Sunday, July 29, 2012

Refocusing on the customer to improve startup failure rates

Even when startups have a seemingly good idea, high-powered team, funding, and marketing, most fail. Instead of accepting this as normal (a badge of courage and a ‘fail early, fail fast’ mentality), many people have started to question this, and congruently with Silicon Valley’s problem-solving mindset, try to solve the high rate of startup failures.

It is not that startups fail to build products and services, it is that they fail to build products and services that anyone WANTS.
Focusing on the customer and their needs, first, last, and at every step of the way, is suggested as the answer for creating startups that are far less likely to fail. One advent in tools to help develop and stay in the customer-centric mindset is the ‘canvas’ concept. The canvas is a large paper with the quadrants of the business model set forth, and teams populate the quadrants with content written on post-its which can be dynamically updated as ideas change and assumptions are validated. Some examples are the Lean Startup Machine Canvas and Business Model Canvas.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Massive educational reform facilitated by technology

More than any other sector, education is currently poised for significant reform, of an expansionary, inclusionary, complementary nature, with the fingers of change that have long been present being gathered into inexorable industry-shifting waves. The hand of technology is the beneficial enabler.

Distance learning, and digital recording and streaming technologies have been steadily improving which has given way to a new way of connecting large worldwide audiences. What was the initial opening up of courses to online students has now turned into classrooms of huge online audiences in the range of 60,000-70,000 participants. This in turn has brought attention to the need and possibility of innovating educational methods to make material more dynamic. It may be possible to reorganize pedagogy in the new venue of the large-scale online audiences. Some ways are by communicating in real-time for both exercises and feedback loops to instructors, and by participating in dynamic exercises. This could help in making educational content more alive, experiencable, and interactive.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Behavior change through information availability and financial incentives

The presence of the big data era is increasingly difficult to ignore, but what is its influence exactly? Even if big data results in some beneficial outcomes, are humans being enslaved or empowered?

One example of behavior change through the availability of big data is personal power consumption. Home electricity consumption was reduced when individuals were able to self-monitor and obtain feedback on their resource use. There were 7-10% reductions with data and feedback [1,2], and a 32% reduction with data and feedback plus incentives [3].

It is a subtle line between the coercion of social pressure and other invisible influences and the ability to make a truly self-empowered choice whilst living in society. One answer philosophers have had to this question is that at least awareness of the issue helps. Irrespective of the source of motivations, the fact that responsibility-taking through greater awareness and access to information has been demonstrated could possibly be extended to have a similarly transformative impact on health and other sectors.

[1] Wood G, Newborough M. Dynamic energy-consumption indicators for domestic appliances: environment, behaviour and design. Energy and Buildings 2003 Sep;35(8);821-41.
[2] Parker DS. Pilot Evaluation of Energy Savings from Residential Energy Demand Feedback Devices. Solar Energy 2008 Jan; 13.
[3] Petersen JE, Shunturov V, Janda K, Platt G, Weinberger K. Dormitory residents reduce electricity consumption when exposed to real-time visual feedback and incentives. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 2007;8(1);16-33.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Memory and empathy studies launch on crowdsourced health platform!

Two new health studies organized by DIYgenomics and collaborators have recently launched on the crowdsourcing platform Genomera. One is a memory study: Dopamine Genes and Rapid Reality Adaptation in Thinking and the other is an empathy study: Social Intelligence Genomics & Empathy-Building.

The Genomera platform boasts over 700 community members who are interested in participating in studies. While several of the approximately 30 listed studies investigate genetics as a related component of health, it is not necessary to have data from 23andMe or other consumer genomics services to join the health collaboration community and participate in studies. There are already 40 participants in the memory study and almost 20 in the empathy study.

The objective of the memory study is to see if genetic variants related to dopamine processing in the brain impact the processing of memories. The study is being conducted in conjunction with leading researchers at the Center of Cognitive Neurorehabilitation in Geneva Switzerland. The participation requirements are to complete an online Memory Filtering Task which takes approximately 40 minutes and a short Demographic Survey.

The objective of the empathy study is to confirm and extend research linking genetic profile and social intelligence, specifically whether individuals with certain genetic profiles may have a greater natural capacity for optimism and empathy, extraversion, and altruism. The participation requirement is to complete two short standardized online surveys for empathy quotient and other personality attributes. In addition, there is an optionally available Personal Virtual Coach app for empathy-building, a sort of SIRI 2.0 for mental performance optimization.