Friday, April 8, 2016

Shared Information Economy - a Reframe

McKinsey & Company recently wrote that business innovation involves identifying and dissecting long-held beliefs about how value is created and the reframing these beliefs in order to innovate. One of the most long-held beliefs in business is the concept of exclusivity in ownership. However, the mere suggestion of re-examining intellectual property ownership (e.g., patent)’s role in business is controversial. It often draws criticism and a fear of losing private-sector funding. There is also a lucrative cottage industry of non-market participants (e.g., patent trolls), which likely will impact the conversation.

But any meaningful dialogue about change and business innovation must involve opening information and must involve a closer look at how intellectual properties (e.g., patents) are leveraged in the development process. In an economic sense, patents are especially problematic. Patents limit a business model's life span, usually to as little as ten to twelve years. Upon patent expiration, the technology enters the public domain. Developers have to lean-out their operations fast, and that's becoming ever more challenging in a global marketplace. Patents are capital intensive (before and after the grant of the patent). They silo information and inhibit scientific progress. In addition, there are anti-trust and price fixing concerns with the patent-driven vertical integrations that naturally occur. To further complicate things, patent laws, regulations, and enforcement mechanisms lag behind development and market trends.

There is also no guarantee that patents will translate to market dominance. In the United States, Inter Partes Review (“IPR”) jeopardizes even patents that have been already been granted. In developing jurisdictions such as India and China, patent enforcement often is wildly unpredictable and costly to defend (e.g., Gilead's struggle with its patent for hepatitis treatment in China and India).

Reliance on patents can also hinder an industry's growth. For example, according to a 2015 industry report, bioengineered drugs continue to increase their market shares against conventional drugs. Patenting these biologics will be more difficult and unpredictable than patenting for the more traditional drugs, because this type of therapeutics frequently involves laws of nature or natural phenomena that are excluded from patent protection. Patent examiners and courts will struggle, as they did when the information technology industry first began to challenge the patent paradigm. This will put the market sector on an elevated risk platform. Investors will avoid early R&D,further starving the capacity needed to engineer biologic-based therapeutics. The success of this biopharma market sector, and the industry generally, will likely depend on a reframe of how we understand and leverage patents and other intellectual property types in the various emerging open-innovation models.

The Reframe - Information is Open, Sustainable, and Free.

Patents and ownership have become linked in our conversations about research, development, and innovation in the business process. Development often starts with patent-leveraged investments to conduct product testing and trials. The patent grows in value with positive results. Once market validation is evident and regulatory approval, if any, is granted, the patent gains even more value.

This allows for additional investments in manufacturing, advertising, and other operational expenses. This is our current model, but it is premised on the idea of scarcity—an antiquated frame of mind derived from our understanding of real and tangible property ownership. Yes, it is true there is only so much land and resources in the world, and it is important to exclude others from exploiting what you own. With intellectual property, however, the reverse is true: there is an abundance of possibilities of ideas when we put our intellectual capacities together.

Valuation of patents and the IP portfolio has generally been difficult and imprecise. In a complicated transaction involving very expensive and risky product trials, regulatory approval, and manufacturing (e.g., pharma products), exactly how does one value a patent to “de-risk” the process? Is it by excluding others from the development process, by shifting the risks to large-cap players, by delaying the risk to more mature developments, and by starving the development pipeline? Or does it make more sense to leverage value for collaboration? In modern accounting, valuation is highly dependent on the subjectivity around the product's exclusivity of market. What happens if exclusivity of market share is replaced instead with a focus on collaborative capacity?

The Shared Information Economy 

The sharing economy is a recent phenomenon enabled by connectivity and information technology. The possibilities are boundless. For example, a shared information economy of bioengineered therapeutics can do wonders towards cutting development cost and time for therapeutics, enabling rational market and treatment decisions, enforcing quality and ethical standards, and delivering to the underserved.

 To reframe how we work collaboratively in a share-information economy, we have to find a sustainable balance between self-interest and ecosystem health (see Howard Rheingold, TED 2005). The purpose is to enable distribution of knowledge, data, and developments freely and globally. This will be disruptive to the current commercial model, but it will also become more distributed, connecting the “publish or perish” academic culture with practical support structure and application development opportunities to utilize the rapidly accumulating knowledge set.

The key is finding good opportunities, retuning efficiency, leveraging existing intellectual property rationally, copyleft, and participating in the development process fully—together.
  • Open science and open data access and exchange is the driver of this process. 
  • Open reproducibility acts as check and balance for products developed under this model and should improve quality and safety. 
  • Open standards should improve efficiency and emergency demand response time. 
  • Open product trials should improve overall system integrity. 
All of this together will make a community of open businesses thrive, like Linux.

For an advocate of human progress, open business innovation is a path forward. A friend once said: “It is social engineering if you really think about it. Let's call it for what it is. But in the end, this is about changing the world and saving lives.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Open, Sustainable, and Free World – the “dot(Us)” Manifesto

Information is not power. Information far exceeds the possibilities of power. Power is limited to the underlying presumptions of exclusivity: protection or exploitation. Some keen observers do tell us that with great power comes great responsibility, but not many are open minded like that and we have yet to explore the possibilities that come with those great responsibilities.

Power also makes the average person hungry and fearful. It leads our demise because it limits our possibilities in a model of scarcity and hierarchy. While we await for the overman, the philosopher king, we missed our opportunities to do something more productive together—in a common human experience.

So stop saying “information is power.”

For those who are open to rethinking: power in the form of information is capable of great things, but information in the form of power leads to control and misdirection. In fact, information in the form of power has led us to our current unsustainable human experience: from media to therapeutics, from politics to business, from the way we learn to the way we live, everything seems to be under lock and key. And we are at the mercy of mercenary conduits carrying what information is meant for us to see, directed at goals we are not meant to know, and retaining power in the hands of the few, the rich and powerful, to maintain the status quo.

Well, Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same hoping for a different result. So stop repeating “information is power” because it repeats the same vicious cycle of separation, isolation, and unchecked self-delusion and destruction.

Information is “open, sustainable, and free.”

There is a global awakening to this paradigm and with this awakening, there is a fundamental shift occurring in our generation. The free society of netizens are entering the shared information economy and the global community is beginning to understand the whole is in fact greater than the sum of its parts. Our collective consciousness is transitioning from assets to knowledge, from scarcity to abundance, from hierarchy to network. This shift from the traditional functional, hierarchical economic and social orientation to a process-centric orientation is driven by a demand for efficiency and effectiveness in light of our unsustainable trajectory. Enabled by the Internet of Everything, we are connecting dots and drawing up resource nodes on the digital map of our human capacity. As our collective human experience transitions, we are seeing an increase in information access and transparency, and a reinvention in institutional philanthropy and an emergence of distributed and disruptive social enterprises—Open Data, Access, Research, Development, and Innovation; all of which are becoming measurably impact driven.

The alternative is a price too high to pay: power for the rich, exploitation the de facto economic model, and we are blinded, poisoned, and slowly separated and removed from the common human experience. To be human under these conditions becomes a privilege few can afford; more and more are increasingly ignorant of what it truly means to be human and are herded into barns built for sheeple awaiting their expiration dates.

Stop living like this.

What can we do? Information is under lock and key after all. Companies hold rights to information and charge for access. It's legal and the laws are drafted to favor their disposition. “There is nothing we can do,” someone once stated candidly to me.

But there is something we can do, together. Isn't there?

We can begin by believing that information is open, sustainable, and free. The right to access information is universal and inalienable right to our common human experience. But the open, sustainable and free information is also a responsibility. It is something we have to demand and fight to achieve and protect. Do this in light of unjust laws, become morally upstanding pirates, share your wealth in knowledge as it is your moral imperative to give information freely, openly, towards our common goals of sustainable future together.

Only those blinded by greed and misdirected to power will refuse to make information open, sustainable, and free. In the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare you opposition to those with the locks and keys.

This is dot(Us) – a call to civic hackers, legions of advocates, believers of new frontiers and brave worlds; this is a guerrilla movement to open, sustain, and free information from power, greed, and corruption. This is our story, in the digital age of everything—a story in the making. The future generations are counting on our participation, here and now, to make a difference.

CC-BY-SA Jin Kong

2016 Cincinnati

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Diversity and Dialogue – Humanity's Guarantee for a Mutually Enriching and Sustainable Future.

 In 2002, a jointly held UNESCO and UNEP high-level Roundtable report proclaimed cultural diversity

“as a source of innovation, creativity and exchange—is humanity's guarantee for a mutually enriching and sustainable future.” 

This proclamation was made against the backdrop of the then perceived environmental issue: cultural diversity is linked to biodiversity, in a defense against modern developments and indigenous acculturation, leading to rapid decline of knowledge and relationship with their natural environments.

“It is within this background that Indigenous communities have been described as, at one and the same time, victims of environmental degradation and protectors of vulnerable ecosystems (UN 1991: Para. 23).”

In the last decade, others have explored this proclamation in the two other categorical contexts of sustainability, seeing it as

(1) a social justice issue: culturally diverse populations, and often lower incomed, are often at the frontlines of environmental degradations absorbing the impacts, and

(2) an economic bottomline issue: corporate diversity initiatives leading to increased economic performance and profitability. 

But rarely do pundits and academics see the dialogue as a completed circular one. Most are set on seeing this linearly and discretely—contextually independent. Within these independent categorical contexts of sustainability and dialogue, professionals and mangers often take one of two different approaches to sustainability: (1) that organizations have an obligation to do something progressive to address the challenges, or (2) that organizations have the opportunity to change internally and improve to maximize value creation. Not surprisingly, most for-profit organizations took the second path and have developed a body of knowledge around what we refer to today as corporate social responsibility—in a dimensional limit of Me, Me, Me!

But if our Constitutional state is a permissive one, which implies a certain sense of social obligation from private entities, and if corporations are to be treated equally as individuals before the law under the protections of afforded rights, then, not only do the corporations have opportunities to make internal performance improvements within the context of sustainability, but they also have the obligation to facilitate a reciprocal relationship between diversity and dialogue in their communities, marketplaces, and the greater communities in which they thrive to foster sustainable developments for others.

Cultural diversity is a dynamic process and for the corporate sector, it is a entrepreneurial and innovative process. It is not a stagnate deposit of cultural relics to distil best practices. It is an emerging global economic identity still discovering adolescence in the age of We, of Us.

It is in a sense a “reciprocal” relationship (between diversity and dialogue in sustainability), and the “causal link that binds them cannot be severed without jeopardising development’s sustainability.” 

The key to this reciprocal relationship and dialogue is in the investigation of things and in the knowledge exchange—a “continuously flowing and unifying dialogue open to each and every expression of identity.” In the Us context, only in this act of learning and applying can we find cultural diversity really translates to value for sustainability.

“Cultural diversity is more than the fact of cultural difference. It is a value which recognizes that differences in human societies are parts of systems and relationships. Cultural diversity is the value through which differences are mutually related and reciprocally supportive.” 

But the end objective remains an active and communal transition towards positively empowered sustainability.

Something to sit on so to speak.