Monday, September 18, 2017

GUEST BLOG POST: From Tweak, To Twist, To Breakthrough Idea – The Little Creative Secret That Moves The World — Larry Robertson

Photo by Andrik - Langfield - Petrides on Unsplash
Rather than swing for the fences and the big idea, learn the simple little habit that actually makes those ideas more likely.

You might not believe it, but the best way to a big idea – an idea that changes how we think, and one that stands a mightier than normal chance of actually becoming real – comes from a small tweak.

It’s true. And it’s really that simple. But examples make it easier to see, so let’s consider a few.

At the end of each work day, a nightclub manager sees food being tossed out by the ton, in his establishment and countless others across town. On his way home from work each night, he also sees dozens of homeless and undoubtedly underfed souls. For a time, the parallel observations add up to little, until one day he “tweaks” the two separate thoughts so that they intersect one another: “What if all that wasted food could feed those hungry souls?” he wonders. 20 years on, Robert Egger’s simple mental tweak has spawned programmes nationwide that capture and repurpose food from restaurants, grocery stores, farms, hotels, and school cafeterias. Today, dozens of programs and organizations like DC Central Kitchen and LA Kitchen are the backbone not just of successful initiatives to feed the homeless, but of thriving catering businesses, senior citizen nutrition programs, social justice education programs, and on and on – all catalyzed by a minor mental tweak.

Now consider this example. An entrepreneur, small business advisor, and journalist spends a decade helping countless adults start and grow their own business. In the same timeframe, she and her husband are raising three kids – curious kids who wonder what exactly mom does. She knows she can’t just offer them the description as she gives it to grownups. Their eyes would glaze over and they’d never make the mistake of asking such a question again. So she tweaks her grownup script and tells her children a story. A children’s story. The fictional kind they prefer, that just happens to be about kids starting a business. The characters encounter the same challenges any adult business would, but the tale is seen and the challenges solved through a kid’s mind. The mom, host of MSNBC’s Your Business JJ Ramberg, then turns the simple story into a book for kids, and the lessons of business become so simple a child can understand them. And curious children, far beyond her three, become budding entrepreneurs.

For good measure, here’s one final example. A young post-doc in psychology gets a plum job on a revolutionary new research project. The goal is to figure out what really lies behind human learning, thinking, and creativity. The dominant wisdom points to intelligence as the source and the IQ test as the best indicator. But the early research results tell Howard Gardner that something’s not quite right. Reality just doesn’t line up with the metric. “Maybe intelligence isn’t the key indicator,” he first muses. But then he tweaks that thought: “Maybe it’s because intelligence isn’t uniform. Maybe,” he ponders, “just maybe there’s more than one form of intelligence.” Five decades hence, no one has looked at intelligence, or creativity, or learning, the same way, and we continue to pursue the best ways in which to tap the range of our multiple intelligences.

Redefining a societal challenge... Making adult lessons so simple a child can understand them… Putting forth a new theory of how we humans think and do – as different as they seem, all of these examples share important commonalities. None of these big ideas happened all at once. Less obvious, none of them happened according to some prescient or pristine plan. Least obvious of all, each began with the slightest of tweaks – a blending of observations; a shift in language; a fine-tuning or flipping around of a question – something that triggered a change of view and with it, the possibilities.
Robert Egger, Founder of LA Kitchen
To be sure, many things enhance creativity. Robert Egger knew a lot about food, food handling and preparation, food perishability and more long before he started DC Central Kitchen. Similarly, JJ Ramberg had logged countless hours advising business owners and running her own before she simplified the lessons for her kids. And Howard Gardner had the benefit of decades of research in psychology by others plus his own many years in the field before he began to question sacred thinking. But experience and all those other things that often add to creativity aren’t its true catalyst.

Robert, JJ, Howard, and their stories stand out because they didn’t let all their valuable experience, skills, or success hold them back. It’s a counterintuitive but important distinction. They didn’t passively conclude there was only one way to do what they did, or assume only certain people or resources could accomplish the feat. There was no feat in the beginning – or plan, or preconceived notion of where it would all lead. They just tweaked their thinking, their view, and the borders of what they knew a little bit to see what might happen.

And then they kept doing it. And a pattern formed. In fact, in all likelihood that pattern was long in play for all of them – tweaking here, wondering there, playing with an idea simply out of curiosity, long before their big ideas began to surface. It is a near certainty that many forays in this creative zone came to nothing – both before and after the tweak they now identify as revealing the paths they took. But that didn’t concern them. Their actions had their own purpose: play and wonder. The results were accidents – purposeful accidents.

Though the practice of tweaking one’s thinking can lead to game changing ideas, it’s important to note that in forming this creative habit the promise of revelation or success isn’t the thing. The difference maker is the willingness to purposefully explore. All successful innovators will tell you it’s true. A simple pattern of creative tweaking is what leads to the seemingly accidental (and innovative) results. One tweak, begets other tweaks, which accumulate to a “twist” on an old view, that in turn shapes a new way of thinking, being, and progressing. It’s a secret of creativity that appears little but has the power to move the world.

Larry Robertson is the author of two award-winning books: ‘The Language of Man. Learning to Speak Creativity’ and ‘A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress’. Larry is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a former Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. 

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Originally published on THE CREATIVITY POST

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NEWS POST: Tech-Oriented New York Grad School Launched By Contest Opens

This Aug. 16, 2017, photo shows the main buildings of Cornell Tech - the main academic building called the Bloomberg Centre, left, a 26-story residence hall, centre, and a programmes building called the Bridge, right, on Roosevelt Island in New York. Bebeto Matthews AP Photo
The city's quest to make itself a legitimate rival to Silicon Valley as a high-tech hub has long bumped up against some harsh realities, among them the fact it hasn't had a top-tier technology school pumping out the next generation of entrepreneurs and engineers.
A potential answer to that problem, a new technology-oriented graduate school called Cornell Tech, cuts the ribbon Wednesday on the first phase of its new campus on an island in the East River.

The collaboration between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, built with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars from philanthropies and from the city, has just 250 master's degree students and 50 doctorate students taking classes this fall. But officials hope to ramp up to 2,000 students by the time the campus is fully developed.

Part of the concept is to promote close ties between academia and the startup economy, officials said.

"Cornell Tech presented an opportunity that is almost unheard of today, to build a new type of academic program and a new type of campus from scratch," Martha Pollack, the computer scientist who was named the 14th president of Cornell University this year, said in a speech to a business group.

She called the school "the first of its kind campus, built for the digital age."

The first three buildings of a 12-acre campus on Roosevelt Island are opening Wednesday after a fledgling Cornell Tech programme spent the past four years as a rent-free tenant at a Google office building in Manhattan.

The campus was born from a competition held by New York City in 2011, backed by independent then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who made his fortune selling innovative data terminals to Wall Street.

Donations to build the new campus have included US$100 million from the former mayor's charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, US$350 million from philanthropist and duty-free magnate Chuck Feeney and US$133 million from Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. The city provided US$100 million in seed money plus development rights on city land.

Students in fields including engineering, computer science, business and health tech are living this fall in a newly opened 26-story residence hall with sweeping views of Manhattan on one side and Queens on the other.

Cornell Tech's main academic building, called the Bloomberg Center, looks far more like a tech company than a university. Professors and researchers type away at laptops in the open-plan office. If they want privacy for a meeting they can repair to a huddle room.

There are no book-lined faculty offices, nor, it appeared during a recent visit, any books at all.

"It's a real shock to the system for those of us who come from academia," Pollack said. "You can't imagine going to a faculty member and saying, 'No, you're not going to have an office. You're going to be in an open floor plan.'"

The third Cornell Tech building, called the Bridge, is owned by developer Forest City Ratner and will be shared by the school and commercial tenants including, so far, Citigroup and Italian chocolate maker Ferrero, the maker of Nutella.

Pollack said the arrangement means that "our students and researchers will interact with startups, entrepreneurs, investors and established companies all in the pursuit of commercial innovation."

The Technion, Israel's oldest university, is responsible for two of the seven master's programs Cornell Tech offers. The programmes in health tech and connective media are part of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, which also hosts a post-doctoral startup program for graduates to transform their research into new companies.

The Technion's president, Peretz Lavie, said he was flattered when Bloomberg invited him to enter the competition for a New York campus but he knew that the Technion would need an American partner. The Cornell-Technion marriage works because the two universities share similar educational missions, Lavie said.

"It's a match made in heaven for many reasons," he said in a telephone interview.

Bloomberg acknowledged when he announced the competition back in 2011 that it would take time for New York to become the high-tech leader he envisioned.

"We understand that we will not catch up to Silicon Valley overnight," he said. "Building a state-of-the-art campus will take years - and attracting a critical mass of technology entrepreneurs may take even longer."

But Bloomberg said he believed that in its first three decades the school could help launch 400 new companies.

Cornell Tech officials say that more than 30 startups have been formed out of the program, raising US$20 million and employing 105 people.

Cornell Tech Starts Up
With its new Roosevelt Island campus set to open in September, the school is already transforming the tech ecosystem

Nanit, a New York City startup founded in 2014, has 25 employees, US$6.6 million from investors and a high-tech product that local media and nervous parents adore. Its baby monitor can classify babies' nighttime behaviors, analyze their sleep patterns and report everything back to anxious moms and dads by the morning.

Nanit has sold out the first 12 runs of its US$349 monitor, which costs nearly US$700 with a stand and an annual subscription service. But the company might not exist at all if not for Cornell Tech, the city's new graduate school for applied sciences and engineering.

Nanit's founder and CEO, Assaf Glazer, is an Israeli with a Ph.D. in computer vision, the science of teaching computers to recognize their surroundings. When he enrolled at Cornell Tech, he knew he could use computerized cameras to understand babies' sleep. But the school's Runway Startup Postdoc program, in which he participated from 2014 to 2015, taught him how to turn his idea into a company.

"I thought that being at Cornell Tech—and being in New York in general—was one of the prominent factors in our success," he said. "The idea of Runway is to take science to the extreme in a way that will be accessible for businesses to grow out of."
In September Cornell Tech—a collaboration between Cornell University and Technion–the Israel Institute of Technology—will open the first buildings on its Roosevelt Island campus, a 12-acre, US$2 billion complex seeded with US$100 million in city funds.
Six years ago, at the end of the Great Recession, Mayor Michael Bloomberg solicited proposals for a school that could anchor and nurture the city's incipient tech sector. The idea was to help the city diversify away from the financial services industry that had been the economy's bedrock until it started to crack during the crisis. In September Cornell Tech—a collaboration between Cornell University and Technion–the Israel Institute of Technology—will open the first buildings on its Roosevelt Island campus, a 12-acre, US$2 billion complex seeded with US$100 million in city funds. They include the Bloomberg Center, an academic building, and The House, a residential complex. The third building, known as The Bridge, will facilitate the collaboration of industry and academia with the aim of creating technology companies that run on serious science and serve the city's traditional industries, most notably advertising, fashion, finance, media and medicine.

In the years since Bloomberg's push, New York's tech industry has transformed from a stand-alone sector to something that pervades the entire economy. Tech employment grew 31% between 2010 and 2016, to 218,758, which includes both tech firm jobs and tech jobs in other industries, according to the Partnership for New York City. Industry insiders say the school inspired an if-you-build-it-they-will-come attitude that turned the city into a magnet for tech talent and venture funding, which peaked at US$8.7 billion in 2015 and was US$7.8 billion last year for the metro area.

"Cornell Tech was a very important milestone in establishing a pillar, an institution that would help recognize New York as a tech center at a particularly important time when we were converting to a tech economy," said Andrew Rasiej, chairman of the NY Tech Alliance, a nonprofit supporting the local tech community.

Three years before breaking ground on the Roosevelt Island campus in 2015, Cornell Tech quietly began testing its concept of a school for applied sciences inside Google's New York headquarters. Last month Cornell handed out 130 graduate-level diplomas, bringing to nearly 350 the pool of students who have graduated from its program. Together they have produced 30 companies that have raised $20 million and employ 105 people, almost all in New York City.

The achievements of the first batch of students put the school ahead of its own expectations, which initially did not include launching inside Google before opening on Roosevelt Island. Still, the school remains far short of its ultimate goal, detailed in a 2011 economic-impact study, of serving 2,000 students and creating 30,000 jobs through startups its students would launch. That won't happen anytime soon. The campus is being rolled out in phases and is not expected to be fully completed until 2043.

But Cornell is also learning how to serve students and the industries in which they hope to work. Supplying the city with talented employees is as important to the school as company formation, said Daniel Huttenlocher, the dean of Cornell Tech. "Six years ago technology as its own sector was pretty fragile," Huttenlocher said. "Now tech is less and less its own vertical. There's a blurrier line between what's technology and what's information-rich industry."
The Bridge, the House and the Bloomberg Centre on Roosevelt Island
The curriculum reflects the diverse nature of New York's economy, where each industry has its own set of challenges awaiting a tech solution. Master's students choose among seven tracks, including business administration, health tech and computer science. A required master's course called Startup Studio encourages entrepreneurship. Every year four student teams each win US$100,000 and 12 months of free office space to give them time to turn ideas from the studio into viable businesses. David Tisch, who runs Startup Studio, emphasizes to students that companies formed in the course aren't expected to be Silicon Valley–style tech-for-tech's-sake kinds of organizations. Instead, they should focus on solving problems in the industries they are trying to serve. That's why Tisch requires students to run their ideas past industry leaders. "Media, publishing, finance, retail, sports, real estate: They are all based in New York," he said. "The innovation in all those areas is in tech."

The 2016 Startup Award winners say periodic interaction with established media and finance companies helped them build relevant products. "We're focused on the greater New York City area because we want to maintain the high quality of our relationships and service," said Ian Folau, co-founder and CEO of GitLinks, which came out of Cornell's Startup Studio. The firm vets open-source software for companies. IT departments at finance firms helped illuminate the problem GitLinks was trying to solve: Open-source code helps developers work faster, but it scares legal teams, who worry about the security of the vulnerable software. GitLinks has raised US$400,000 and has six employees and four clients signed on for a pilot to test its software.

To develop Nanit, Glazer worked with doctors studying at Weill Cornell's Centre for Sleep Medicine. "Being in New York was one of the prominent factors in our success," he said. "We're strongly connected to science, and we need the top researchers in sleep. All those people are in New York."

So are the workers who helped him turn his technology into a consumer-products company. Glazer hired veteran user-experience researchers, product designers and e-commerce experts. And it helped that his target market was also here: To sell to affluent, anxious parents who want to check their children's breathing or receive an alert the first time they flip over, you have to live among them. "It's hard to do a consumer product in the U.S. working out of Israel," said the father of three.

Making breaks
To nurture breakthrough companies in high-tech fields, Cornell's postdoc program pays a salary to Ph.D.s with engineering expertise and gives them access to mentors, research budgets and office space. The Bridge, with its open floor plan and central staircase, is designed to foster interaction between tenants—a hand-picked mix of academics, established businesses, startups and recent graduates.

Under construction, the first three buildings of a 12-acre campus on Roosevelt Island
Because Cornell occupies a third of the building, Forest City Ratner Cos., its developer, can afford to offer shorter leases to tenants in the other two-thirds. New companies can sign on for three to five years instead of the standard 10. Graduates of the school can also pay for month-to-month memberships in co-working spaces that are inexpensive and flexible. Maryanne Gilmartin, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, said that as companies grow, workspaces can swell from one-sixteenth of a floor to the entire floor without losing "the charm of the architecture." "There should be a serious churn of talent in the building," she said. "To see the same companies there a decade later would be beside the point."

The first tenant to sign on is Two Sigma Investments, a technology and investment firm that will open a satellite office and lab on a full floor of The Bridge, taking up about 10,000 square feet.

The idea of the runway programme is to take science to the extreme, then create a business out of it

Until now the school's Startup Award winners are working on the 38th floor of The New York Times Building, near Times Square. From that vantage point, Bill Marino can see the firms that are testing an early iteration of a product made by the company he founded, Uru, whose technology can automatically place products and brands in videos. "The companies you can see out the windows," he said, "those are our potential customers, these huge New York media companies."

Marino would not disclose which media companies he's working with, but says Uru's four employees will move to ad firm Y&R's offices and into that company's incubator, SparkPlug.

Raising funding and seeking commercial success are benchmarks for Cornell Tech's graduates. Yet this is still academia, in which students can consider grandiose problems away from the pressures of business.

"You see students trying things that might not be realistic," said Tisch. "In a commercial environment, you're judged on reality. And that doesn't happen here. We can let ideas that are less realistic get flowing."

Like Uru's idea of putting ads into virtual reality videos.

"When you first look at it, you would think, This is not technically feasible. It would never work," said Brunno Attorre, Uru's co-founder. "But being at Cornell, we literally talked to every computer-vision professor we have available."

That includes Huttenlocher, the dean, who is also a professor and has advised Uru and Nanit on their technology. For 15 years in a doctoral program in Israel Glazer taught cameras to recognize their surroundings. "Computer-vision problems are hard to solve," he said. That's because the camera has to figure out for itself what it's looking at. But Glazer's pie-in-the-sky concept now looks like it is paying off: He aims to increase his team to 50 people by the end of this year so he can focus on expanding his computer-vision and machine-learning technology to other applications.
Cornell Tech's main academic building, called the Bloomberg Centre, looks far more like a tech company than a university. Professors and researchers type away at laptops in the open-plan office. If they want privacy for a meeting they can repair to a huddle room.
Scaling up
As Cornell Tech moves into its new home, its dean is likewise considering what it means to scale up. "We can run one Startup Studio," Huttenlocher said. "We have 150-ish students in there, and that is probably the edge of what we can do for next year. But what do multiple startup studios look like?"

How it will fit into a tech ecosystem that has grown alongside the school remains to be seen. New York's accelerators, co-working spaces, incubators, pitch nights, networking events, professional course work and tech awards have helped boost the industry beyond what Bloomberg described when he pitched a tech campus to the world. But, then again, that was the point, said Steven Strauss, whose research for the Bloomberg administration led to the creation of Cornell Tech. "There are the three stages of any product: 'You can't'; 'you can do it, but it's not worth it'; and 'obviously,' " he said. For New York City tech, he said, "we've hit stage three."

Originally published on DAILY MAIL/WIRES and CAIRN'S

Thursday, September 07, 2017

NEWS POST: Cancer 'Pen' Developed That Can Detect A Tumour Within Ten Seconds

The MasSpec Pen is a real-time diagnostic tool created by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. The handheld scanner is more than 96% accurate in distinguishing diseased from healthy tissue
A cancer 'pen' that can detect a tumour within ten seconds has been developed - bringing immediate diagnosis to a surgeon's fingertips. The handheld scanner is more than 96% accurate in distinguishing diseased from healthy tissue in real-time while the patient lies on the operating table.

It will enable the removal all traces of malignant masses, reducing the risk of relapses because cancerous cells were left behind. The technology is expected to start being tested during actual cancer surgeries as soon as next year.

Most pathology labs require several days to evaluate if tumour cells remain in samples taken during surgery.

Study leader Professor Livia Eberlin, a chemist at Texas University in Austin, said: "If you talk to cancer patients after surgery one of the first things many will say is 'I hope the surgeon got all the cancer out.

"It's just heartbreaking when that's not the case. But our technology could vastly improve the odds that surgeons really do remove every last trace of cancer during surgery."

The revolutionary MasSpec Pen precisely identifies cancer simply by touch - and is more than 150 times quicker than existing technology.

Jialing Zhang demonstrates using the MasSpec Pen on a human tissue sample (Image: University of Texas, Austin/SWNS)
Co-researcher Dr James Suliburk, head of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said: "Any time we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that's something we want to do.

"This technology does all three. It allows us to be much more precise in what tissue we remove and what we leave behind."

Tiny amounts of water - 10 microliters or one-fifth the size of a single drop - extract small molecules called metabolites from a patient's tissue during surgery. This is then drawn through a flexible tube into a mass spectrometer scanner which anlayses the chemical's looking for cancer.

The disposable device described in Science Translational Medicine is easy to operate.

It requires simply holding the pen against the patient's tissue, triggering the automated analysis using a foot pedal and waiting a few seconds for a result. It means surgeons know at once which tissue to cut out and which to leave alone, making the procedure much safer and effective.

The pen was even able to detect cancer in marginal regions between normal and cancerous tissues that presented mixed cellular composition. Experiments also reliably identified tumours in living mice. Importantly it did not cause any damage to healthy tissues.

Maximizing cancer removal is critical to improve patient survival but removing too much healthy tissue can also have profound negative consequences. For example, breast cancer patients could experience higher risk of painful side effects and nerve damage, in addition to aesthetic impacts.

Thyroid cancer patients could lose speech ability or the ability to regulate the body's calcium levels in ways that are important for muscle and nerve function. Other mass spectrometry tools require harsh solvents, pressurized gasses or high voltages.

The MasSpec Pen gathers molecules for analysis using only water. Additionally its tip was 3D printed with a safe and biocompatible material called PDMS. Each type of cancer produces a unique set of metabolites and other biomarkers that act as fingerprints.

Prof Eberlin explained: "Cancer cells have disregulated metabolism as they're growing out of control. "Because the metabolites in cancer and normal cells are so different we extract and analyse them with the MasSpec Pen to obtain a molecular fingerprint of the tissue. What is incredible is that through this simple and gentle chemical process, the MasSpec Pen rapidly provides diagnostic molecular information without causing tissue damage."

When the pen completes the analysis the words "Normal" or "Cancer" automatically appear on a computer screen. For certain cancers, such as lung cancer, the name of a subtype might also appear.

Dr Jialing Zhang, who led the experiments in prof Eberlin's lab, said: "When designing the MasSpec Pen we made sure the tissue remains intact by coming into contact only with water and the plastic tip of the MasSpec Pen during the procedure.

"The result is a biocompatible and automated medical device that we are so excited to translate to the clinic very soon."

Livia S. Eberlin (C), chemistry professor at the University of Texas at Austin, led a team of scientists and engineers in developing a tool (Image: University of Texas, Austin/SWNS). Part of the UT Austin team that developed the MasSpec Pen (Image: University of Texas, Austin/SWNS)
The current state-of-the-art method for diagnosing cancers during surgery, called Frozen Section Analysis, is slow and sometimes inaccurate. Each sample can take 30 minutes or more to prepare and interpret by a pathologist which increases the risk to the patient of infection and reactions to anaesthesia. And for some types of cancers, frozen section interpretation can be difficult, yielding unreliable results in as many as 10 to 20% of cases.

The team and Texas University have filed US patent applications for the technology and are now working to secure worldwide patents.

Originally published on MIRROR.CO.UK