Tim Bajarin on Future Innovation Platforms #CES2020

Today’s guest is one of the top technology industry analysts, well known in Silicon Valley and globally. When he talks about your company or products, you hope it is more positive than negative as his word moves the markets. Our guest is here with us at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is his 50th. This week on Killer Innovations, Tim Bajarin joins us to discuss what is real and becoming a future innovation platform.

Tim Bajarin

How’s it Shaping Up

CES has evolved over the years from a heavy focus on video and audio to every product category that touches technology. From cosmetics, toilets to autonomous cars, and smart televisions. We have seen it all say’s Phil, who is in his twenty-fifth year at CES. The evolution over these years has generated innovation and technology in our everyday lives that was once a fantasy you saw in movies. Now turned into reality. One area is in transportation and the progression of the vehicle becoming, as one Fortune 500 CEO told Phil, a “Cell Phone on Wheels.”  The smart vehicle today is now turning into your entertainment room and productivity station – Transportation As A Platform (TAAP).

The glass on vehicles and your house is transforming into the smart visual platform that keeps you communicating wherever you are. These glass displays today are amazingly more connected, but just now tipping the iceberg of potential. Companies like Corning are doing amazing things by focusing on the smart glass and its unlimited possibilities.

AI Everything

Catch-all term?? When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is everywhere, but used as a loose term – for most a feature I need to have and tout. We have AI in our soap. You don’t need to rub soap all over your body, it now finds the dirty spot and rubs it for you. Really what is practical and real AI? It has been around for many decades in different lingo and forms. Now, AI has more market form and will be in anything electronic. You need to understand AI and not just use the term or application loosely. The intelligence aspect of AI has to be applied to more effectively utilize the full potential.

Where is the critical impact on AI that can hurt or help you, it’s ethics. Most organizations are inserting AI into their common language and products; however, the impact is not all that obvious. If you are not thinking of the ethical and various risk impacts, you are just a follower in the buzz word bingo. It’s crucial to establish your AI governance. Setting up an AI ethics Board is what is going to keep your risk low and your value high.

Computing will Drive Innovation

AI is one of the advancing technologies that rely on high-performance computing and silicon. However, demand shifts, availability, and advancement can generate problems for the next generation of innovation. Computing power advancement does come with the balancing of the cost versus rapid progression that companies are grappling with today. Impactful innovations and expectations of new products and technologies are reliant on industry players making the right call and investing.

Without the exponential growth of computing power, we will stall in our progression of innovation. IoT, sensors, AI, Cloud, Drones, Autonomous, and all the latest trends will come to a halt unless the dynamics are aligned and balanced from cost, pricing, and R&D for those providing the computing power. The demand is at such a high pace at this stage of technology expansion. It takes a tremendous commitment from the major players such as Intel and AMD. It also makes the PC players keep providing productivity tools. One of which is still the PC. Many think the PC is dead, but that is not reality as it is still the most productive platform.

Will Form Factor Make a Difference

Foldables at CES was a big attraction, as they moved towards mobile devices and displays for entertainment and productivity. Manipulated to the contour you desire, these intelligent displays are starting to gain traction and turning into reality. For the players, it comes down to a component that can give the industry a big boost, a refresh, and generate new channels and opportunities for innovation. Phil was pioneering foldable/bendable displays 10+years back when at HP, and his prediction has taken form. The foldable players are building all the intelligence in a complete screen that bends at will. What does this give the consumer – more straightforward communication, lighter smartphones, increased productivity and creative possibilities beyond the obvious.

About our Guest: Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is one of the most recognized and sought after global technology analysts, futurists, and consultants. His fifty years in Silicon Valley has made him a voice that moves the market.

With his writing and analysis being at the forefront of the digital revolution, Tim was one of the first to cover the personal computer industry and is considered one of the leading experts in the field of technology adoption life cycles. He is president of a technology-focused company Creative Strategies, and a regular podcaster on Tech.Pinions (also broadcasted on The Innovators Network). He is a futurist and credited with predicting the desktop publishing revolution three years before it reached the market and multimedia.

Been with Creative Strategies since 1981, Tim has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry (IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, AMD, HP, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Qualcomm, Toshiba, and numerous others).

Tim Bajarin is on the technology advisory boards of IBM, Compaq, and Dell. (from Wikipedia)

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn more about what’s real and becoming a future innovation platform, listen to this week’s show: Tim Bajarin on Future Innovation Platforms #CES2020.

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Will AI Replace Human Creativity?

AI has become the new buzzword that has been applied to anything and everything. You can’t attend trade shows without seeing AI attached to labels such as AI apps, AI-enhanced coffee, and AI influenced healthcare, etc. As of recent, AI has been in transition mode. It has moved from merely a “hype label” to something of reality. Some are even calling it the AI-driven “fourth industrial revolution.” On today’s show, I am going to be discussing AI and how it can be applied and used in innovation.

AI

AI Innovation

Innovation and creation come from our learnings and experiences. With every new creation comes inspiration from something else. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb; he perfected it. Einstein was inspired by physicists that went before him. So what is the difference between AI invented and AI-inspired? Input and experience play a key role. For AI, that comes in the form of the “training data” supplied to the system to recognize patterns and identify the best solutions. Training data is critically important and allows AI to do what it does. It is part of an element called machine learning, which has historically applied to games like chess and go. It was initially thought that humans had a unique advantage at these kinds of things. Here are a few examples that may prove otherwise:

  • Deep Blue’swin over Chess champion Garry Kasparov. It took multiple attempts, but the robot’s skill evolved after a while.
  • IBM Watson’sJeopardy win over human trivia kings.
  • Google DeepMind’s Go-playing bot’s win against a Korean grandmaster. The top player has retired, saying that a human will never be better than a computer at Go.

Is this proof that AI is becoming smarter than humans? It depends on how you define smart. Do you define it by IQ number, critical thinking skills, or memorization? What makes humans smart? Let’s not move too fast here. In the case of chess, the key is to recognize patterns and to be able to look at the number of steps ahead. These are two skills that computers have become quite good at using machine learning. So is that the definition of smart?

There is no doubt that AI will make an impact. Will it have an impact on innovation? If so, how will it be manifested? In what ways can we use AI to support our innovation endeavors? Are you ready to jump in?

AI and Creativity

One example of AI is in the writing of stories for Associated Press

AP uses deep learning in its Wordsmith tool to generate millions of news stories for financial services and sports, outpacing the output of all major media companies combined. Wordsmith has been trained on articles written by others that were redeemed as “good.” It plans to offer medium-specific stories, such as those published online and read on the air by newscasters, publication-specific stories separately tailored for publications like the New York Times and Buzzfeed. The question I ask myself is, could they write the script for my show? Not really, because my show isn’t triggered by press releases, and based on a specific style. So what is the downside of this? No one is reading the press release to validate it manually.

One of my hobbies is to write instrumental music I use during ideation and brainstorming workshops. They recently came out with an experimental AI plugin from Magenta Studio. I’ve been experimenting with it to see if it can be a tool to help me create better instrumentals

Magenta provides a pretty easy way to get started with AI applied to create music. Another example of AI applied to creativity is when Christie, in October 2018, auctioned its first work of art generated by an algorithm called a generative adversarial network (GAN). This GAN approach meant that the AI was fed 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries to train it in a style of art. Then a portrait was created by one computer network (the generating computer) that attempted to convince a second computer (the discriminating computer) that the image it generated should pass as real art. The discriminating computer is trained with portraits to teach it how to discern what a good portrait looks like so it can play the referee. The generating computer’s task is to create convincing art through a feedback loop, which improves both their capabilities over time. The portrait that passed the test sold for $432,000. This begs some important questions: Who should get the byline for the article published by the wordsmith tool for AP? Who gets the songwriter credit for the new song?

Who should sign their signature to the painting?

Applying AI

Could AI be applied to creating ideas that result in high impact innovations? Could it replace human creativity? Could AI be used to generate new ideas? I don’t think so. It could be used, however, as a tool to take raw ideas and apply AI to expand, enhance, and improve them. Possibly a tool to help the human side of brainstorming get past the mental block of generating more and better ideas.

So if we use AI as a tool to “create,” …

  • Who should get the byline for the article published by the wordsmith tool for AP?
  • Who gets the songwriter credit for the new song created by a tool like Magenta Studio?
  • Who should sign their signature to the painting?
  • Who should get credit on the patent application for a tool that helped in brainstorming?

AI augments what authors and inventors can do. With advances in machine learning, the interaction between algorithms and the creative process is changing. AI now allows artists to find unexpected beauty in chaos and complexity that exceeds the human grasp. AI is something to experiment with. It shouldn’t be feared. I am very optimistic about the role AI can play as a tool.

Five Minutes to New Ideas


No two people are alike. We all enjoy different movies, music, and experiences. To be normal is not to be average, but different. For some reason, we are uncomfortable showing our differences. Many people feel inadequate when looking at others around them. Face it; we are all quirky. Everyone has their own “normal.” It is normal to follow your natural inclinations. Trying to conform to the crowd is not acting like yourself. We are all outstanding in some way. Once we find what our “super-power” is, life takes on a new meaning. What are the steps to being content with who we are? Find out who you are and be that. Discover your strengths and use them. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas, tell yourself, “You are unique, and it is your duty to be who you are. “

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn more about applying AI to innovate ideas, listen to this week’s show: Will AI Replace Human Creativity?

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Dean Kamen on Making Life Better

Today’s guest stands as one of the top inventors and scientists of our time. Dean Kamen has been innovating for decades and is known for his invention of the Segway, the infusion pump, the iBOT wheelchair, and many more game-changing inventions. This week on Killer Innovations, Dean Kamen joins us to discuss inventions and what he is currently doing to help change the world.

 Helping People Live Better

Dean is continuously trying to invent things to aid those in need. He has worked on taking technologies developed for broad markets and using them to meet the needs of patients. Many of Dean’s products help those with rarer issues, such as veterans who’ve lost limbs, or those with genetic disorders. Dean wants to reach the point where medical patients can live comfortably at home and still have access to the latest medical technology to keep them healthy. These inventions will not only save a ton of money but gives the patients more independence and dignity in their lives.

Hope for Future Inventions

When it comes to future inventions, Dean wants to create better alternative solutions to his dialysis invention as well as his infusion pump. He wants to continually enhance his products to make them more convenient for users. Through his company Deka Research and Development Corp, he tackles the world’s most complex problems, solving and innovating to improve our lives. In the “Near Future Series: “A Better Place”, Dean and the team are working towards opportunities in these areas.

The Next Generation Inventors

As an innovator on a mission, Dean’s passion is unchanging, and many see him as the Thomas Edison of our time. While we face our biggest challenges, such as the environment, healthcare, transportation, etc., a question remains: Who will be the next Dean Kamen? Dean says that there is a culture problem in our country rather than an education crisis. The abundance of things clouds kids from having creativity. Kids want to become movie stars and professional athletes rather than inventors of lifechanging products. Kids would instead want to be celebrities due to the recognition and glorification of those positions. To fix this problem, Dean decided to make inventing a sport, to encourage kids to work hard at something more impactful. That is where FIRST comes in to play. Dean founded FIRST, an international organization that hosts robot building competitions. FIRST gives kids an opportunity at a future and sets them up to become changers of the world.

Dean is an innovator with a passion and a mission to change the world. He continually strives to help others by creating and enhancing products that aid them. Finding success in what you are doing is vital to have an innovation mission on lockdown. What is your innovation mission?

If you want to get more knowledgeable about the future of invention or innovation, hop on over to the show to get more expert insights and advice.

About our Guest: Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen is a top American scientist and inventor known for his inventions of the fusion pump, the iBOT, and the Segway. His futuristic inventions have revolutionized the world of healthcare, personal transportation, and numerous other areas. Dean’s passion for science and helping others has driven him to great success. Dean Kamen has received a vast number of awards throughout his career, but most notably, the Heinz Award for his contributions to the medical world, and the National Medal of Technology, for his innovative endeavors. In 1989, Dean founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). FIRST is an organization that hosts annual robot-building competitions between different youth teams. FIRST seeks to encourage kids to get excited about technology and their part in it. Dean currently resides in New Hampshire and his devotion to his work is unwavering as he continues to strive to make the world a better place.

To learn more about Dean Kamen and inventions that make life better, listen to this week’s show: Dean Kamen on Making Life Better.

 

Steve Guggenheimer on Accelerating AI

Artificial intelligence is quickly growing in the technology world today. Google and Microsoft have invested heavily in AI. Does AI live up to the hype around it? Will the building blocks of AI transform from hype to reality?

Today’s guest stands at the forefront of artificial intelligence advancement. Steve Guggenheimer has been with Microsoft for 26 years and has been heavily involved in the company’s AI ventures. This week on Killer Innovations, Steve Guggenheimer joins us to discuss the progress of AI, the transition into “the cloud,” and what he and his team at Microsoft are doing to advance technology.

  • The Growth of AI – Will AI transform from hype to reality? AI, as Steve says, is in the “grind it out” phase, and is being crafted for real-world application. While it hasn’t had a “Ta-Dah” moment yet, it will be another year of progress for AI as it builds upon itself.
  • Transitioning into the Cloud – With the recent transition of big things into “the cloud,” the focus has become all about accessibility. Whether it’s AI or the cloud, it’s about being smart with the technology in creating solutions. It’s about having adaptable services and experiences.
  • Into Rural America – Around 14-15% of homes in America don’t have broadband. The lack of subscriptions is not only due to internet connectivity but also from the lack of a connection shared by the people and tech companies due to culture and livelihood. How do we, as the tech community, help these rural areas? It takes individual efforts that eventually expand.

 If you want to be more knowledgeable for the new year on AI, the cloud, and rural America’s broadband issues, hop on over to show to get more expert insights and advice.

 About our Guest: Steve Guggenheimer

Steve Guggenheimer, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s AI sector, is responsible for creating groundbreaking AI technology and advancing its global presence. Throughout his 26 years at Microsoft, Steve has been involved in key leadership positions, building Microsoft’s hardware and software systems as the head of the OEM division and Developer Evangelism. Steve has also been in product teams for Microsoft’s Windows, Application Platform, Visual Studio, and much more. Before coming to Microsoft, Steve worked on developing and marketing products in the field of lasers at Spectra-Physics Inc. Steve attended the University of California, Davis, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Physics and received a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from Stanford University. Steve and his wife run the Guggenheimer Foundation, and he is on the board of directors of Muzik.

To learn more about artificial intelligence, listen to this week’s show: Steve Guggenheimer on Accelerating AI.

Innovation Reform

When you are going to reform something, the goal is to change it to something better. It is to reshape or correct something. It comes in cycles. We see it in the financial industry through Wall St. and the many government regulations. Policies, rules, regulations, laws, etc. all drive reform. What is the catalyst to reform? To go in the opposite direction by deregulating, removing regulations to let the market take over. On today’s show, I am going to be discussing and explaining what innovation reform is.

Innovation Reform

Does innovation need reforming? Can something as nebulous as innovation be changed? The reason that this issue bothers me is due to the misuse of innovation, done in a whole variety of ways. Innovation tends to have minimized support financially. What is the proper role that innovation plays in our daily lives? We tend to view innovation as the new shiny gadget from Apple, Dell, or HP.

The reality is that innovation plays a much more significant part of our daily lives. It’s the continuous role of innovation solving issues such as healthcare, education, politics, etc. It allows us to share ideas globally uniting us rather than dividing us. Back to my fundamental question. Does innovation need reforming? If so, what approach should minimize? Should more regulation or other incentives be applied? Or is there another completely different approach?

3 Key Areas of Innovation Reform

What is wrong with innovation that requires reforming? I believe there are three critical areas that we, as innovators need to be thinking about:

Unethical Innovation

  • Presenting Misleading Information – People have presented innovation in a misleading way to investors and the public. Ex. Theranos promised to do blood tests with a single drop of blood. They were installed into Walgreen’s stores and provided false information misleading their customers.
  • Academic Research Retracted – There has been a growing number of retracted academic research in the last few years. It is so common that somebody created a website to track retractions for the public’s use.
  • Knowingly Faulty Products Released – Innovators releasing products they know are faulty. Ex. Boeing knew that their 737 Max had issues and still released it.

Stolen IP

  • Small to Large Companies – I’ve seen this happen from small startups to large companies. Rather than doing their R&D, they take an idea from another company. It’s all about avoiding the need to do R&D and to save money.
  • Employees misappropriating IP – People have downloaded IP from a previous employer and take it to a new employer.

Lack of Transparency

  • There is an apparent lack of transparency when it comes to investment returns. Instituting GAP created a balance and to compare companies. The balance does not exist in innovation. This issue of a lack of transparency has been one of my most frustrating areas. How a company looks at it is entirely different from company b. It becomes hard to attach intangible value related to innovation.

How do we address these innovation reform issues? What are the best ways to address these issues? What do we as a society do to encourage innovation to solve the challenges we are facing?

How to Initiate Innovation Reform

How do we reform unethical innovation, stolen IP, transparency?

Here are my proposals:

Unethical Innovation

  • Establish a Code of Ethics – I propose that we establish a code of ethics similar to what the medical field has. Define an oath for innovation so engineers and project managers etc. recognize that the use of innovation for good or bad is just like in medicine. The Hippocratic oath for innovation would be 1. Do no harm. 2. Protect IP as an employee and employer. 3. Be transparent with research and test results.
  • Disincentivize Investing in the Unethical – What happens when someone violates this oath? When doctors break theirs, they lose their license to practice medicine. For innovators, there needs to be more than the standard issued punishment. So how would you keep investors from backing violators of the oath? For innovators, there is a need for money to create products and services. The best way to deal with this is to punish investors by taking away their tax benefits, such as capital gains. Use whatever mechanism that applies to where you live to disincentivize investors from backing unethical people. Another privilege I would take away is the option to declare bankruptcy.

Stolen IP

  • Loss of Tax Credits – This would incentivize organizations to boost their R&D spend, rather than stealing IP. If you do the right thing, the government should encourage you to increase your R&D.

Transparency

  • New Set of GAP Reporting Requirements – These would give insight into the value of innovation created by the organization. These would include bad patents canceled/retracted, innovation premium, and intangible value of innovation. We want to encourage innovation investment through transparency. We need more innovation. Are there areas you would like to see reformed? What are those areas?

Five Minutes to New Ideas


My grandfather had an old saying when I was growing up, “never burn a bridge.” At the time, I thought it was a strange saying, but only later did I realize what he was saying. No matter how bad someone treats you, don’t get angry or retaliate and destroy that relationship. Great leaders keep cool even when the attacker makes it personal.

A president of a large corporation was confronted by an angry employee who stormed into his office and poured out his complaints. The president calmly listened and when the employee stopped, the president said thank you. The president had wisely remained cool like the writer of Proverbs, Solomon. He said, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.” The person who winds up in charge is someone who can remain calm through intense stress and pressure. Stillness is the most universally outstanding quality of great leaders. Leaders don’t make the best decisions when in the heat of anger. Earlier in my career, I was overseas and saw two truck drivers who came face to face in a narrow street. Neither backed up to let the other go and they yelled and honked at each other. After a few minutes of watching this, I went on to a meeting. After a few hours, I returned to see them in the same place doing the same thing. Nothing happens when anger and emotion overcome reason. Nothing constructive happens. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas, we need to recognize when we are in the wrong to avoid burning bridges.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn more about innovation reform, listen to this week’s show: Innovation Reform.

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Value of Innovation: Know What is Important

Organizations are always trying to create the next big thing. What drives these organizations to create something new to bring to the marketplace? These are solving problems, creating opportunities, removing barriers, etc. What do all these things add up? They create value. How do you find out what people value? Look at who is going to benefit from what you are creating. You may think you know who they are, but odds are, you’re wrong. I’ll bet you are wrong. Why? You are too close to what you are creating. On today’s show, we will walk through perspectives and the value of innovation.

Identifying the Customer’s Wants

When I was at HP, there was an engineer who was pitching new features for a product line. At the end of his pitch, I asked him what the customer asked for the specific function. Did it come from a feedback form, a customer care call, or user surveys? The engineer replied, “I came up with this idea because it is a feature that I would really want.” Why did I ask this question? Because of the complexity that the feature would add to the product. It would take an HP engineer to figure out how to use the feature. The engineer mistakenly put himself in the position of the target customer.

It is vital that you, as the creator of a product/service, get out and observe what the customers want. During my years at HP, I frequented Best Buy on my weekends. If a customer looked at an HP laptop and ended up buying another computer, I’d hand them my business card and ask them a simple question. What caused you to look at this product and buy another? The answer to that question showed me what they valued. In today’s show, I am going to be discussing what the value of innovation is.

Understanding the Value of Innovation

How do you find what the customer values? You need to know their perspective. Their perspective has a significant impact on their decision making. An excellent example of this is my wife. My son Logan was a fencer back around 2009, and we were in Las Vegas at a two-day competition.

Logan was doing well and advancing in the tourney. That was great, but it also made us tight on time to get to the airport. After the competition, we raced to the airport. The person informed us at the check-in counter that there has been a delay in our flight to Phoenix. I corrected her, saying it must be a mistake because we were going to San Jose. She said that our ticket was Las Vegas to Phoenix to Los Angeles and then to San Jose. A typical flight from Phoenix to San Jose takes about one hour, but this one took 6 hours. I called my wife, and she said that booking the 6-hour flight saved $20. I thought she was kidding—at the time, I was the CTO at HP. She didn’t value my time the way I did.

Why does my wife think that way? My wife is the most frugal person in the world. Why? Because of her upbringing. She was one of six children, and her family struggled to say afloat. Her father worked double shifts in the steel industry, seven days a week, to provide for them. During this time, her family lost their home multiple times, and she was often forced to live with other family members. When she looks at the value of money, her experiences shaped her perspective. When you’re thinking about the value innovation, you may think you’ve got it all figured out. That doesn’t matter. What matters? The perspective of the person buying your product. It doesn’t matter what you think, but what they think. Do you know the “who” and what they value?

Creating Enhanced Value

Beyond understanding how people make decisions and what they value, let’s look at how we create enhanced value. I remember, there was a social media meme that showed an iron bar: An iron bar costs about $5. If you pound out that iron bar into horseshoes, equates to $12. It’s the same amount of iron, but making the bar into horseshoes created six extra dollars. Now take that bar of iron and put it through a manufacturing process and make sowing needles. That $5 bar of iron turned into needles gives you $3,500 worth of needles. Take that same bar of iron and turn it into springs for watches, and it will be worth $300,000. That is the power of innovation.

This instance is the creation of the value of innovation. Take the raw goods and produce something that the “who” values, and they will pay the premium for it. Take birthday cakes for example. My grandmother would make my birthday cakes from scratch when I was a kid. Each cake probably cost around a dollar. When she passed, my mom started making my birthday cakes with cake mix, which probably cost around $3. It was much easier than making it from scratch. When my mom started working full-time, she would get my cake from a bakery. What began as a $1 homemade cake, was now around a $15 bakery cake. The value of the convenience was hugely valuable.

Today, with my grandkids, it has to be an experience. You go to a trampoline park and pay a couple of hundred bucks for pizza, cake, and games. Why do you do this? It’s all about the value creation brought in by innovation. People will reward you with an innovation premium because of what they value.

“Me Too” Innovation

How do you earn the innovation premium? By conveying value uniquely and differently. If you’re an avid listener of the show, you know that I tend to rant about the “me too” innovations. Look at bottled water. There are thousands of brands of water bottles. There was a handful of them in the 70s. In the 70s, there were four types of milk and 19 in the 1990s. Today, there are hundreds of types of milk. How many different types of water bottles or milk do we need?

I was in the store the other day getting some Lays potato chips for my grandkids. I realized there were a ton of different flavors of chips. All this created complexity, and for what? The unnecessary complexity is the problem with “me too” kind of innovations. When talking about the value of innovation, you need to create something unique. Look at who your customers are, how they make decisions, what is the perspective that fuels that decision, and what is the unit of value that will convey a premium. Is what you are selling unique?

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn about perspectives and the value of innovation, listen to this week’s show: Value of Innovation: Know What is Important.

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4 Leadership Struggles I Had to Overcome

Many leaders act as if the point they’ve reached in their careers was easy to reach. This week on the Killer Innovations show, I will be discussing the various struggles all leaders face and how to counteract them.

From my perspective, as I progressed throughout my career, I ran into many different struggles. These struggles are some that I believe every leader will encounter. Rather than hiding these struggles from you, I will be putting them out in the sunlight for all of you to see. I have come to realize that all leaders are alike. As much as we think we are different, we are not as unique as we believe. We all share the same struggles.

The first leadership struggle I’ve encountered is lonely leadership. As you progress through an organization, it gets harder to find people that understand you. It’s a must for great leaders to be transparent. Share things with others around you. While transparency holds importance, is it always the answer? Transparency is only vital to a point. Reserve some things that you don’t need to share.

Lonely Leadership

You should never be transparent about your self-doubt. Being open about your struggles with employees can cause them concern about your organization. Secondly, never be transparent about your opinion of others. Especially key stakeholders. They will find out. My philosophy is never to burn a bridge no matter what. This decision has come back to benefit me throughout my career.

Thirdly, never be transparent about confidential information shared with you. I’ve seen may promising leaders sidelined because of issues of integrity and trust. Building a reputation for integrity as a leader is crucial. Just one wrong decision can break a reputation. Don’t make that mistake. Making a mistake will shatter your career. Being a leader is lonely. Who can you share these things? Your spouse? Not always.

I remember when I was at Teligent, and we were the hottest new thing. We were on the cover of Business Week, Forbes, WSJ, NY Times, etc. My wife was at her hairdresser one day, and the hairdresser was drilling her about the information on Teligent. He assumed she had access to confidential information and was getting aggressive. After that, my wife and I agreed to protect her. I do not share any confidential information with her. Never. She doesn’t want to be in that position.

Can you be transparent with anyone? Your coach or mentor. Let your board/shareholders know that you have a coach or mentor. If you’re going to share confidential information with someone, they should sign a non-disclosure agreement. All of this said you would be lonely as a leader. It comes with the position. Can you be transparent with someone?

What Got You Here Won’t Keep You Here

Will the skills that helped you reach your position keep you there? These things will not keep you here or progress you in your career. Look at me, for instance. My specialty is technical work. I have not touched technical work in 15 years. I had to learn new skills to advance. How did I learn those different skills? Right out of college, my mentor Bob told me that to find success; I had to broaden my playing fields. I knew my specialty very well, but I needed to have a variety of experiences.

What did I do? I rotated in marketing, sales, finance, IT, etc. I did everything. While these experiences broadened my knowledge, it wasn’t enough.

What were the skillsets that brought me to success?

  • Organization design – How do you structure a team? You have to be willing to adjust to create a robust organizational structure.
  • People Reading – Each person is unique, and you have to commit to learning them.
  • Consensus BuildingLearn the individuals and their objectives. I do one on one calls with each member of my board before meetings. Calls help me to get a better grasp of the thoughts and feelings of each member.
  • Objective Setting – How do you set good targets? Use OKR’s/make sure they are clear and measurable. Grant autonomy letting your experts use their skills to achieve ultimate success. 

Consequences of Ideas and Statements

Ideas and statements made as a leader have effects. Things will get taken out of context and all of a sudden, they become the “new law.” When I was CEO at Cable Labs, I told my team that the most common statement they would hear was, “Phil said.” In many cases, what I said was misinterpreted or misused. The best proof point of this in my career is press coverage. If you google my name and read the articles on the first 16 pages of google, not a single item got the situation 100% correct.

At Cable Labs, we had issues with the press pushing out false information. The articles caused employees to start worrying about the longevity of our Colorado office. I had to call a meeting with all my employees to address this issue. I committed my staff that day that they would hear from me first, and not the press. The announcement created a new culture at Cable Labs called the “no-surprise rule” to remind my employees of this always. Why do I do this? Because ideas and statements can be a disaster. You need to be hyper-vigilant about what you say, how you say it, and how you operate. Are you conveying statements the right way?

Creative Self-Doubt

What is the number leadership skill you are expected to have? Creativity/ ingenuity leading to product, service, and operational innovation. Many leaders get promoted to a leadership role because of their credited innovation. Look at Nobel Laureates. There is a trend of peaks seen from the recipients of Nobel awards. One in their mid-twenties and one in their mid-fifties. The question comes down to this. Do you still have your creativity?

What type of innovator are you?

Conceptual Innovators – “Think outside the box,” challenging conventional wisdom and suddenly coming up with new ideas. Conceptual innovators tend to peak early in their careers.

Experimental Innovators – Accumulate knowledge through their careers and find groundbreaking ways to analyze, interpret, and synthesize that information into new ways of understanding. The long periods of trial and error required for important experimental innovations make them tend to occur late in a Nobel laureate’s career. Success comes from recognizing that as an innovator, we need to shift from the conceptual to the experimental.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn about overcoming leadership struggles, listen to this week’s show: 4 Leadership Struggles I Had to Overcome.

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Idea Hacking: Feature Innovation Versus Function Innovation

What do you think about when looking at innovation? Most organizations look at innovation as the process of coming up with new products. This statement is only partially correct. How do you achieve innovation success? The innovation world is continuously moving. Finding the best way to innovate products and services is vital to success. How do you find the best way to innovate in your arena? Is there a better way to go beyond the small fixes and reach new possibilities? On today’s show, I will discuss in more detail how to challenge your innovation efforts with idea hacking.

When I was at HP, there was this catalyst project based on battery life. Battery life is a nightmare. How do you increase the life of batteries while making them safe? Battery life only sees improvements of 10% every year. The battery is a chemistry problem. Their design has not changed since their invention. A breakthrough was needed, but the reality was that chemistry could not move fast enough. There were improvements made to the power, but not to the battery. These come from hard drives and screen fixes that save and conserve power. How were these improvements made? The perspective of the opportunity and problem was changed. How would you define the need? How would you describe the issue to reach that different perspective?

Feature to Function Innovation

What unlocked the ideas not considered previously? Changing the challenge from “how can we improve batteries?” to “how can we improve portable power?”. This change in mindset may not seem like much, but this switch caused a seismic shift. Battery improvement is “feature innovation.” Portable power is “function innovation.” That simple shift from feature to function innovation unlocked a flood of new ideas. It created an increase in the quality and quantity of views. What was the result? A new desire for the constant availability of power.

New innovative opportunities arose from this shift in thinking. HP began funding universities and hosting ideation workshops in their efforts to create new creative ideas. This concept then turned into a product. Toshiba and HP started working on a co-innovation attempt to create a portable charging device. Toshiba went on to release a refillable USB charger device that sold for USD 328. That is the power of a simple shift in thinking. New innovative ideas are born from changing the challenge. How do you apply the shift form feature innovation to function innovation to your goals?

Here are four key steps:

Step 1 –

  • Define the Product/Service You Are Focused On (Example: high-end laptop)

Step 2 –

  • Describe What its Features Are — What it Does (Example: 17” screen, Intel i9 processors. Keyboard)
  • What feature innovations are you thinking about for the next version? (Example: DreamColor screen, GPU, etc.)

Step 3 –

  • Step Back and Describe the Core “Function” of the Product or Service (Example: Portable computer)
  • How many ways could you define the function? What is the most fundamental core function? (Example: digital file cabinet, digital photo shoebox, etc.)

Step 4 –

  • Ask How Else You Could Perform/Enable the Function (Example: Portable compute — > Phone mobile — thin/edge devices)

Apply the little shift in thinking to just about anything. Think about a cup. How many ways can you innovate a cup? There are coffee cups, teacups, Yeti-like cups, sippy cups, etc. What if I asked you to innovate a way to carry liquids? You could cup your hands, use your mouth, use a sponge, use a hose, etc. See what ideas you come up with and post them at The Innovators Community. That simple shift from the feature (innovate a cup) to function (innovate a way to carry liquid) shifted the perspective resulting in ideas never that were before considered.

Applying Innovation 

You can apply function innovation to anything from products, services, business models, internal operations, etc. Apply it to any organization from small, large, government, NGO, and Non-Profit companies. Function innovation radically increases the number of ideas you unlock. Is function innovation easy to apply? No, it is a lot harder than it looks. The simple shift from innovating cups to innovating ways to carry liquid is vital to creating new ideas. Why is the process of function innovation so hard? Our human nature wants to jump to the feature. We want a larger hard drive on a laptop, or a bigger cup so we don’t have to refill it so often. We jump to the feature rather than focusing on the function. How do you fix this problem?

Here is an approach I have used thousands of times in product development:

  • Take each feature. Example: 2TB hard drive
  • Define the function: reliable mobile data storage
  • Innovate that function: idea — 2TB solid-state (no moving parts)
  • Repeat for every feature
  • Combine them to create a new product/service made up of innovated multiple functions

This process of going from feature innovation to function innovation is the secret that took HP from #3 or 4 in the marketplace to #1 tech company in the world with their computing products. This function approach will allow you to create a variety of new ideas that could lead to a breakthrough product or service.

 

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn about feature and function innovation, listen to this week’s show: Idea Hacking: Feature Innovation Versus Function Innovation.

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Six Innovation Skills Everyone Needs

What are the innovation skills needed to be successful in creating new ideas and products? Many people often find themselves void of creativity in the innovation world. This stems from a deeper issue. On today’s show, we will go through in more detail what innovation skills separate those that have limited success to those that have continual success. The core set of skills to be successful and to win regardless of your organization type, size or geographical location are the same.

innovation skills everyone needs

Self-Confidence in Creativity

The number one skillset I have discussed many times over the years is self-confidence that you are creative. We were all born highly creative. Watch kids with the creative things they say, do and come up with. The problem is creativity is driven out of us from an early age. Children learn conformity from grade school through college. We are brainwashed into thinking that it is vital to act the same in order to be relevant. When we move into a professional career we are asked to be more creative, think differently and come up with solutions, after being taught conformity for 16+ years. It’s no myth that CEOs recruit creativity. Creativity drives innovation. It’s a catalyst for growth in a business. If you are not exercising your creativity and unlocking its potential you could become irrelevant.

Bravery

Another key skillset is bravery. The opposite if innovation bravery is conformity. You have to go out and apply your creativity. Share your thoughts and ideas. Take some risks. Try something you haven’t done before. The fear and feeling of failure holds us back and kills the bravery. You have to get over the fear of failure to be brave. Step out, get permission or give permission to go and fail. Go out and experiment, test the limits, break the norm and be brave.

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

One important skillset that gets harder to use as you get more experienced is your perspective. Seeing with fresh eyes and having a beginner’s mind will guide you to develop breakout products and services. Don’t let your area of expertise cloud your vision, but have an attitude of openness. Every year of experience in an expertise or capability area you become more and more closed to different approaches or new opportunities. No matter how many times you have seen and worked a type of initiative/project you need to put aside your expertise and come in with a new mindset to each initiative. Adopt an approach with many possibilities and avoid getting caught in the trap of an expert mindset with fewer possibilities and being categorized as a naysayer.

Ability to Craft & Ask Great Questions

How does one get the creative thoughts and ideas flowing? The answer is by asking questions. Questions hold great power. They get people thinking. There are simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, leading questions and questions you craft to discover. The power of creating and collecting your own questions is critical in the innovation world. It will help you create new ideas and eliminate problems. Coming in as a new leader I crafted four questions to gain a unique insight. Developing these questions is vital to deriving input from your team, vendors, partners, leaders as well as potential beneficiaries of your idea.

Continually, coming up with different ways of asking a question can generate discoveries that are unique. For instance, if I ask you the question of what is half of thirteen and you respond six and a half. I would give you an ‘A ‘on a math test, but in innovation, I would give you a ‘C’. Why, because you stopped at the first obvious answer. Now if I craft the question slightly differently and ask you how many different ways can you convey half of thirteen? There are more ways than one, and it would surprise you how creative you can get.

To help out I’ve crafted a card deck that asks questions with a variety of angles to challenge you to think differently. Learning how to come up with ways to ask questions and reword them to ask differently, will give you a skill that generates new insights. The power of questions is absolutely critical in the innovation game. Begin creating and collecting your own questions today.

Dealing with Innovation Antibodies

One skill we need, but tend to overlook is dealing with innovation antibodies. When operating in the world of innovation, opposition often occurs. People may feel threatened by your idea for one reason or another. These people act as innovation antibodies, attacking your idea. How do you deal with this issue? No matter where you are in innovation, you will encounter different responses, and will have to work through them.

Here are the types of responses you will need to work through:

  • Ego Response – The jealousy of your idea coming from position of authority. Share some of the idea/give credit to get around these people
  • Fatigue Response – “I’ve tried that before.” Treat them as an adviser to help your idea
  • No-Risk Response – “That’s too risky.” Empathize with them and take risk seriously
  • Comfort Response – “We don’t need change, we’re doing good.” Show them that things will not be good forever

Do you know an innovation antibody in your organization? What category would you put them in? Do others call you an innovation antibody? If so, what type are you?

 Innovation Attitude

A key skillset that is vital to success in innovation is to have an innovation attitude that permeates your culture. This based on a term I use called CARE to help push

C – Candor – freely share your creative thoughts and ideas with others. Be respectful, but be honest and encourage candor among yourselves and others. Invite them to act as an innovation antibody even on your ideas. If you don’t share your thoughts and ideas they don’t become real innovations—they have zero value.

A – Action – Act on ideas that will impact your organization. Take charge to enable progress and lean in. Provide solutions to issues both big and small regardless if it is your idea. Don’t let good ideas become stale because it wasn’t your idea, take action to drive them forward.

R – Risk – Understand the uncertainty and risk associated with trying new ideas. Take calculated risks or act on perceived risks. Get rid of perceived risks—many are not real risks. Learn from experiments and calculated risks. Understand how to manage risks and push forward.

E – Empower – Trust yourself and others to make a difference. Feel like you are empowered and have permission. Empower others and encourage leaders to empower—enable permission.

 

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn about the skills needed for a successful innovation, listen to this week’s show: The Six Innovation Skills Everyone Needs.

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James ‘Hondo’ Geurts on Taking the Navy into the Next Wave of Innovation

How do you manage over $100B in spending to innovate and not let that scale overcome your vision and approach to driving the most effective outcomes?  Can you balance speed and performance, short and long term innovation in parallel? Today’s guest on Killer Innovations stands at the forefront of these decisive decisions every day and has a keen eye for high speed, low drag. Assistant Secretary of Research, Development, and Acquisition James ‘Hondo’ Geurts has been innovating the U.S military’s ecosystem for over 30 years. During the interview, he discusses his efforts in accelerating the Navy into the next wave of innovation.

Overseeing and innovating throughout the US Navy’s vast programs to protect is a daunting task at hand. From basic to in-depth research, development, procurement, and sustainment of assets, the Navy is always working to stay one step ahead in global innovation. To give the Navy an advantage, Jim focuses on creating conditions to make optimal choices and take the right risks while empowering the workforce to successfully complete a job.

Staying Focused While Differentiating

The demands of the US Navy required a multi-dexterous approach. One’s that avoid getting overwhelmed by bureaucracy and standardization that far too often limits flexibility needed for today’s forces. Many organizations have problems doing many things well or even multiple workstreams, multiple ways. Jim’s task is to ensure the Navy can do that while boldly stepping out and harnessing innovation with scale and speed. Always knowing there are certain areas they absolutely cannot fail in. With such a vast organization and many opportunities to advance the Navy, Jim uses a simple, but powerful wet-dry framework to differentiate the work.

In a large scale innovation, you have to operate with speed of relevancy. Simultaneously, you may have one group operating with a longer-term workstream or low iteration speed that requires assured performance. While the other works at high iteration speed and low iteration cost. You can’t lock into one approach for multiple threads of innovation pacing in a single deliverable or launch. However, those workstreams have to operate and synchronize for an effective state-of-the-art product deliverable. Each group that is innovating at a speed relevant to their workstream needs to be valued equally. Though they may have a different culture.

Staying focused on the mission and how each contributes allows you to have differentiating approaches, innovation paces, and cultures in one large scale innovation effort. Another challenge in balancing the speed and relevancy of a mission need is the absorption rate. Sometimes rapid innovation outpaces the ability to absorb and integrate, deploy, train and operationalize capabilities. Keeping an active focus and appropriate disciplines on mission speed and relevancy ensure efficiency.

Innovation Leadership

How do you manage the right thing at the right time and synthesize it to meet a critical mission? Can you deliver on the expectation of out-innovating your competition? In a leadership position with demands like this, one is often faced with the challenge of how to operationalize and develop a successful team. Jim discusses his strategy to motivate his workforce in three core ways:

  • Ruthlessly Decentralize – layout vision with a focus on intent and empower your workforce—free to make decisions
  • Offer Various Tools – differentiate the work, allow them to use multiple tools and customize for the right tools as needed
  • Have an Agility Mindset – create a good enough plan with proper intent, tools needed and be ready to pivot with pivot speed and adapt to change
  • Get Rid of Stupid – remove things that are wasting time in the organization and don’t replace it with more stupid time wasters, but with items that create or preserve value

When in a leadership position such as Jim Geurts, there is limited opportunity to be specifically involved in each situation. To deliver excellence for the mission, he has focused on enablers to deliver his intent to the organization, even when not available:

  • Learn Fast and Act Fast – press the boundaries, expect 50% failure with appropriate judgment and measured risk
  • It’s About Team – the outcome of the idea and answer to the problem is more important than who it came from
  • Be a Servant Leader – create conditions and foundations for others to succeed—realize that you are there to help those under you, not vice versa
  • Explain Your Intent – continuously repeat your intent until your audience gets it

Importance of Agility in Innovation

How do you plan for the unknown? The unknown can be a daunting thought to those unprepared for it. Building a culture, mindset, and set of skills that increase pivot speed to take advantage of upside opportunities prepares you for the unknown. Ultimately, it makes or breaks an organization’s success. Couple of insights Jim has learned from his Special Operations Command days and other experiences he employs today:

  • Get Over Fear of Failure try something new
  • All about a Learning Environment – value best ideas not necessarily individual ideas—collaborate and improve on individual ideas with a team
  • Have a Network that is Diverse and Inclusive – engage a variety of functions, levels, internal and external organizations
  • Rip Off and Deploy – don’t just value inventing yourself, look for what can be innovated on
  • Kill Projects Fast – if a project is not going anywhere, move on – that takes thoughtful deliberation, courage, and leadership
  • Don’t Overvalue Discovery and Undervalue Deployment – ideas must be made real and delivered to a customer – as Phil states “ideas without execution is a hobby, I’m not in the hobby business”

When it comes to working with the military, many businesses are intimidated by it. So how do you create a friendlier and easier path to make a contribution? Jim’s strategies focus on reducing barriers with a variety of incentives to bring the best ideas forward at the lowest cost. These include connecting the idea generators from the sailor to the startup with access points. As well as enabling an environment in which contributors bring their best in class solutions at the best price to the Navy.

Engaging to Contribute to Success

There is no one perfect path or mechanism for organizations to contribute to the Navy’s mission. However, Jim Geurts, or ‘Hondo’ as many call him, has created as large a surface as he can to attract innovative solutions from any internal or external entity. With his leadership the Navy has:

  • Spent $500M+ each year on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIRs) – broadcasting events, educating and discussing needs.
  • Doubled Efforts to Leverage Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRDA)
  • Instituted Tech Bridges – multiple tech clusters to help certain mission areas
  • Created Challenges for Solutions – pay on the spot
  • Shortened Procurement Timelines – idea to contract in 90 days or fewer programs

Hondo emphasizes the Navy’s focus on being multi-dexterous—good at all things from small to large while enabling scale and speed. There are many challenges from talent development to mission solutions. Innovation advances when we open up our approach and mindset working with outside sources, like inventors such as Dean Kaman. Opportunities abound to leverage more innovation and apply technologies to elements we didn’t envision as traditional tech solutions. That requires an ecosystem of the best/most qualified internal and external entities supporting to complete any given mission with efficiency.

About our Guest: James ‘Hondo’ Geurts

James ‘Hondo’ Geurts is Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition). Mr. Geurts is responsible for a $100B+ budget, as well as supporting and equipping Marines and Sailors with the top technology and systems to better them in their pursuit to defend the United States of America. Prior to his time current position, he served as Acquisition Executive of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), with the responsibility of overseeing special operations forces acquisition, technology, and logistics. Through this position, Geurts innovative leadership and mindset bettered USSOCOM and earned him the Presidential Rank Award, USSOCOM Medal, William Perry Award, and Federal Times Vanguard Award for Executive of the Year.

Prior to his service with USSOCOM, Mr. Geurts served as an executive officer with the Air Force. Throughout Geurts 30 years of extensive joint acquisition experience and service, he has earned the respect of many of his colleagues and has used his innovative mindset to better the defenses of the United States.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops, with our next one in Washington DC, November 18-19th.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn about the Navy’s next wave of innovation, listen to this week’s show: James ‘Hondo’ Geurts on Taking the Navy into the Next Wave of Innovation.

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