Thursday, November 26, 2015

My experiences in the innovation sector; challenges, advantages (CC-BY)

It's innovation week in Melbourne next week, and this is my blogpost contributing to that event. So here are a few reflections on my time involved with Innovation.


 Reflections
First, I'll paint a little context about me. I work for ANDS[1], a Federally funded innovation project, to invest in the research data infrastructure of the 21st Century. ANDS encourages researchers to better manage and share research data, and universities to manage research data as an asset. I wrote my Innovation PhD at UQ Business School about understanding innovation in a complex dynamic environment, looking at how and why consumers switched to smartphones[2]. See more of my work and career at LinkedIn[3].

Challenges
Innovation is not simple and easy, involves seeking answers to hard questions, and working towards building a better world. This takes time and effort, and sometimes slow progress. My work relates to industry, research, policy and data and linking all together in a continuing dialogue.

My industry work at ANDS is about helping Universities to transition to managing research data as an asset. This involves training, discussions, and community events. Such events are where people get supported with knowledge delivery, skills building and gently building the business case for ANDS work. We see ANDS work as an innovation that creates value for Universities, researchers and the nation. As a value specialist, I am always pushing for a deeper understanding of what value means for ANDS and those we engage with. This work supports ANDS goal of "more valuable data for Australian research".

About 10% of my time, is spent on research where I focus on questions like: how to measure innovation and value creation? How to manage innovation and value creation? This is tricky since value is much more than tangible assets, and finding ways to measure the intangibles is challenging. See my work on dimensions of value[4]. I found 12 dimensions, such as time, simplicity, need and reliability. This work also involves talking to industry, and other innovation academics (for example, Prof Paul Jensen, Unimelb, Prof Jason Potts, RMIT, A/Prof Tim Kastelle, UQ Business School). I am also working to encourage an ongoing forum, like the ANDS Communities events, to bring Industry, Academics and Government into a regular discussion. I call such a forum, the VCIPP[5] (Victorian Council for Innovation and Public Policy), to explore positive steps in Victoria to better understand, manage and exploit innovations. This is similar to the Victorian Labor policy[6] for Innovation.

Lastly, I am very interested in helping Innovation policy people think about innovation as a complex, dynamic system. Thinking about innovation this way means you need complex concepts like value creation to help understand that type of innovation. Trying to expose where value is created leads me to work creating public datasets that researchers can mine for such information. I see the ATO (Australian Tax Office) as a key data curator of relevant data. Data such as revenue and profit data by industry, location and for both companies and individuals are important proxies for innovation. The company data is public[7] and shows 12 years of Australia's growth over 250 industries. I am working with the ATO to get access to individual data, hopefully by postcode, but more likely by region, where I can show growing and shrinking industries by location as a proxy for innovation.


Advantages

Innovation is a difficult but important topic to understand. Many resources are available to draw on, such as Government policy reports[8][9], Consulting reports[10], as well as academic literature [11], and podcasts discussing innovative industries[12][13]. Navigating this mass of information, I use my Twitter feed to collect and record these useful data sources. This material is endlessly interesting but making sense of it is time-consuming. The world seems to be changing so fast, that our personal area of deep understanding seems to shrink year by year. Yet I am positive about how much difference motivated and interested people can make working together.

I look forward to Innovation Week as an opportunity to have many interesting conversations with many interesting people, to help make Victoria and Australia a better place, through learning, working and engaging around innovation.


For more, you can see my blog[14] which links to my academic writing, see me tweet innovation references on interest (@valueMgmt), or mail me at richard.ferrers@ands.org.au.
  1. ANDS (Australian National Data Service) online at: http://www.ands.org.au
  2. Ferrers, R. (2013) A consumer 'value' theory of innovation: a grounded theory approach. Online at: figshare. PhD thesis.http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.680002
  3. Ferrers, R. (2015). Online CV at: http://au.linkedin.com/pub/richard-ferrers/27/b1/603
  4. Ferrers, R. (2014). What Consumers Value: Learning from Ten Years of Smartphones. Viewed online at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2512068
  5. Ferrers, R. (2015). VCIPP: a proposal for an ongoing engagement around innovation; Victorian Government, Industry and Academia. Online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1613328
  6. Andrews, D. (2014). Labor's Plan for Innovation. Online at: http://www.danielandrews.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Labor’s-Plan-for-Innovation.pdf
  7. Ferrers, R., ATO (2014). Australian Company Results by Fine Industry 2000-2012 per Tax Office. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1254213
  8. US OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). Online at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp
  9. NESTA. Online at: http://www.nesta.org.uk
  10. McKinsey & Co (2013). The Eight Essentials of Innovation Peformance. Online at: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/innovation/the_eight_essentials_of_innovation
  11. Research Policy. Online at: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/research-policy/
  12. Asymco Critical Path Podcast. Online at: http://5by5.tv/criticalpath
  13. Daring Fireball Podcast. Online at: http://daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/
  14. Ferrers, R. (2015). Value Management: Innovation 2.0; http://valman.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Movie Value in an era of Piracy

Background: A close friend is a screenwriter with a feature film before Screen Australia. If the Screen Australia Board signs off in April, the movie will go into pre-production immediately to shoot in six months for an Easter release in 2016. They have funding from a major film corporation. The producer has given the writers a share of the producer's profit (a few per cent).
Update: The film is in post-production, with a release date in later 2016.
The film is a romantic comedy ensemble party movie.

The Problem: How does the film make money in a era of easy film piracy? [1] So I wrote a little analysis document thinking through some of the issues. Where I ended up was in thinking of the viewers as a community rather than purchasers. If there are lots of viewers who don't pay for the film, how can the film producers engage with those viewers and bring them into the community?

Recently I found on wikipedia, entries for social television and second screen. This is about community engagement around media events. Twitter for instance is crazy around live events, like the football World Cup, the SuperBowl, and shows like American Idol. But this event is a live event viewed once. A movie is a non-live event viewed by many people at different times. How can we bring the two types together? Social community media around many people watching an event all at different times.


The Solution: I foresee an app where viewers (including of pirate copies) can participate in a community, sharing messages (and audio), synchronised with the media event. This app will simulate the experience of being in a movie theatre, through text and audio, of watching a film in a group, in a crowd, in a theatre. I see three functions, synchronised to the film:
- add a text or audio comment (a few seconds), one word, or a few words
- link to buy/rent the film, and provide a message when the film is available at a viewer requested price (price discovery), to take advantage of the positive mood following viewing a film, to legally own the film
- share a review at the end of the film (text or audio); as the credits start to roll (a longer 30 second sound bite).

In practice: How to share the comments?
I see the text comments could form a subtitle track that flashes up on the screen. Subtitles could be the one word comment, which flash up very quickly, or the longer few word comments.
Subtitles could contain very many comments, so there should be a way to limit the number of comments, by location, by friends, by people following, by recommendation.

I see the audio track reproducing the social experience of seeing a movie in the cinema, with ooohs and ahhs and oh nos.... alongside the soundtrack of the film. The volume of these audio comments could fade in volume based on distance from the viewer (friends, location, recommendations).

Exploiting this idea
I see two ways to commercialise this idea. I pitched this idea to my wife who suggested taking it to the funding film corporation as an example of functions to include in an app for her film. The other option is to take it to a business which looks at many films and make it available as a function within their app, eg Gyde or IMDB.

Update: I pitched the idea to a major film studio, who said "we don't want to invest / assist in any product that improves the experience of consumers, who pirate [our] films".
Update 2: I pitched the idea to a VC, Angel Investor at the ALP Conference, and his response was #disruptive ideas are unlikely to get support from mainstream industry players, and are better exploited as a startup opportunity.
Update 3: I pitched the idea to the Launch Hackathon conference in San Francisco, Feb 2016. This blog post which has been private since Feb 2015, is now public to allow the Hackathon committee to scrutinise the project. This blogpost is the one pager I recommend to entrepreneurs to express their core business concept.

The contents of this blogpost are Commercial in Confidence, and in exchange for reading them confer rights of any exploitation of this idea, to a 10% ownership interest of such exploitation by this author.

Note
[1] (Some) Films are still making a lot of money and having many piracy downloads eg Captain America $714M sales | 0.7M pirate downloads, 22 Jump Street ($331M, 650k downloads), Guardians of the Galaxy ($333M, 1.35M pirate downloads). These films are aimed at a similar audience as the film before Screen Australia ($5M), compared to the $50 - $170M for the above Hollywood films. Piracy download data take from YIFY (yts.re), and Box Office data from boxofficemojo.com.