Francis B. Allgood, Managing Editor
reprinted with permission of GSA Business
What do ants and unmanned aerial vehicles have in common? And, why should you care?
They may seem like polar opposites, but the concept of cross-field application is at the heart of most innovations. In this case, it has made finding terrorists easier in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The concept of intersecting different disciplines and cultures is the topic of Frans Johansson’s new book, “The Medici Effect.” Johansson will be the keynote speaker at InnoVenture, a venture capital conference to be held in Greenville, April 6.
One of a host of examples in his book, Johansson tells of a chance encounter between a telecom engineer and an entomologist. Ants lay a chemical trail, a pheromone, that they follow as they work together to find food. Engineer Eric Bonabeau found that using “virtual ants” leaving “virtual pheromone” within a network’s nodes or routers, could optimize communication networks.
The same principles were later adopted by the U.S. Department of Defense to optimize the search patterns of unmanned aerial vehicles. Using a scent trail that would evaporate over time, the UAVs avoid surveying areas already explored by others, Johansson says, increasing efficiency.
“Innovation has the greatest chance of being ground breaking with the intersection of disciplines, fields and cultures,” Johansson says.
Johansson’s background is a unique intersection of sorts, too. His mother, originally from North Carolina, is African-American and Cherokee while his father is Swedish. He was a founder in Dola Health Systems, a health care company that brought to market the Painometer, an approach to the assessment and treatment of pain. He also started a software company, Inka.net, once backed by venture capital.
“You don’t have to become a specialist or go further in the field you are in,” Johansson says. “Take what you know and find an intersection.”
Johansson says passion is the key element to attracting venture capital. He says a VC firm will quickly distinguish between real desire and “faking passion.”
The Medici Effect is listed as one of the top 10 business books by Amazon.com and has been published in eight different languages. The book also tackles various techniques to escaping the traditional thought pattern and how to discover breakthrough innovations.
InnoVenture will be held April 6 at the Palmetto Expo Center. A group of nine to 12 Southeastern companies seeking venture capital will be showcased. There also will be an exhibit hall dedicated to research and innovation. For information on InnoVenture 2005, call 242-1050 or visit www.innoventurese.com.