Thursday, August 18, 2016

Artificial Intelligence as a Catalyst for Innovation

Modar (JR) Alaoui
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

By now, it is widely understood that Artificial Intelligence is a main catalyst for innovation and organizational growth. In fact, AI has been part of our imaginations and simmering in research labs since a handful of computer scientists rallied around the term at the Dartmouth Conferences in 1956 and birthed the field of AI. 

However, it wasn’t until recently that AI has started delivering on its long awaited promise, thanks in large part to the recent advancements in machine learning, and more particularly deep learning.

The combination of the recent advancements in microprocessors, coupled with the commoditization of GPU-based super computers along with today’s massive amounts of datasets available for algorithm – supervised and unsupervised – training has clearly enabled the (r)evolution of Deep Learning.

As is the case for most emerging technologies, those who leverage the afore-mentioned enabling items ride the early waves of deep learning.  Not only do they get to discover early challenges, but also disrupt greatly by solving them to benefit their respective technologies, whether in speech, text or image recognition, 

We, in the image analysis area come at it from personal experiences, which allow us to use deep learning as a medium to continuously push the boundaries of facial expression recognition.

Popular deep learning architectures such as Convolutional Neural Networks address image and speech recognition applications. CNNs deem to be easier to train than other regular, deep, feed-forward neural networks since they can be trained with standard backpropagation. They have many fewer parameters to estimate, making them a highly attractive architecture to use for image analysis, especially in our case of emotion tracking through facial micro-expression recognition.

While there are a number of applications that can benefit from emotion recognition today, we have purposely chosen our industry verticals to solve harder problems by leveraging unique technology differentiators, including the integration of Deep Learning architectures into our expression recognition algorithms for continuous and improved learning in relatively short timeframes.

Our mission towards advancing Ambient Intelligence (AmI) allows us to enable a new era of Human Machine Interaction (HMI) where embedded systems, including everyday devices and machines, can understand and predict users emotions and respond accordingly in time-critical situations to enhance user experiences. Predictability and improved accuracy through rapid adaptation are key areas that affect user and environment personalization and delivery.

While there are a large number of different variants of deep architectures, most of them remain branches of some original parent architectures. Since not all of these architectures are implemented on the same datasets, it is not always possible today to compare their performance all together. 

Deep learning, however, is a fast-growing field so new architectures, variants and algorithms are expected to branch out more and more, and each will target many or a specific problem in its respective area. Industries like Healthcare for drug discovery and toxicology or Automotive for scene recognition and camera view interpretation are all ripe for more developments with Deep Learning architectures in the coming years.

Deep learning is a tool that allows algorithm training through one of its infrastructures using either supervised labeled data, unsupervised labeled data or through reinforced learning. In either case, data here, both in quality and quality, represents the “raw material” that, via the deep learning “tool”, permits for algorithm training and is a lot of time, a crucial indicator to accuracy.

Both the large numbers of available datasets today and the ones being implicitly amassed by companies of all sizes, startups and large corporations, are what is shaping the future of deep learning. Being part of and contributing to this future with our own proprietary datasets and Artificially Intelligent algorithms, is certainly exciting. 

This raw material data, together with the deep learning tool are enabling the “fruit” of advanced decision-making algorithms, some of which include our technology, outweigh human logic, speed and overall performance. And this is what excites us the most.

Modar is a tech entrepreneur and technologist with a special interest in Embedded Vision for user facial behavioral measurement. He is a frequent speaker on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Deep Learning (DL), Face Analytics & Emotion Recognition through facial micro-expressions, Human Machine Interaction (HMI), Robotics Vision and the keyword for next decade: Ambient Intelligence (AmI).

He is the Founder and CEO of Eyeris, the world's leading Deep Learning-based Artificially Intelligent emotion recognition and face analytics technology. Eyeris' flagship product, EmoVu, is a hardware-agnostic Computer Vision software that reads people's facial micro-expressions in real-time, as part of the most comprehensive suite of face analytics.

Innovation and Leadership

Michael Flynn
Vice President, Innovation & Strategy
Bank of the West

What is more impactful? Innovation or leadership? The theme for this e-Bulletin presents a quandary for me. Innovation can definitely serve as a catalyst for leadership and growth, but what motivates innovation to begin with? It’s easy to get caught up in a discussion of great “swing for the fences” technology efforts that led to the first successful moon shot, decoding of the human genome, first self-driving cars, and so on. What is often missed is an examination of what spurred or allowed those and lesser innovations to happen in the first place.

Invention creates possibilities. More often than not, leadership provides the fuel and direction that enable the successful commercialization of invention (i.e., innovation). Neither invention nor leadership by themselves can drive engines of innovation that create and sustain business growth. In successful businesses that experience consistent and sustainable growth, innovation and leadership are intertwined and reinforce each other to ultimately create a culture that thrives on challenges and delivers valuable products and services to its customers.

The most innovative companies foster cultures where leadership and innovation are so intertwined as to be inseparable. From the microcosm of small teams to the macrocosm of entire organizations, these successful innovators understand this self-reinforcing concept. One cannot be sustained without the other. Smart leadership understands that consistent innovation doesn’t normally result from big-bang experiments occurring in isolated “clean rooms” walled-off from the rest of the business. If anything, these leaders understand that sustained innovation is difficult, stressful, and even messy at times. Things break and emotions come into play. However, it is steadfastness in the face of this volatility that separates the greatest innovators and their higher growth companies from the pack of innovation tinkerers; the latter are not willing to put forward the effort and resources required to build and sustain cultures that embrace tolerance of risk and doing things differently. A long history of abandoned innovation initiatives speaks to many businesses’ inability to remain focused and consistent, if not patient, in their desire to realize near-term benefit from innovation-related investments. Irrespective of product or service focus, many organizations cast off innovation efforts when business climates toughen. This speaks directly to the role of leadership, or lack thereof.

There are variants of models and best practices for innovation. Ruling out unproven ones lacking in qualitative and quantitative corroborative data, there is a reason for this. That reason is the richness and diversity of company cultures. These differences reflect any number of characteristics from scale, to core competencies, to adaptability, to identity, and more. Successful organizations understand their inherent culture knowing that their respective innovation and growth trajectory will most likely resemble the zigzag path of a sailboat tacking in the wind rather than the smooth curve of a rocket. They will navigate a path that enables transformation over time while reaping benefits from innovation practices that produce near-term and mid-term successes, even if more incremental than market disruptive.

Absolutely, innovation can serve as a catalyst. It is certainly doing so in my industry. Traditional financial institutions are responding to pressure from emerging fintechs and peers, whether employing alternative credit models in marketplace lending, robo-advisors in wealth management, or machine learning in fraud detection. These are external motivators. They are effective but only to a point. The true measure of success in leveraging innovation for growth is in the application of leadership to help imbue the organization’s DNA with self-motivated innovation, creating a self-sustaining engine of growth. 

Michael leads teams and organizations in defining and creating the future. By leveraging both internal and external creativity, resources and assets, his teams champion and drive the crafting and integration of solution strategies, culture, and best practices to deliver innovative solutions with tangible impact and sustainable value. As Vice President, Innovation and Strategy at Bank of the West, Mike helps to discover and monitor emerging innovative business models and related technology and service trends.

As a Strategy Consulting Principal at HP, and Director of Ecosystem, Co-Innovation Lab, and Products & Innovation at SAP Mike was instrumental in transforming software design and development methods for innovation and new product development, guiding co-development of an industry-disrupting business model  and forging strategic partnerships to realize 100% growth in an innovation lab’s portfolio while securing multi-$M investments. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Building an Entrepreneurial Culture to Spark Leadership and Growth

Jeremiah Gardner
Moves the Needle

It’s been said before but still rings true – the world is rapidly changing. It’s not only that technology has advanced, but with that advancement is a wave of digital disruption, rising customer expectations, and non-traditional challengers. These changes present both new challenges to face and new opportunities for growth.

Enterprises around the world are asking themselves, “How do we meet the challenges presented in this shifting landscape?” “How can we continue to create change and explore new opportunities?” “How do we use innovation as a catalyst for transformation?”

Increasingly, the ability for an enterprise to practice innovation (not just talk about it) is critical to meeting the challenges of today. 

What is “Innovation?”

The answer to these challenges seems to be captured in an increasingly-popular buzzword, “innovation.” It’s ever-present in the values of almost every enterprise across the world, gets mentioned in countless keynote addresses, and is sure to get a chip placed in any conference attendee’s game of “Business Buzzword Bingo.” 

But there is a difference between “innovation theater” and innovation as a competitive advantage. 

Innovation means creating new value. It’s not just new products, or new technologies, or new breakthroughs; but creating new value throughout the entire organization. 

This means focusing innovation efforts in HR, marketing, internal process reinvention, management, sales, procurement, and yes, even legal, are critical to an organization’s ability to remain competitive and evolve.

In our work with some of the leading organizations in the world we’ve found the foundation to establishing innovation as a practice – not just a buzzword – is fostering an environment for “Entrepreneurial Spirit.”

How Do You Awaken an Entrepreneurial Spirit?

Entrepreneurial Spirit is what empowers small, focused groups of intrapreneurs to make drastic impact by discovering new value, flipping existing markets, or even disrupting entrenched industries. 

Entrepreneurial Spirit drives these intrapreneurs to do so with only a fraction of the resources large enterprises have at their disposal (versus wasting months and millions on a new initiative only to see it flop).

The lack of Entrepreneurial Spirit allows organizations to become complacent and miss the boat entirely on the new demands and expectations of their customers. 

How do you recognize Entrepreneurial Spirit when you see it? It shows up in the behaviors of people who:

  • Prioritize learning over execution
  • Seek to understand the needs of a market deeply, not superficially
  • Assume they’re wrong and experiment at small scale prior to scaling
  • Follow the evidence, not the roadmap

Fostering the Conditions for Entrepreneurial Spirit To Thrive

The truth is, leaders and managers can’t mandate Entrepreneurial Spirit, they can only create the conditions in which it is likely to ferment, thrive, and grow. If the environment is shaped successfully, this way of working can spread throughout an organization causing ripples and waves of cultural transformation.

How do large organizations with established customer bases, thousands of employees, stockholders, and millions of dollars on the table empower innovation? 

The conditions for entrepreneurial spirit to thrive in the enterprise involve both a mindset and a skillset. 


The mindset for innovation is straightforward: balance execution and learning. Most enterprise organizations already know how to execute well. After all, it’s how they got big in the first place. But often enterprises fail when they apply their execution mindset on the learning side of the equation.

Instead, leaders must balance resource allocation and focus in both the known (execution) and the unknown (learning). This means aligning KPI’s, reward incentives, supporting functions, and organizational structures to empower intrapreneurs to activate their entrepreneurial spirit. At Moves the Needle, we like to break it down into education, enable, and empower.


An innovation mindset is critical but not enough. Without the requisite skillset, entrepreneurial spirit can easily slide back into becoming a buzzword. To practice innovation, intrapreneurs need three critical skills we’ve come to call the “3 E’s”: empathy, experimentation and evidence-based decision making.

Empathy means the ability to develop deep understanding for your customers, the problems they face, and the aspirations they hold. The farther you are away from the customer in your daily work, the farther you are away from practicing innovation. 

Enabling your employees to have direct, authentic interactions with real customers is job one in fostering the conditions for innovation to thrive. Every Lean Innovation Bootcamp we conduct intentionally starts with practicing customer empathy through interviewing real customers. This is the foundation for new ideas. Truth be told –  there is no more powerful tool in your innovation toolbox than a cup of coffee with a customer.

Experimentation means the ability to identify critical assumptions lying beneath the surface of your ideas and generate evidence to validate or invalidate your current path. Experiments are designed to rapidly find out whether the underpinning assumptions about an idea are valid or not, before investing in expensive development. 

Time and time again we see teams run experiments and produce evidence that guides their work. In the end, they’re better able to allocate resources and mitigate the risk of sinking time, energy, and money into a venture that isn’t worth pursuing. 

Evidence-based Decision Making means the ability to not only generate evidence, but to follow what the evidence is saying. The biggest competitive advantage of any organization is their ability to learn, and rapidly turn insight into action.

The goal is to build a case over time using multiple rounds of empathy and continuous rapid experiments to provide the evidence you need to prove the venture creates new value, and a return.

Three Questions

Coupling the mindset of balancing the known versus the unknown with the skillset of empathy, experimentation, and evidence-based decision making are the foundation to awakening an entrepreneurial spirit and building a successful enterprise innovation practice.

If you’re serious about going beyond the buzz, here are three questions to help you evaluate and accelerate your innovation practice: 

  1. How are you empowering your organization to practice innovation, not just talk about it?
  2. How are you fostering an environment for “Entrepreneurial Spirit” to grow and thrive?
  3. What obstacles are standing in your way to put innovation into practice and spark new leadership and growth?

Jeremiah Gardner helps organizations create new value. He is the author of the bestselling book, The Lean Brand and Principal at Moves The Needle where he empowers companies like GE, Sprint, eBay, Intuit, and Cisco practice Lean Innovation. He has been featured in several media outlets including Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Lifehacker, and The Guardian. Jeremiah reads a lot of Mark Twain, is an avid Lakers fan, and a self-professed amateur home chef. 

Jeremiah tweets @JeremiahGardner and blogs at

Your Corporation is Killing Innovation without Knowing It

By Brian Moelich
Customer and Idea Implementation Lead

Before innovation even starts, corporate alarms are ringing and walls are raised.

In the post-recession economy, markets are changing faster than the mighty corporations of old can keep up with. To combat the epidemic of nimble startups, corporations are advocating fresh thinking such as prototyping, failing fast and quick iterations based on customer feedback.

But few if any corporations have been able to point to any concrete successes, no matter the size. Why is that?

Large organizations are always going to be risk averse

A publicly traded corporation must not only appease shareholders but also Wall Street analysts and the corporation’s executives who hold the purse strings are rated predominantly on financial performance.

New ideas within corporations don’t always achieve short-term profitability, and thus it is difficult to convince decision-makers to reallocate capital from an existing cash cow to an “ugly duckling” innovation project. Corporate resources will inevitably go towards incremental established brand innovations and not disruptive new market innovations, which are inherently risky.

Remember that it was Kodak who invented the first digital camera, and chose to continue investing in film R&D over a risky new venture. Everyone knows how that story ended.

Play into the risk-averse nature of large corporations

For a corporate innovation project to succeed, it is necessary to recognize that the executive investing in the innovation project has corporate strategic goals to uphold.

The key for the innovation project’s success then becomes to fit into the corporation’s strategic goals. The following are some key factors to encourage this outcome:

1. Find out what keeps executives up at night – There are two approaches that corporations have found successful 1) use executive problems for innovation challenges and   2) tie the innovation project to or search out projects that match an executive challenge.

EMC and Deloitte have been very successful at taking executive challenges and posing them to the corporation as an innovation challenge, which employees can submit ideas for. Success is derived from the fact that executive buy-in is built in from the onset, because the ideas are directly tied to the executive’s imperatives.

The Citrix Startup Accelerator’s Innovator’s Program and recent Citrix hackathons have engaged with executive sponsors prior to kickoff and used their input on challenges as selection criteria. Much like the first approach, executive buy-in is assured as teams enter the program with ideas that match executive needs.

2. Develop a monetization roadmap – Innovation projects attain a quick death due to a rapid demand for monetization. In some instances, this is possible, but for most, a user base needs to be established before the market is willing to pay.

Ash Maurya is beginning to popularize a framework that calls attention on attaining users prior to revenue.

This model is helpful because it addresses the challenge of organizations understanding the needs of startup marketing versus established brand marketing. Additionally, the framework helps innovation project teams outline what their plans are to eventually reach revenue.

The push to monetization can also be prevented by demonstrating how the innovation project brings other forms of value to the corporation. For example, accessing a new user base to cross-sell existing brands.

3. Gauge executive buy-in throughout the process – Using executive buy-in as a gate to pivot, persevere or kill is critical, because without buy-in, the project is already dead on arrival.

The corporate innovation process should have gates where certain criteria should be met before moving on. At each of these gates, executive input must be acquired and should be used as a determining factor as to whether the gate is achieved.

It is also helpful to prime executives with what the criteria and stages of the innovation process are, so that they are aware of how to judge and assess the innovation project. Otherwise, the executive might have a higher expectation based on traditional corporate outcomes than what could reasonably be expected of an innovation project.

4. Speak the language of the executive – Not only do innovators need to have vision, they need to be able to explain it in the C-suite’s language.

Entrepreneurs are quick to state that startups are liberating versus a stifling corporate culture, but the reality is that even entrepreneurs are beholden to others. Entrepreneurs are bound to their investors, while corporate innovators are indebted to their executives. Both need to translate their vision into a language that their stakeholder understands.

That language is one based on quantitative factors. For investors, the considerations are traction, growth and revenue. For executives, the elements are cost, payback period and top line revenue growth.

5. Get Line Function Buy-In – It isn’t only the C-suite that needs to be convinced but the “doers” as well.

As much as the C-suite needs to be bought into the conversation, the other critical component is the “doers:” mid-level management. Without convincing the “doers” of the project’s necessity, these managers will continue to throw up barriers that will eventually kill innovation within the corporation.

6. Be Selective. Take Baby Steps –  Dreaming the world is great, but taking actionable baby steps is better.

Corporate innovators are great at envisioning future states, but often fail to concretely translate their vision into beneficial steps. In other words, corporate innovators tend to be perceived as dreamers, rather than doers, which relegates their concepts to the bottom of the corporate priority list.

Overcome this perception by ensuring that the initial ask is not only actionable, but also achievable in the short term. Present small projects in the language of the C-suite and deliver on them to build the groundwork for the grander vision.

Corporate innovation requires an understanding of the organization’s needs

Innovation within a corporation requires a recognition that the corporation is inherently risk averse and the only way to push innovation through is to accept this and appease it. Every move and decision a successful corporate innovator makes is based on directly reducing this risk or taking steps to bypass risk by addressing corporate challenges head-on.

This article was co-authored with Eric Quon-Lee and originally published in Huffington Post

With more than six years of experience solving ambiguous problems across multiple top tier technology companies, Brian Moelich has a proven track record for identifying and exploring untapped opportunities for new growth and managing the execution of those ideas. His passion is taking nascent ideas from concept to launch and building desirable, feasible and viable businesses.

Currently, Brian is the Customer and Idea Implementation Lead for the Cisco Hyperinnovation Living Lab or CHILL for short. CHILL drives disruptive innovation through the collaboration and co-creation of Fortune 500 companies and startups. Brian was previously a Business Designer at Citrix, where he designed facilitated and ran the internal innovation incubator program and advised teams post-program on how to navigate corporate hurdles, de-risk the technology and business, develop and test prototypes, go-to-market and grow once in market. He is also a mentor for the Citrix Startup Accelerator and the French Tech Hub.