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Ben Wiens...innovation operative

Contact me by phone, email, or mail listed below. Also see my profile on LinkedIn.

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Assist organizations to create valuable improvements and innovations through my extensive expertise.

The European Inventor Awards are like the Oscars, but for inventors around the world. In early 2010, myself and Danny Epp, who I had worked with at Ballard Power, were nominated for this award. There are winners in four categories. In 2010Apr we flew to Madrid Spain and tied for the award for the top invention in non European countries.

In my acceptance speech at the European Inventor Awards I suggested the success of this innovation may have been because it initially was a secret project done under a type of skunkworks with James Bond type operatives as opposed to the typical army bureaucracy. Real life spy operatives like James Bond actually existed and were pretty much invented by the Canadian William Stephenson which is described in the book "A Man Called Intrepid". The idea was to train operatives to work independently and more efficiently than was possible inside large bureaucratic army organizations, with perhaps only 1% of the loss of life compared to the teamwork approach.

If the operative was more efficient than the army, couldn't the same be true in the field of innovation? But how do we come to terms with the opposite concepts of collaboration that's been raised by author Sarah Miller Caldicott in her book" Midnight Lunch–How Thomas Edison Collaborated". Well we can easily find a flip side with author Scott Adams comic strip "Dilbert" where innovators are often being crushed by managers.

Operatives like James Bond were a hybrid. They were not loners. They received their assignments from the Intelligence Agency based on a big picture plan. And they were highly social people. They did collaborate and work with others on a project basis. But operatives were allowed to make a lot of the decisions themselves based on every twist and turn of the assignment that came up without having a meeting. They were high risk takers both in ideas, jobs, and their own lives. I've seen it with my own eyes, the employee model is often a problem in innovation, no one wants to rock the boat and lose their jobs. This is why in the movie " Mission Impossible" operatives were shielded from embarrassing the government with the statement that if things go wrong " the government would claim no knowledge or involvement".

One of the primary reasons some innovations are more successful is because they are based on a greater amount of interdisciplinary expertise. The best seller book “Blue Ocean Strategy” supports this thinking. My knowledge of innovation and experience in many different specialized fields allows me to assist companies to create higher value innovations.

Investigation: Asking the right questions is a skill I’ve acquired by being involved with a variety of projects and not being afraid to ask questions.
Imagination: Helping people brainstorm and evaluating alternate ideas more quickly is a talent I’ve developed by seeing both lot’s of failures as well as successes.
Realization: Developing complex ideas into real products can often be formidable but my knowledge of theory and practice has shown to be a valuable combination.
Analysis: Intuition can only go so far. My skills in various methods of logical analysis and recirculatory thinking techniques have been proven on many projects.
Mechanical Engineering: I have an extensive background in manufacturing, mechanical design, research, design studies, testing, prototype construction, drawing.

 Chart showing projected efficiencies of different future electricity generating powerplants

Energy Science: I’ve worked on projects that required knowledge in physics, chemistry, and biology but my specialty area is energy theory and technologies.
Industrial Design: Some companies do industrial design and engineering separately but I do them in parallel. This results in more valuable integrated products.
Management: I’ve been in management positions and understand what leadership, strategy, planning, government, and financing are all about.
Marketing: While I’m very familiar with concepts like test marketing, focus groups, and marketing slogans, my main focus is developing highly valuable ideas.
Economics: I’ve developed many products working backwards from the price point. Every nut, bolt, and decal needs to be accounted for.
Intellectual Property: My specialty is patent analysis but also work with patent drafts, design patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, licensing agreements.

 Patent drawing of snap fit construction system

Innovation Methods: Synergy and innovation do not just happen because of a desire, it is the result of various innovation methods, knowledge, experience, and talent.

▪On one project I was able to obtain approximately 50 times more patent coverage than the patent attorney thought possible.
▪A diaphragm pump, which previously could only pump thin paint, could pump thick roofing emulsions and abrasive road paint after my redesign.
▪Several years ago I suggested to a client that ethanol would become a major fuel in the future. Ethanol has become a major fuel and this company is now in the process of building a pilot plant using a thermo catalytic process.
▪While working for a city bus manufacturer, I designed and illustrated a new style of low floor bus in my spare time. Co-workers considered it somewhat radical at the time but now this is the standard.
▪A snap together plastic construction system I developed was considered too complex to injection mold or even work according to most injection mold designers. The design worked above everyone’s expectations and could be manufactured with a simple mold.
▪A new fuel cell design I was responsible for had a 600% increased power density potential and was used on the first Ballard bus. The design I chose was a carefully calculated gamble which paid off. It was developed and put into production over the course of only a few months.

Ballard Bus

Investigatoritis: Columbo is a TV series, starring Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective who wins most of his cases by having the murderers answer strange questions. One of the reasons why many innovations fail is due to people being too afraid to ask enough questions, thinking that asking questions will make themselves sound stupid, negative, or not wanting to get on with “real work”.
Designeritis: Real flying saucers have actually been in development for almost 80 years in Nazi German, Canada, and elsewhere. But all designs proved to be impractical and inefficient. Engineers had limited themselves to working on only two favorite designs. Recently an old forgotten idea was revived and this is showing great promise. One of the biggest problems in developing new ideas is that people think that their present inspirations are so special.
Intuitionitis: Early Newcomen steam engines were only 0.5% efficient. These early designs were based mostly on people’s intuition. Sadi Carnot believed in conservation through analysis and discovered the theory of heat engine efficiency. The diesel engine was likely the first engine invented on the basis of these theoretical concepts and even the first working prototype was 26% efficient. Many innovations fail to be truly valuable because people focus too much on intuition.
Marketingitis: The Ford Edsel has been called one of the biggest mistakes in automotive history but interestingly it was introduced with the kind of fanfare that has seldom been seen in the auto industry before or since. Focusing sales efforts on marketing and spending too little on developing valuable innovations often backfires.
Positivitis: The principle of the fuel cell was developed by William Grove in 1839. Now, almost 170 years later, fuel cells are still barely penetrating the market. Are fuel cells unworkable? Probably not. The fuel cell industry however has been plagued with too much hype and has made the task seem too easy even within their own ranks. The book “Good to Great” suggests that all successful companies also need to “face the brutal facts”.

Energy sources: Geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, biomass, fossil, nuclear, tidal, wave
Power technologies: Fuel cells, semi fuel cells, bat-teries, gas turbines, steam turbines, Otto, Diesel, Stirling, Brayton engines, thermoelectric, cogeneration, MHD, transmissions, hybrid drives, wind turbines, pumps, so-lar PV, solar thermal, tidal, wave, geothermal, and hy-dro powerplants, nuclear fusion, fission
Fuels: fuel synthesis, gasification, garbage, biomass
Consumer products: furniture, clothing, medical, er-gonomics, toys, electronic devices, household goods
Transportation: Bicycle, car, truck, train, bus, rapid transit, airplane, submarine, ship, boat, roadways
Buildings: Design, construction methods, green build-ings, heat pumps, air conditioning, refrigeration, ventila-tion, heat recovery, furnaces, boilers, lighting
Industrial products: sawmill, mining, oil, industrial, farm, manufacturing, water distillation, desalination

Leadership: held several leadership positions
Presentations: training, speaking, workshops (some)
Magazine articles: (4) published
Patents: (4) granted
Internet: have extensive innovation website
Awards: Winner of 2010 European invention award for non European country category.

CAD programs: 2D AutoCAD, 3D Mechanical Desk-top/Inventor, 3D Studio for rendering and animation
Scientific programs: MathCAD
Writing: letters, reports, books, manuals
Photography: still, video cameras, copying
Computers: Windows, Windows Mobile
Office programs: Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint
Desktop publishing: Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop
Scientific lab: Skilled in laboratory testing work
Building construction: Skilled in a variety of trades
Mechanical: skilled prototype machinist, welder, fabricator, model maker, painter

12 step innovation process: Develop highly valuable products, services, or organizations through use of all expertise fields.
Energy analysis: Developed novel 1st and 2nd law analysis techniques which are easy to understand. Applied these extensively on projects involving gas turbines, gasifiers, synthetic fuel production, and can apply principles to many other energy processes.
Energy conservation: My knowledge of energy theory, power technologies, and products allows me to easily see how to reduce energy consumption.
Powerplants: Have an extensive knowledge of a variety of powerplant technologies with the most experience in fuel cells and gas turbines.
Energy based products: Have extensive experience.
Patent weaving: A process of customizing an innovation with a mind to creating the most valuable patent and then weaving claims through known patents. Have some specialized training in this field.
Patent searching: Search prior patents for ideas or to determine if new idea is patentable or infringes.
Patent analysis: Analyze patents that are being written by patent attornies to determine how optimal they are.
Machine design: My experience is varied and should be useful especially where the work requires some research and a new approach.
Organizations: Make improvements, lower costs, reduce waste. Trained in operations management.
Manufacturing: Am familiar with many types of manufacturing equipment. Trained in manufacturing engineering.
Modeling: 3D product modeling, rendering, animation
Clothing: Design of innovative new clothing based on mass, heat retention, novel fasteners, dryabililty, looks.
Ideation phase: Lead brainstorming sessions.
Research: much of my experience is in this field.
Training: Innovation, intellectual property, energy workshops, training, tutoring, teaching, and speaking.

1974-present Completion of college, additional courses, self study, and experience.

My education is a collection of long term formal training, individual courses, seminars, workshops, correspondance courses, and considerable self study composed of mechanical engineering, production engineering, thermodynamics, energy science, energy technologies, classic physics, quantum physics, relativity, calculus, chemistry, biology, operations management, manual drafting, 2D & 3D computer aided design, animation, rendering, industrial design, photography, computers, office programs, desktop publishing, art, technical illustration, periodical writing, movie production, video script writing, machining, welding, electronics, woodwork, construction, green building design, transportation design, intellectual property, license agreements, marketing, finance, communications, management, government policy, thinking techniques, and innovation methods.

1988-present Ben Wiens Consulting Inc.

Some of my clients have been: Ballard Power (fuel cells), C&C Technologies (long range submarine drives), Alidan H2 (high efficiency power plants), Silvatech (hybrid drives), Tekion (formic acid fuel cells), Essential Innovations (semi fuel cells), Linkers (snapfit building system), Mogas Fuel Systems (natural gas vehicles), Syntec Biofuels (biomass to liquid fuel), Storkcraft (furniture design), Universal Toolcraft (innovative tools), PowRTools (detonation powered tools), Webtech (heat pipe dryers).

COPYRIGHT © 1999-2014 All rights reserved
Ben Wiens Consulting Inc. Metro Vancouver BC Canada