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A sure-fire way to commercial success is giving people something new they truly and desperately want. Innovation — the connection of something novel with a need — has become a heady concoction that a growing number of organizations pursue.

The Pentagon continues accelerating its effort to source innovation from more places — for instance, it opened its latest innovation-focused office in Austin, Tex. last week as it has done in both Silicon Valley and Boston. CEOs of large businesses and heads of not-for-profit organizations often tell me about their need for innovation.

Many ask whether large organizations can learn to pivot, and embrace innovative change the way smaller companies and individuals seem to be able to.

Let’s look at what innovation means. Some describe it as the process of combining entrepreneurship and technology to create something new, but that definition shortchanges the fresh ideas that don’t

necessarily use technology. It would also imply that large organizations probably couldn’t be innovative, since entrepreneurs generally do not like working in large organizations.

Others tie innovation to commercial outcome, but this devalues the multitude of opportunities for innovation to positively change an organization without necessarily turning a profit. Innovating for social benefit is not profitable in a monetary way.

Instead, innovation is the conversion of a creation into something that satisfies a need. This is an important nuance. Creativity on its own doesn’t need to influence or sway others; it’s a human behavior. Innovation, however, makes users respond and act in a new way, see things differently, feel differently — and, to want to feel that way again.

So innovation can be large or small, broad or narrow in focus and application. Innovation is a naturally occurring phenomenon when people are given an opportunity to be creative and then share their new ideas.

The first trick is establishing conditions for people to dream, to wonder and ponder. This “fuzzy thinking” is the process of gathering information and considering alternatives in a somewhat wandering, less directed path.

The second challenge is…

Read entire column at WashingtonPost.com.

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I am currently working with Washington Business Journal on video interviews with leading Washington executives. Along with Executive Producer Tracey Madigan, I spent the summer conducting the interviews as an offshoot of my research for The 2030 Group, the organization of local business leaders working to shore up Greater Washington’s economic future. You can catch the first Profiles in Innovation video, with Honest Tea’s Seth Goldman discussing what makes D.C. an “ideas region,” above, and watch for the next installment featuring TrackMaven CEO Allen Gannett coming next week.

Watch now: Interview with Seth Goldman of Honest Tea.

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST — A recent White House memorandum to heads of federal departments and agencies outlining a policy toward “ensuring Government-wide reuse rights for custom code that is developed using Federal funds” could be problematic for vendors that customize software for individual federal agencies, says entrepreneurship lecturer Jonathan Aberman at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and founder of TandemNSI, a firm whose mission is to “connect agile innovators to government agencies.

The new Federal Source Code, also dubbed the “People’s Code,” also calls for at least 20 percent of these software projects to be accessible to the public without any additional payment to the developer through the “open sourcing” of their work. Aberman expresses caution in reviewing these changes. “Taken together, these policy steps could be a problem for software entrepreneurs,” he says. “As is often the case with announcements like these, the devil is in the details.”

A key issue is the juxtaposition of “government rights” and open sourcing of software products. “A government agency often acquires the right to use a software product specially written for it — and unless the developer specially limits this in their contract with the government, the government will have the right to share it throughout the government without further payment. That is not a new thing,” Aberman says. “You see this most often in research and development or prototyping. And, the government quite literally has rights to thousands of software projects that are completed and not used, or are only used by the agency to which they are delivered. Trying to figure out how to cause them to have more utility is a great idea for taxpayers.”

But the challenge, Aberman says, is whether the new government policy would…

Read entire post at the Robert H. Smith School of Business site.

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On May 12, 2016, the D.C.-based 2030 Group — a coalition of influential, local business leaders exploring the potential for growth in the D.C.region — released a detailed, 53-page report about how the D.C.-area can evolve into a strong economic hub for innovative businesses. While progress has been made, the report describes that there is a significant amount of work left to secure the area’s status as a top destination for business, commerce and innovation.

Headed up by Amplifier Ventures’ Jonathan Aberman, the report makes some interesting and important points about how far the D.C. tech scene has come and also what needs to be done so that it succeeds in the future. Alongside this narrative is a methodical series of recommendations poised by the group, which may be applicable to both business owners and policy makers in the region.

Watch highlights of the report’s findings here.

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On Thursday, the D.C.-based 2030 Group—a coalition of influential, local business leaders exploring the potential for growth in the D.C.-area—released a detailed, 53-page report about how the D.C.-area can evolve into a strong economic hub for innovative businesses. While progress has been made, the report describes that there is a significant amount of work left to secure the area’s status as a top destination for business, commerce and innovation.

Headed up by Amplifier Ventures’ Jonathan Aberman, the report makes some interesting and important points about how far the D.C. tech scene has come and also what needs to be done so that it succeeds in the future. Alongside this narrative is a methodical series of recommendations poised by the group, which may be applicable to both business owners and policy makers in the region.

In order to construct this report, more than 120 individuals from the local entrepreneurial community were interviewed.

Read the whole article at DCInno.

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For the past six months, I have been working with a multi-disciplinary team to use research and data to paint an accurate picture of innovation in our region.

It turns out that the months of digging and analysis have proven at least three things: the Greater Washington Region is way more entrepreneurial than we think it is, there is a unique, wildly successful “DC Model of Entrepreneurship” and … we are at risk of losing out if we don’t make swift changes to how we capitalize on what the region has to offer.

Please read the findings here.

I am looking forward to hearing from the Greater Washington Community on ways to use the newly-compiled data to secure a strong innovative entrepreneurial community that will attract and keep high-paying jobs.

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland is recognized as one of the top research institutions in the world, but it is also a place where students can learn from some of the best teachers in a highly supportive community.

At the end of each academic year, the school honors its outstanding faculty and staff members with awards of excellence. The awards were presented at the School Assembly on May 6, 2016.

Assembly-06May16-40“It’s a pleasure to work in an environment where there is so much talent and positive energy,” said Alex Triantis, dean of the Smith School.

“I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all of the faculty and staff members at Smith who received awards this year for teaching and service excellence.”

Read details at the Robert H. Smith School of Business website.

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I’ve never seen an approach to regionalism in Greater Washington quite like Bob Buchanan’s. It’s methodical, targeted and, for now, mostly covert. And that’s a good thing.

Buchanan, as you’ll recall, is a developer who in 2010 launched The 2030 Group to explore Washington’s future. I lamented at the time that the organization wasn’t really needed.

As data pointed to economic headwinds for the region a couple of years ago, Buchanan got more serious about his effort, enlisting the region’s top economist, Steve Fuller of George Mason University,  to study what Greater Washington’s economy would look like with less federal spending.

It’s been more than a year now, and the effort has mostly been behind the scenes. Fuller used the Cardinal Bank economic summit, where he has spoken for years, to unveil the first tranche of data. The group also paid to publish its work — dubbed the Roadmap for the Washington Region’s Economic Future —in the Business Journal in January.

But the real work is taking place in several “working groups.” As Buchanan says, some are farther along than others, such as the group exploring how to brand our region (starting with selling ourselves about what we are). There’s also an affordable housing group, higher education group and one exploring a regional transportation authority. Last fall, Buchanan, working with Jonathan Aberman of Amplifier Ventures, added another focus — how to develop our entrepreneurial culture. Aberman expects to issue a report…

Read entire article at WashingtonBusinessJournal.com.

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Helped by falling oil prices, airlines are reporting record profits, but for many passengers this sudden bonanza has meant little more than extra bags of free peanuts and pretzels.

The four biggest domestic carriers — American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — together earned about $22 billion in profits last year, a stunning turnaround after a decade of losses, bankruptcies and cutbacks. A big reason for this is the plunging price of jet fuel, which now costs only a third of what it did just two years ago.

But that windfall is only slowly finding its way down the aisles. Days after reporting record profits, for instance, two of the nation’s biggest airlines brought back free snacks in coach.

United said it would begin serving complimentary stroopwafels, which it described as “Dutch-made toasted waffle treats,” and American said it would offer free meals in economy class on flights between Dallas and Hawaii, and free snacks on all domestic flights.

Airfares, however, have remained stubbornly high.

Rick Seaney, co-founder of FareCompare.com, says airfares have been essentially stable for the last two years except on some routes where airlines have faced competition from low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines.

Analysts say there is little mystery why. A decade of consolidation has reduced the number of airlines competing in many markets, making it easier for dominant carriers to charge more for flights. At Newark Liberty International Airport, for example — where United, which merged with Continental Airlines in 2010, accounts for 70 percent of flights — airfares are the…

Read full article at NewYorkTimes.com.

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