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A friend of mine, Cliff Dennett (Twitter: http://twitter.com/cliffdennett ) is seeking input/examples into a book he in the process of completing about applying innovation to achieve elegant problem solving. An idea of what he is researching is reproduced from his blog below. Any suggestions for examples (& sources) are very welcome.

You can reach Cliff on cdennett [AT] mac [DOT] com or via http://cliffdennett.typepad.com/

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“My book is on elegant problem solving and the link below with some brief examples will give you a feel for what I trying to do …

I really like situations where the problem is the solution. Anything that simultaneously drives value up and cost down.

Examples of where the problem is the solution …

1) Call Centres
The problem with call centres is that the more people who call in, the worse the service becomes (we’ve all been stuck in phone queues). If we re-design the call centre as an internet forum, suddenly, the more people involved, the more likely that the problem will be solved better and faster. The intelligence for solving moves into the community with the problems. Note this simultaneously increases value and decreases cost.

2) One Water
We all know of the problems of getting fresh water into remote villages. One Water sells expensive bottled water to consumers in developed countries and uses the money to put playground roundabouts into African villages. These roundabouts are connected to water pumps. When the children play on the pumps, water is pumped to the village. Note this uses water-as-a-solution in one geographic area on water-as-a-problem in another geographic area. It also uses the power of play to help address a very serious problem.

3) Sick notes
Teacher Frank McCourt kept getting sick notes from his pupils who would skip his English classes. One day, he hit on the idea of using the sick notes themselves as a lesson. So he asked the pupils, as part of their homework, to write sick notes from famous people. He ended up receiving sick notes from Eve to God excusing her behaviour towards Adam, one from Eva Braun etc. The class was a great success. This example shows how searching for the good characteristics in any problem situation can reveal innovative answers.”

See: http://cliffdennett.typepad.com/business-jam/2009/08/the-problem-is-the-solution.html

Whirled.com logo

Whirled.com logo

A friend of mine made me aware of the recently launched whirled.com today and provided an emphatically verbalised critique that when summed up, basically boiled down to “How do people get it SO wrong?”.

Take a look at see what you think. The registration is not overly protracted and you can use Facebook Connect to sign up (assuming you have a FB account).

URL: www.whirled.com

Admission: I only spent 15 minutes pottering around and any digital media project deserves a more intensive review than that to be fully inclusive but to counter-argue that point…..first impressions count. That is especially true in the world of the Viral Loop!

Here’s what my friend and I disliked:

Within seconds we were having customisation options foisted upon us…even before we had taken in the first ‘home’ page.

Secondly, in an equal quick-fire pace, I was being told to buy some gold bars so that I could condust aforementioned customisation options.

Thirdly, as this is the core point, the site/network/world…oops…sorry, ‘whirled’ feels like someone decided to jump on the web 2.0 / social networking bandwagon and simply made a list of ‘all the cool stuff kids like on the web’ and shoved them altogether.

This exercise seems, from what I could tell, to have been executed with pretty good technical aplomb, however there is simply no sense of meaning to the experience. In fact, there was no experience at all.  Maybe I’ve suddenly become a middle-age git in my 40th year and, as my friend commented, “maybe you need to be 14 to get it”…but everything I have learned about digital/social media tells me otherwise.

I don’t need to sign into and navigate through a cartoon living room in order to play funky flash games online. I can stream endless music from Spotify. I can chat to my friends  and maintain friends lists on Windows Live, Facebook and on numerous other  applications. Shoving all this random functionality into one place smacks of an ill-concieved and thinly veiled attempt to capitalise on the Web 2.0 bandwagon and shows, at worst, a complete lack of understanding of why people use social media.

Provide genuine value – even with beta bugs and creaking start-up infrastructure – and people will participate in their droves and go viral on you. Patronise them with a focus-group inspired feature list but no genuine value and any initial success will peter out quickly once the curiosity factor has passed. Don’t build purely to monetise…plan to deliver meaningful experiences that people will want to use then figure out how best to monetise that usage.

Signed: ‘Ol Grumpy Git

Buy some friends by clicking here (all cards accepted)

Buy some friends by clicking here (all cards accepted)

Graham Brown-Martin from Learning Without Frontiers has asked me to help circulate the following message:


“Hello All,

It appears that there is some confusion amongst the developer community about our delegate pricing structure.
As a consequence of our first advisory group meeting it was suggested that we offer a special pass for developers who didn’t want the hassle (or cost) of manning an exhibition stand but wanted to benefit from the networking opportunities of the conference by having access to a “developers lounge” where, with sufficient power / Wi-Fi facilities, they could take delegates for meetings and demonstrations, have access to all day refreshments and also have a 12 month listing on the GBL 10 proceedings website. They would also receive colour coded badging (or wrist banding) that would identify their developer status.

This was supposed to be a “good thing”. The idea is to foster business between the development community and the many delegates who are seeking talent.

To cater for the extra benefits of providing this pass we set pricing at £695 rather than the standard business delegate rate of £495.
However, this morning I have taken an irate email from a developer who thought they were being unfairly penalised by this “developer rate” believing that as they were a developer they could not simply register using the current £345 early bird (ending Jan 31st) or if they miss the deadline the standard business rate and attend as a regular delegate.
This, of course, is not the case but it did make me wonder if my organisation had been clear in it’s communications. So, to be extra clear, anybody can register for an early bird pass at £345 (and receive all the goodies!) up to Jan 31st. Then education delegates can register at £445 and business at £495 until March 19th. After this date it’s £595 for everybody. IF you’re a developer AND would like access to the developer lounge services and benefits then its £695.

Many thanks
Graham Brown-Martin”

Just to remind people that you can read about the event and the registration/pricing info by clicking here.

I’m on the advisory panel for this year’s Game Based Learning 2010 event in London and the line-up is looking very strong indeed.

The event is on 29th & 30th March and takes place at The Brewery, London, EC1. Last year’s event was one of the most fruitful, enjoyable and refreshing conferences I have been to and a genuine pleasure.

Learning Without Frontiers are the organisers and they managed to attract a bunch of new faces to the event which, if you have been to the plethora of ‘serious games’ events over the last 10 years, is a very good thing. The event offers an excellent and well thought-through blend of speakers from the commercial and public sectors, from training and from education and other peopel who offer alternative perspectives (last year we had the pleasure of Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari).

They are expecting around 600 people this year and the event will, I have no doubt, again attract a lot of press and industry attention.

With themes exploring how social media, commercial off the shelf and serious game technologies are improving learning in schools, universities, healthcare, military and corporate training the conference will bring together international thought leaders, innovators and practitioners from the education, entertainment and technology sectors.

Confirmed speakers for this years conference include:

  • Ed Vaizey, Shadow Minister for Culture and the Creative Industries
  • Matt Mason, Author, The Pirates Dilemma
  • Siobhan Reddy and Kareem Ettouney, Media Molecule
  • Alice Taylor, Commissioning Editor, Education, Channel 4
  • Ewan McIntosh, CEO, NoTosh
  • Stephen Heppell, Heppell.net
  • Jonathan Stewart, Director, Hollier Medical Simulation Centre
  • Major Roy Evans, British Army
  • Derek Robertson, Learning & Teaching Scotland
  • Michael Acton Smith, CEO, Mind Candy

HOT OF THE PRESS!!!!!!

Register before January 31st to attend this leading network building conference about video games, social media and learning and you will:

  • receive a FREE digital camcorder (640x480x30fps) RRP £75
  • receive a FREE pass to attend a workshop hosted in London by PlayGen worth £95
  • save up to £250 on standard and late registration fees

For attendee information to to purchase tickets:
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/518873966/pixelearning/1344965312

For exhibitor information or to sign-up:
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/530890909/pixelearning/1344965312

I hope to see you there!

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