Brain Candy, Texas-Style

It’s big. Of course you’ve heard this before but that’s not going to stop me from saying it again… Alcatel-Lucent’s idea machine is big. Samsung’s facility is big. The power of ideas is big. Texas is big. Yes they call it an Executive Briefing Centre and I am sure it’s had its share of brief executives – but from what I could tell its real purpose is to house some of the best ideas in the telecom business.

And so I came to spend two days in Texas at our hosts Alcatel-Lucent and Samsung’s facilities with the rest of the ng Connect membership to talk about the next big idea that could change our lives.

I found myself corralled in a hermetically sealed room with 50 super smart people for company.

ng Connect members gather in Plano for two days of demonstrations and ideation

Deprived of basic human rights like Wi-Fi and email memos we started disconnecting from work and worked on connecting with people instead!  Sparks flew and we start connecting dots – technology, services, products, people, companies, ideas. Jason Collins our handler for day 2 made sure there were many dots and not a dotted line in sight. His premise, based on what we can only suppose is a long standing Bell Labs tradition, was that you make sure no one is in their comfort zone. Random words, places, actions and themes were matched with random collections of people tasked to make stories out of them.

One example was a kid named Bob.  Bob, a high school student hates school work, loves computer gaming. When he grows up he wants to be a nuclear powerplant operator with a cabin in the woods that can only be accessed by canoe. Bob’s a talented kid and really smart but he is going to have to find a way to get through his schoolwork if the rest of the story is to stand a chance! We talked about Bob, we talked about his friends, his family and the community he lives in and all the things we could do to make his dreams – their dreams, come true.

ng Connect members collaborate to solve "Bob's" problems.

The ng Connect membership brings a radically diverse set of companies together. Many of these haven’t the foggiest idea where a dial-tone comes from.  Yet we share a common belief in power of communication to improve our lives.  Technology may be magic, but the stories that play out on it in our everyday lives are very real.

We matched Bob’s gaming skills with his education achievement, and set him on a path to realizing his dream. Years later we can equip his canoe with super sensitive GPS, and LTE connectivity so he is connected even in the middle of the lake. When the very forest he lives in was threatened by a potential meltdown at work, we use holographic imaging, state of the art identity management, security and encryption technology to link his cabin in the woods to his job site at Hydro-Quebec’s Gentilly Nuclear Generating Station and gave him the tools to save the day. What started out as far-fetched story telling quickly became a roadmap to tomorrow’s products and services taken to market by today’s entrepreneurs, innovators and adventurers.

This process has already shown results. With concept demonstrations ranging from the LTE Connected Car to interactive digital signage, social music, digital surgery, mobile security and e-learning the list of innovations from the ng Connect Program is neither short nor trivial. I call it brain candy, the brief executives called it innovation modeling… net result: the group of companies that come together to create the ng Connect Program have found a unique way to harness the creativity of very different enterprises and share a common goal of pushing the edge of communication technology to make the world a better place for everyone.

 Mohit Bhargava, LearningMate

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