize far-flung participants/activists
  • Invest in building the young and dynamic rather than changing the old and static.

For more information:

John Hagel’s website, Center for the Edge at Deloitte and new book, The Power of Pull

BIF-6 storyteller profiles and blogroll

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