It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Agastha continues to improve the health care experience for all by Nheeda Enriquez
agastha

screenshot via Agastha

Last month, I connected with Mohan Korrapati of Charlotte-based Agastha to learn more about his quest to lead the field of electronic medical records.  The health care debate brought renewed focus on the category, but Agastha’s been improving their product for over 7 years, implementing their software in Charlotte practices and elsewhere.

5 minutes into a conversation with him, you realize that Korrapati has experienced the pains that patients face.  He just wants to simplify the complexities that make existing record systems annoying and inefficient.  At practices who use an Agastha solution, you probably don’t have to fill out forms over and over, or maybe you’ll get a message to let you know that an appointment is coming up.  And for the staff, the system might alert them if a patient has missed a critical appointment or has been prescribed a dangerous combination of medicines.

Where other major companies like Microsoft or Cisco have just been talking about electronic health records for years, Agastha credits their fast progress to its agility and a feedback loop from providers.  They seem to have built a culture of frequent prototyping and learning often found in truly innovative teams.

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Searching for the familiar: A parking lot delighter! by Nheeda Enriquez

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I saw this lovely sign over in the Green Parking lot in Uptown Charlotte the other day and I couldn’t help but smile.  It was an unexpected yet ever-so-helpful delighter designed to help me remember where I parked.

Sometimes I’ll type a quick note in my phone to remind me where the car is. Or, in especially confusing lots like the Long Term lots at the airport, I’ll even GPS-tag the location.  But when you’re in a hurry, nothing beats a simple picture with a caption, “It takes two to tango” to burn the image in my head.

Besides helping me find my car, this sign also reminded me of two NY Times articles I had seen recently:

  • I find myself thinking often about how to make it easier for people to try a new product or service, and sometimes it’s appropriate to bring in something familiar to help transition folks from an older mental model into a new one.
  • Of course, in the spirit of planning for unintended consequences, an article about the sad possibility of losing your navigational prowess when of adapting a common technology like GPS into one’s everyday life.


A case for optimism: Charlotteans envision life in 2020 by Nheeda Enriquez
2020-sm

click for larger

Though I’m still new to Charlotte, I’ve been energized by some civic events lately, most recently with Center City Partners’ visioning workshop at the Convention Center.  It was the first of 3 community workshops, inviting citizens to give input to city leaders on how to transform Charlotte by 2020.

Beyond the topic itself, I really enjoyed with the structure of the workshop.  The consulting group (MIG) and project leaders provided multiple ways to take part: via Post-It notes and comment cards, through verbal feedback, and even through streaming video and social media, thanks to the CLTblog folks.  They visualized comments and ideas on a large mural, which I know from facilitating ideation sessions, keeps folks engaged and contributing.  The meeting ended with a survey called an “Idea Lab” where we voted on 20+ concepts using green, yellow, and red sheets of paper, a method I’ve seen to evaluate product designs and even election debates, but it was neat to see it used as a temperature gauge for urban planning.   It all made for an optimistic night, where we felt free to think about positive change for a few hours.

I wish that more citizens came out to participate, particularly those with more diverse viewpoints outside of Uptown.  Though I’m a big fan of green spaces and walkable cities, I’m sure that there are others who could make the case for investing in other kinds of projects.

Follow all the action on Charlotte 2020 here.  I understand the survey and all the presentation materials will be available on the site soon.



Big Apps: A crowdsourcing example Charlotte might learn from by Nheeda Enriquez
311 app logo via Apps for Democracy

311 app logo via Apps for Democracy

I’ve been intrigued by a crowdsourcing challenge New York City is sponsoring that invites developers to submit solutions for new city apps in exchange for fame and a cash prize.  They are not the first to host such a contest – Washington DC did one last year.  For a mere $50K, these “non-profits” were able to solicit 230 resident insights and 47 applications in 30 days!

These challenges is that they blend two good innovation ingredients together:

  1. An attempt to understand what kinds of apps would be useful to consumers by collecting insights and needs.  The last thing my iPhone wants is an App that doesn’t solve a problem that people care about.  Both the DC and NYC contests leverage UserVoice to do this.
  2. A data mine for developers.  Big cities have lots of data that probably doesn’t get used, but if applied in a good context, you could end up with interesting results.  Making the data available promotes transparency and probably helps developers test their apps.  This reminds me of the super-successful Netflix Prize, where the company provided real data to help contestant programmers improve its recommendation algorithm.

I know that there are lots of clever developers in Charlotte.  I wonder what unique apps would help our own residents?  I know I could have used one today that tells me where the closest Wi-Fi signal is both free and strong based on where I am.



Upcoming (and past) events about new ideas in Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

I’m highlighting two events that focus on Charlotte folks sharing (pitching?) their innovative ideas for everyone else to absorb.

1.  The Charlotte chapter of the American Marketing Association (CAMA) is hosting a Donny Deutsch-style “Big Idea” meeting at Dilworth Grill on Oct. 20th at 6pm.  The panelists include some local heavyweights:

• Julie Rose (Moderator): WFAE News Team
• Louis J. Foreman: founder and chief executive, Enventys
• Winn Madrey: executive vice president, Topics Education
• Jim Bailey: founder, CEO and president, Red Moon Marketing

2.  The second is BarCamp Charlotte, over at Area15 in NoDa on October 17th, all day.  BarCamps have become known as an “unconferences” where sessions are decided on the day of the event and an open-source mentality is required.  (I’ve never been to one before, so I’m looking forward to it.)

Finally, I’m just now getting around to it, but the SocialFresh folks posted some post-conference material from their Charlotte social media event back in August for those of us who didn’t get to sign up in time!  There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, check out Spike Jones’ presentation on movements vs. campaigns.



“Yes, and…” is the golden rule for ideation (and improv!) by Nheeda Enriquez

yesandI’ve been fortunate to take a handful of improv workshops during my life for different reasons, but it wasn’t until one from grad school (led by a Second City member, no less) that I realized its influence in innovation.

When brainstorming, I encourage using the phrase, “Yes, and…”  to make sure everyone reserves judgment of others’ ideas.  Generally, we find ourselves practicing the opposite, readily dismissing the kernels of a new idea without airing it out to see if someone can improve upon it.

Improv teaches us how to “live in the moment,” which can actually be a frightening place, but this is where the purest level of creativity (and comedy) live in your subconscious.  Many workshops are geared to get people out of their shells, but they can also get them out of the box.

Here is a wonderful write-up with 10 principles of improv where you can easily see how they might be applied to a business setting.

And here is a free workshop put on by Funny Bone in Charlotte next week.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to check it out because of another event, so I’m hoping for another one at a future date.



Can Charlotte get smarter through creativity? by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo credit: benrybobenry

flickr photo credit: benrybobenry

The friendly folks at Civic By Design and Charlotte Viewpoint are hosting what promises to be an interesting, interactive “mini-conference” on Thursday, October 15th at 6pm called Making Charlotte Smarter.

I’ll be checking it out, and I’ll also use it as an opportunity to peek at the brand-spanking new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Uptown.

Registration is only $20 and can be found here.